Updated: Jan 14
"With vaccines coming soon, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We all just need to work together to get through the next few months.” said Dr. Eili Klien, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Klien made the comment remotely today during Anne Arundel County County Executive Steuart Pittman's announcement of the restrictions via livestream video. Pittman was joined remotely by Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman and leading medical officials from Johns Hopkins Medicine, Anne Arundel Medical Center, and Baltimore Washington Medical Center.
The county announced a list of at least 21 restrictions it says are in response to dramatic increases in cases and increase in case rater per 100,000 residents.
Anne Arundel County reported a new record high of 341 new COVID cases alone yesterday, and a COVID 7-day average case rate of 47.7 per 100,000 residents.
There have been 19,255 reported cases of COVID-19 in the last nine months, which is 3.32 percent of the county's population as projected by the U.S. Census in 2019.
In comparison, 11 percent of the Maryland population had reported flu-like symptoms by May 2020 during the last flu season.
But, according to Anne Arundel County, in 2017 84 people in the county died from influenza or pneumonia the whole year. Today, 297 county residents have died so far in the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the CDC The 7-day average case rate per 100,000 residents remains less than the current national average, which at time of publication was 61.8, but it is above the state average of 45.6.
The surge of the disease has been rising both locally and nationally for weeks now. The average number of Americans who died from COVID-19 during each of the seven days including and prior to Tuesday, December 8, was 2,200.
For some context, On September 11, 2001 almost 2,800 Americans died in one day of terrorist attacks according to the city of New York.
The county announced the business restrictions are a response to new guidance from the Center for Disease Control released on December 4 urged state and local leaders to issue policies restricting indoor spaces that pose the highest risk for transmission.
But the AAC restrictions not only prohibit indoor dining at restaurants, but also outdoor dining.
Takeout will be the only way to go at county eateries from next Wednesday to until at least January 13, 2021.
There are many other restrictions (listed below) the county says are designed to save lives and try to head off the increasing prevalence of COVID-19 in the county.
“These restrictions will be a burden, and I had hoped to avoid them,” said County Executive Pittman.
“But we cannot ignore the projected hospitalization numbers that will result from today’s case rates, nor can we let those numbers increase further with continued community spread. Hospital beds are a precious community asset, not only for COVID patients, but also for the rest of us who may well need them in the coming months.
"We will look back on this winter and ask ourselves if we could have done more to save lives. We must act now.”
But Pittman also announced additional financial aid to restaurant employees and owners
Establishments that received a grant as part of the $10 million Restaurant and Food Service Grant Program will receive an additional payment of up to $7,000 by year’s end.
The county will also waive the annual restaurant fees due in February and committed $1 million to support Feed Anne Arundel, a partnership of local restaurants, the Anne Arundel County Partnership for Children, Youth & Families, Anne Arundel Connecting Together, and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.
“COVID-19 has dramatically impacted local restaurants and Feed Anne Arundel is working hard to keep restaurants open, employees working, and people fed,” said Monica Alvarado, founder of Feed Anne Arundel.
In addition to the restaurant restrictions, retail stores, indoor gyms and fitness centers, personal services establishments (such as nail salons), and casinos will have a reduced maximum capacity of 25 percent. Religious Facilities will have maximum capacity reduced to 33 percent,
On November 25th, the U.S, Supreme court prevented the state of New York from drastically limiting attendance at religious ceremonies.
Also in Anne Arundel County indoor theaters, performance venues, bingo, bowling alleys, pool halls, roller rinks, and indoor ice rinks will be closed.
The county previously suspended organized athletics on county fields and facilities on November 20, and today’s announcement suspends all organized sports play or practice, which includes private schools, and school or church gyms.
“We are in the midst of a dangerous surge,” said Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman. “By slowing the spread over the next few months, more people will be alive and able to get the vaccine when it becomes available.These actions will decrease the stress on our hospitals and keep more people from getting sick.”
“COVID is caused by a respiratory virus, so, not surprisingly, it is spreading faster as we head into winter,”Klien said. “The actions that we took in the summer and fall to slow spread are not as effective now that cold weather is here. As hospitals fill with COVID patients, care for all patients will suffer. We know that this virus spreads indoors when people are not wearing masks."
Maryland's governor, Larry Hogan, said today severe restrictions announced by county governments could be a "death sentence" for some businesses, according to a report by Patch.com. But he also is taking additional action regarding the pandemic.
The additional Anne Arundel County restrictions going into effect next week to curb the surge include:
List of all new or amended actions, effective Wednesday, December 16 at 5:00 p.m. until January 13 at 8:00 a.m.:
Personal Services Establishments (hair stylist, nail salons, barbers) – decreased to 25% of that Establishment’s Maximum Occupancy.
Religious Facility – decreased to 33% of that Religious Facility’s Maximum Occupancy. A Religious Facility may hold outdoor services for Christmas, Hanukkah or other recognized religious holidays with a gathering limit of no more than 250 persons, provided the Facility requires strict adherence to the Mandatory Health and Safety Protocols.
Retail Establishment – decreased to 25% capacity.
Fellowship Addiction Recovery – decreased to 25% capacity or 50 persons, whichever is less.
Foodservice Establishments located in food courts in indoor shopping malls – restricted to carryout, delivery or curbside service only.
Foodservice Establishments – restricted to carryout, delivery or curbside service only. No indoor or outdoor seating is permitted.
Food distribution sites (food pantries, etc.) that serve or donate food to people in need at no cost may continue to operate subject to Mandatory Health and Safety Protocols.
Social Clubs including American Legion posts, VFW posts, and Elks Clubs, restricted to 25% capacity and no food or beverages service.
Indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people remain prohibited. Outdoor social gatherings of more than 25 people remain prohibited.
“Social gatherings” does not include activities, facilities or venues that have a specific capacity limit or are ordered closed under this Local Executive Order No. 39.
“Social gatherings” includes family gatherings, parties, cookouts, parades, festivals, conventions, fundraisers, flea markets, yard sales, and other gatherings that are not associated with operating or patronizing a business that sells merchandise from a location with a posted Maximum Occupancy.
All organized sports play or practice is suspended, including private schools, and school or church gyms.
Fitness Centers are restricted to 25% capacity and may not conduct classes or group fitness activities; all staff and customers must wear face coverings at all times.
Gaming Facilities (casinos) are restricted to 25% capacity and no alcohol or food service except for carryout, delivery or curbside service.
Indoor Theaters are closed.
Indoor or outdoor venues for live performances are closed.
Bingo, bowling alleys, pool halls, roller rinks, and indoor ice rinks shall close.
All outdoor sporting venues including professional, semi-professional, amateur, recreational, collegiate, high school and motor sports venues are closed.
Adult Entertainment venues are closed.
Cigar and hookah lounges are closed but may sell retail products.
Local annual license fees for Foodservice Establishments are waived and deemed paid for calendar year 2021.
--compiled from Anne Arundel County statement