TOWSON, MD—County Executive Johnny Olszewski on Monday declared a State of Emergency in Baltimore County due to the rapid rise in cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
County officials say the new local State of Emergency will give Baltimore County the ability to quickly adopt emergency public health measures to protect the safety and well-being of residents, assist the county in requesting additional resources from the state and federal governments to support response and recovery efforts, and quickly procure materials and supplies necessary for protecting public health.
The Omicron variant produces much milder, cold-like symptoms in most individuals, according to MSN and ABC News. Around 64,000 Americans were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Christmas Day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This total is much lower than peak hospitalizations that occurred during the Delta surge. On January 14, 2021, over 133,000 Americans were hospitalized, according to government health data.
“We’ve made undeniable progress in our fight against this deadly virus, but it is clear the omicron variant significantly challenges our efforts to combat the pandemic,” Olszewski said. “Renewing Baltimore County’s state of emergency ensures we have every tool in our toolbox to keep our residents safe and keep our children where they belong: inside the classroom.”
On Monday, County Executive Olszewski also announced a new public health order requiring all individuals ages five and over to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces in Baltimore County, effective 9 a.m. Wednesday, December 29, 2021 until January 31, 2022.
Baltimore County joins Baltimore City, Howard County, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County in requiring face coverings in indoor settings.
“Government has an obligation to protect the health, safety and well-being of our neighbors. I know firsthand that vaccines work. They help keep people out of hospitals—and keep people alive. Unfortunately, too many people have selfishly chosen to not get vaccinated” Olszewski added. “As a result, Baltimore County must now take this additional action to help limit the spread of COVID-19, reduce the burden on our healthcare system, and save lives.”
“We continue to encourage everyone to get tested if you are symptomatic or have had close contact with a confirmed case; get vaccinated if you have not already done so, and get boosted when eligible,” said Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch. “Initiating this local state of emergency alongside available testing, vaccination, and boosters will go a long way toward helping to slow the spread.”
County Executive Olszewski will allocate American Rescue Plan funding and use emergency procurement authority under the declaration to secure 100,000 additional rapid at-home test kits to make available free to county residents.
In addition, Olszewski has directed the Baltimore County Department of Health to expand testing options by establishing an additional large-scale COVID-19 testing clinic. Baltimore County will announce next steps on these efforts in the coming days.
Since November 26, 2021, Maryland’s average positivity rate has increased over 264 percent. Over that same time, average number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Baltimore County has increased over 188 percent.
As of Monday, Baltimore County hospitals had only 13 staffed ICU beds available countywide.
Face Covering Requirements
Beginning Wednesday, December 29 at 9 a.m., Baltimore County residents ages five and up will be required to wear face coverings in any indoor business, service, organization, or establishment that serves the general public.
This includes, but is not limited to: retail establishments, recreational establishments, houses of worship, and other locations open to the public.
Individuals will not be required to wear a mask if:
- Eating or drinking while seated at food service establishments. Face coverings are still required when otherwise moving in or about a restaurant or bar premises.
- A face covering cannot be worn due to a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability.
- Wearing a face covering would subject the person to an unsafe working condition.
- Wearing a face covering would make it impossible to receive certain services, including dental care, shaving, and facial treatments.
- Swimming or engaging in other physical activities
- Operating any public transportation conveyance, provided that the person is the sole operator of the conveyance, and located in a separate compartment that is off-limits to riders.
This requirement is set to expire on January 31, 2022.
The Baltimore County Council will hold a vote to consider continuation of the County’s state of emergency beyond Monday, January 3, 2022 at the Council meeting scheduled for Monday, January 3.