TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — For the sixth day in a row, coronavirus cases have increased by at least 1,000 cases and the statewide positivity rate is now up over 5%. Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said Monday he believes only COVID-19 restrictions made statewide will help prevent the spread.
“Here are the facts: The rate of cases has increased 90% from October 23 to November 7. We currently have 21 cases per 100,000 residents. Our positivity rate increased by 70% over that same time,” Olszewski said Monday.
He also noted hospitalizations have risen more than 150% since October 7.
Olszewski said the trends in the state continue to go in the wrong direction.
“Our numbers are alarming. We’re sounding the alarm bells today,” Olszewski said.
He said he doesn’t believe in “patchwork” restrictions.
Governor Larry Hogan said last week he did not feel new restrictions were needed, and he would leave those decisions to local leaders.
Baltimore City will restrict restaurants and retail establishments to 25 percent capacity starting this Thursday at 5 p.m. Bars that do not serve food will be forced to close.
The governor is expected to speak Tuesday at 5 p.m. WJZ will carry his remarks live on-air and online.
Tomorrow at 5 p.m., I’ll provide an update to Marylanders on our efforts to slow the spread of #COVID19.
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) November 9, 2020
Hogan has pushed local leaders to enforce COVID-related restrictions.
Olszewski said where violations have been found, business owners have been held accountable—and that will continue.
He said the county’s Social Distancing Task Force has completed 5,300 inspections and found 415 violations.
“If residents don’t take this spike seriously, we must consider new restrictions on gathering here in Baltimore County,” Olszewski said. “While local efforts and a patchwork approach are not effective as statewide solutions, doing nothing no longer becomes an option of our COVID numbers continue to accelerate.”
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Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Branch, who tested positive for COVID-19 and survived earlier this year, said even with Pfizer’s positive news Monday, it will take “significant time” to immunize the population once a vaccine is approved.
“Even if we get the vaccine very soon — and we hope and pray for that vaccine — it’s going to take time for us to get it into everyone’s arm,” Dr. Branch told reporters.
Baltimore County’s health officer, who earlier this year tested positive for #COVID-19, says even with Pfizer’s positive news today, it will take significant time to immunize the population once a vaccine is approved. @wjz pic.twitter.com/WNRd8IAmAe
— Mike Hellgren (@HellgrenWJZ) November 9, 2020
Olszewski said it is critical that people realize family gatherings also pose a risk and people should avoid large gatherings this holiday season.
He did not, however, announce any new closures or restrictions Monday, simply urging caution going into the holidays. He did say if the county cannot slow these trends, they may have to reevaluate.
“If we fail to take responsibility of our own actions, we put our own health at risk, along with the health of our family, our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers and everyone in our communities,” Olszewski said.
The county executive also announced the expansion of restaurant grants based on state money, a total of $7 million. Public schools will also get funding — $11 million — to help them prepare for the eventual reopening in-person. This includes PPE, air filters and other equipment to keep the buildings safe.
Olszewski also announced $100 in aid for every student in the county’s school system. He said the money will pay for personal protective equipment, disinfecting supplies and air purifiers, adding that school principals should get formal paperwork to request the supplies by Tuesday.
Restaurants that have already received county grants will get an additional $15,000, while those who haven’t gotten any so far can apply for up to $30,000 in grant funding.
Applications will be online starting next Monday.