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Indoor mask mandate back in place Wednesday in Baltimore County

Sean Naron, Baltimore County
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. Credit: Baltimore County

With the dramatic rise in the COVID-19 positivity rate, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Monday put a state of emergency back in place.

In addition, beginning Wednesday, anyone five and older will be required to wear masks in public places. The mask mandate will be in place through January.

There are some exceptions. For instance, you can take off your mask when you are eating and drinking while seated in a restaurant.

In a statement, Olszewski said the state of emergency allows the county to move more swiftly to procure supplies and put health measures in place.

“Renewing Baltimore County’s state of emergency ensures we have every tool in our toolbox to keep our residents safe and keep our children where they belong: inside the classroom,” Olszewzki said.

The county lifted the previous state of emergency less than two months ago when the COVID positivity rate was just over 3%.

The Omicron variant is fueling a dramatic increase in the positivity rate, now at above 16% statewide.

“I can recognize an emergency,” said Democratic County Council Chairman Julian Jones. “And the alarms are sounding and it’s time to go back to the state of emergency.”

Earlier this year the emergency declaration caused a political divide on the council, with the three Republicans on the seven-member body opposing it. But Republican Councilman David Marks said it’s different now. Marks said he votes on the metrics.

“It looks like we are three times as bad as we were in September and October,” Marks said. “That has dramatically changed things.”

The state of emergency is for seven days. The county council will vote next week to extend it.

Last week, hospital executives urged Olszewski to put an indoor mask mandate back in place.

When it comes to masking indoors, Marks said he is seeing much more of that now, even in more conservative parts of his district.

“I had the opportunity during Christmas to be in a lot of places in my district,” Marks said. “Almost uniformly in both Republican and Democratic areas I see people wearing masks. I didn’t see that two or three months ago.”

Baltimore City, as well as Howard, Prince Georges and Montgomery counties have indoor mask mandates in place.

Olszewski said he also plans to use money from the American Rescue Plan to pay for 100,000 rapid at-home test kits to distribute free to county residents. He also has directed the county health department to open an additional large scale COVID-19 testing clinic.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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