July 21, 2020 Baltimore County
Baltimore County Requires Face Coverings in Indoor Spaces, Calls on Governor Hogan to Revisit Indoor Dining and Bars Statewide
As jurisdictions in Maryland and across the country see increasing COVID-19 cases, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced today that Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch has issued a new public health order requiring all individuals ages 2 and over to wear face coverings in all indoor public spaces, and also strongly encouraging residents to wear face coverings in outdoor public spaces wherever six-foot social distancing is not possible.
This new public health advisory supplements existing state orders (PDF), which currently require residents to wear masks in some indoor locations.
"The advice of scientific experts is clear: face coverings work. This commonsense step will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives," said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. "I want to thank our neighbors and businesses who continue to take the necessary steps to keep our loved ones safe. We must all do our part, or we risk jeopardizing the progress we've made together."
Despite current prevention measures, Baltimore County is experiencing the highest seven-day average of 97 community cases per day-exceeding the previous peak of 94 cases per day over a seven-day period in May. Meanwhile, Baltimore County's positivity rate has increased since July 7 to 5.92 percent, demonstrating continued community transmission of COVID-19. On Sunday, Maryland saw the largest number of cases reported in a single day in nearly two months.
CDC guidance has demonstrated the effectiveness of face coverings in preventing transmission of COVID-19 by symptomatic, pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. The suppression of COVID-19 will be critical in supporting future school reopening, continuing Baltimore County's economic recovery, and safeguarding public safety.
"Our fight against this virus is not over. Without a vaccine or a cure we must continue to follow the science and the evidence which shows that face coverings-paired with social distancing and avoiding large gatherings-can slow the spread of this disease," said Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch. "Our data is beginning to show initial troubling signs. To keep us from losing ground, we must act now."
Face Covering Requirements
Beginning Thursday, July 23 at 9 a.m., Baltimore County residents ages 2 and up will be required to wear face coverings in any indoor business, service, organization, or establishment that serves the general public. This includes, but is not limited to, retail establishments, recreational establishments, houses of worship, and other locations open to the public.
Residents are strongly encouraged to wear masks in outdoor public areas where social distancing of at least six-feet is not possible.
Individuals will not be required to wear a mask if:
- Eating or drinking while seated at food service establishments. In accordance with Governor Hogan's orders, face coverings are still required when otherwise moving in or about a restaurant or bar premises.
- A face covering cannot be worn due to a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability.
County to Swiftly Act to Protect Health
Additionally, under the order issued today, the Baltimore County Health Officer may also issue a warning, modify operations, or immediately shut down any business or place of assembly that presents an immediate threat to public health or demonstrates unreasonable risk of exacerbating the spread of COVID-19.
"We've focused on education before enforcement with our business community, because we understand how hard they have been hit by this pandemic. While the vast majority are doing their part, we will do whatever is necessary to protect the health and safety of our people," Olszewski added.
Olszewski Calls on Hogan to Reconsider Indoor Dining
Following nationwide COVID-19 spikes, over a dozen other states or localities have taken steps to re-close bars and restaurants. County officials noted that, similar to statewide trends, young people now account for the majority of cases. Over the past three days, 53 percent of Baltimore County cases are residents under the age of 35.
County Executive Olszewski today called on Governor Hogan to limit bars and food service establishments to outdoor dining and takeout or delivery service.
"Maryland's increasing case numbers are troubling and public health officials have consistently warned us about how indoor dining and congregating in bars can play a significant role of increased COVID-19 case counts. We have also seen that patchwork approaches to determining which businesses should be opened don't work. I urge Governor Hogan to reengage with local leaders so that we can work in partnership to take statewide action to protect public health and save lives."