BALTIMORE (WJZ) — With the addition of 60 new COVID-19 patients over the last week, hospitals in Anne Arundel County are now at 90% occupancy, said Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the county health officer.

In light of increased hospitalizations, Kalyanaraman recommended county residents continue wearing masks and urged the unvaccinated to get the shots.

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As of Tuesday, the county health department reported 702 more residents with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 266 residents are currently hospitalized with the virus.

Anne Arundel County has 75,426 confirmed cases and a positivity rate of almost 30%, according to county data.

There are almost 360,000 fully vaccinated Anne Arundel County residents with nearly 188,000 unvaccinated.

Mandating masks indoors remains a divisive issue for Anne Arundel County.

Pittman issued an executive order on Dec. 31, 2021 requiring masks indoors, but it expired at noon on Jan. 7. While the council voted 4-3 to renew the executive order, a supermajority of five votes was needed.

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Shortly after the vote, council Republicans released a joint statement saying testing capacity is a more pressing issue to respond to the virus.

“We are no longer in the beginning stages of this pandemic, our overall vaccination rate is nearly 70%, and at this point we need to believe in the residents of our County to make the best health decisions for themselves,” said Councilwoman Jessica Haire in statement.

In response to the county council’s decision, the county health officer created a public safety order to reinstate the indoor masking mandate.

“The law is very clear that a professional health officer can and should step in to protect public health,” Pittman said.

Pittman said he was surprised that more businesses have not required vaccination checks. He applauded the Annapolis Symphony, which announced in August it would require a COVID-19 vaccination to attended events.

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“I think the businesses understand we are all in this together,” Pittman said. “We can enforce [masking] but as we all know, enforcement is difficult in a situation like this, especially with staffing shortages.”

CBS Baltimore Staff