ANNAPOLIS (WJZ) — Anne Arundel County is enforcing some new COVID-19 restrictions as cases continue to surge in the area.
County Executive Steuart Pittman announced he will sign an executive order which will limit late evening indoor hours at bars and restaurants, re-establish gathering limits for indoor and outdoor social events, close seating areas in mall food courts and establish new, stricter penalties for violations.
The order will go into effect Friday at 5 p.m.
“Rates of infection are a direct function of our behavior,” said County Executive Pittman. “Two weeks after the last reopenings, our rates surged to a level that could eventually require a devastating shutdown of economic and personal activity.
“We must keep Anne Arundel open, so we must respond immediately to our data,” he added, “This is a targeted approach driven by our contact tracing review, and our need to protect the working people of this county from further economic stress. Please, help us get our people back to work and our students back in classrooms by wearing your mask and physical distancing.”
This comes after the county’s rate of infection rose from 0.80 on June 19, when the most recent restrictions were lifted, to 1.25 on July 22, according to state data.
The county executive said although the positivity rate in the county remains below five percent, it and hospitalizations have been trending up.
The order dictates restaurants, bars and other food service establishments must close indoor operations by 10 p.m. nightly. Indoor social gatherings of more than 25 people and outdoor social gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited.
Social gatherings under the order include parties, cookouts, concerts or performances, parades, festivals, conventions, fundraisers and other gatherings not associated with operating or patronizing a business.
Social gatherings do not include retail stores, offices, restaurants, fraternal social clubs, youth sports or casinos, and gatherings for religious or spiritual purposes.
It also requires that food courts in indoor shopping malls must be limited to carry-out service only.
Those who don’t comply will be fined $500 for the first offense, and the Health Officer may suspend or close an establishment breaking the rules.
Restaurant owners like Bill Shoe at Primo Pasta in Pasadena said it’s a decision he felt was coming.
“We can’t say we were terribly surprised,” Shoe said. “We knew paying attention to current events there’s a lot of scare and we actually saw that in our dining room.”
Jenna Von Sas at Stoney Creek Inn said it’s important to follow the restrictions to keep the county open.
“I think it’s so detrimental that small business are giving the opportunity to show we are able to handle this,” she said.
The Arundel Olympic Swim Center in Annapolis and the North Arundel AQquatic Center in Glen Burnie, both which are currently closed due to positive COVID-19 tests among patrons or staff, will remain closed until further notice.
“We’re all in this together,” said Dr. Kalyanaraman. “Each of us is responsible to do the right thing, which includes using a mask, distancing and hand washing. Today’s actions are necessary because not everybody is practicing these behaviors, and we are seeing increased cases and hospitalizations. Our goal is to open schools and following these new guidelines is a key part of making that happen in the fall.”