TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — The leaders of several of Maryland’s largest counties are alarmed at the continuing surge in COVID—19 cases and vowed to take action.

Baltimore County’s executive declared a new state of emergency. It gives him the power to mandate masks and add other restrictions.

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“A local state of emergency says this is serious,” County Executive Johnny Olszewski told WJZ.

But Olszewski said he is not adding mandates yet.

“If we continue to see numbers sustained or growing, we are prepared to take any number of those actions in the days ahead,” he said.

In Anne Arundel County, six more people died in the past week—the highest total in three months according to the county’s health officer.

With the number hospitalized here and statewide growing, the county executive is pushing private businesses to require vaccines.

“Particularly now that we have full [Pfizer FDA] authorization, we are encouraging employers to mandate for their employees, and we encourage businesses to consider mandating for folks who are coming in and using their businesses,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman during a virtual briefing Tuesday.

While Pittman is mandating vaccines for county workers, he will allow them to have the option of regular testing instead because he fears he would lose too many employees otherwise.

“We have departments where we can’t afford to lose people right now. We don’t want to cost ourselves services,“ the county executive said.

In Easton this week, health care workers at the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center protested the governor’s mandate that they get vaccinated. He is requiring all hospital and nursing home employees receive at least one dose by Sept. 1 or submit to regular testing.

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“They are telling us if we are not vaccinated that we are the problem, that we are causing the disease,” nurse Wilma Miller told WBOC-TV. “How is it that for two years, we have been bedside and some have had covid, some have not, and some have chosen vaccinated. Some have not. Now, all of a sudden we are the enemy. No, I don’t think so.”

CBS Baltimore Staff