By Jessica Albert

TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — As Baltimore County’s indoor mask mandate went into effect Wednesday, there was a mixture of reaction from residents and business owners.

While some people see the measures as a necessary step to keep the spread of COVID-19 at bay, some in the business community are voicing concerns about the impact it could have on their bottom lines.

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That’s true for Nara Khakurel, owner of Coffee Talk Café in Towson, who said he has required customers to wear masks since the outset of the pandemic. He is worried the mandate may drive business away.

“I was thinking 2022 was going to be a slightly better year, but I’ve lost a little confidence,” Khakurel said.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski issued the mandate in response surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, saying it would help reduce the burden on the county’s healthcare system.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Baltimore County have soared by 188% since Nov. 26. As of Monday, hospitals in the county had a combined 13 staffed beds available in their intensive care units.

In Maryland, hospitalizations reached a record high of 2,046 on Wednesday.

The mask mandate applies to everyone ages 5 and up in indoor public places, including stores and restaurants, though some exceptions exist.

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Most people who spoke with WJZ expressed support for the mandate, saying it is the right move.

“It’s going to protect us in the long run because the new variants are very dangerous,” Buck Harrell said.

A Windsor Mill man said the mask mandate is needed “until we can get the Omicron under control.”

Business owners, like Khakurel, are supportive of the measure. They’re just worried that it could have a chilling effect on business, which hasn’t fully recovered since the pandemic began.

“There might be some customers that (do) not want to go and spend money in local businesses, so that is a little bit of concern,” Khakurel told WJZ.

He hopes the mandate and other safety measures will put an end to the spread of COVID-19.

“The clouds over this business community haven’t been cleared,” he said. “You know, we haven’t seen clear skies for two years.”

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The mandate is set to remain in place until Jan. 31.

Jessica Albert