Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced that effective Monday, Sept. 13, county employees who are not vaccinated will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result each week in order to report to work. Additionally, effective Thursday, Aug. 5, all county employees and the general public will be required to wear masks inside all county-owned buildings.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control issued updated guidance on masking, noting that areas with substantial or high community transmission (where the daily case rate exceeds seven per 100,000 people per day) vaccinated individuals should wear masks indoors. After dropping to a case rate as low as 0.7 per 100,000 residents on July 1, Anne Arundel County’s case rate passed 7 on Thursday, July 29, and now stands at 7.6 per 100,000 residents per day.
The County Executive’s comments:
Annapolis, MD (August 2, 2021) – Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman’s comments regarding the County’s vaccine and mask requirements:
“Anne Arundel County residents have fought hard to slow the spread of COVID-19. Their
sacrifices over the last year and a half saved a lot of lives.
We endured a stay at home order, closure of businesses, social distancing, mask-wearing, and some suffered devastating economic disruption.
Our public servants became heroes. They mobilized to deliver contact tracing, testing, isolation and quarantine housing, food distribution, eviction prevention, direct financial assistance, crisis counseling, and grants to impacted businesses.
When scientists delivered a vaccine, we celebrated. Our health department mobilized to make the shots easily accessible and free. They fought back against misinformation about the safety of the vaccination, and presented the facts to whoever would listen.
Our vaccination program has put us in a better place, a much better place. Maryland has the 13th highest vaccination rate in the country, and Anne Arundel County has the 3rd highest rate among Maryland’s 24 counties. 70% of our residents age 12 and over have received at least one dose. We should be proud of that effort. It’s why we’ve been able to travel, socialize, and rebuild our hospitality industry.
Public health leaders told us that vaccination mobilization was a race against COVID variants. They told us that we needed to reach herd immunity before a more contagious or deadly variant had a chance to take hold. They were right.
Last week we learned that our unvaccinated residents are at greater risk than ever. The Delta variant is now the dominant form of COVID-19, and it is far more contagious than its predecessors.
This new strain of the virus, we now know, can be carried by fully vaccinated people and while they are largely protected from serious illness and death, they can shed the virus and do great harm to their unvaccinated neighbors.
In response to these findings, the CDC has recommended that in jurisdictions with a case rate of 50 new cases per 100,000 people over a week, or an average of 7 new cases per day, masks should be worn in indoor public settings, not only by unvaccinated people, but by everyone. In other words, we need the masks to prevent the delta variant from using healthy vaccinated people as carriers.
Anne Arundel County, like all of Maryland has a growing infection rate. Both the state and the county are at a rate of 1.4, with a rate of 1 being a hold-steady with no growth or decline in case rate. In other words the case rate is steadily rising.
Last Thursday, our county passed the 7 case threshold that put us in the CDC’s “substantial spread” territory. That means that the CDC recommends masks for everyone indoors in public spaces.
County executives in Maryland no longer have the authority to mandate public mask-wearing, but we have an obligation to make our county buildings safe and our employees safe. That’s why I am announcing today that starting this Thursday, regardless of vaccination status, anyone inside a county building must wear a mask until further notice. This includes libraries, senior centers, and all office buildings.
My hope is that other institutions where the public gathers will follow the county’s lead.
Vaccination remains the most effective weapon against the virus in all of its forms. Some
employers have already announced that they will require their employees to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, and others are suggesting that the requirement will take effect when FDA use authorization is upgraded from emergency to full.
President Biden announced last week that federal employees would be given the option of
getting vaccinated or showing weekly proof of a negative COVID test. My team, like most large employers, has been discussing the topic of vaccination requirements for many weeks. Implementing a vaccine requirement with a testing option is complicated, but
most likely effective.
I am announcing today that all county employees must, beginning September 13, show proof of COVID vaccination or weekly evidence of a negative COVID test. In other words, we are following the federal government’s lead, as a means of protecting our public servants and setting an example to other employers.
I have spoken to many of our department heads and union leaders about this, and while we understand that there will be some resistance, we expect that most of our employees will welcome this news.
The message that I want to share today is not one of doom and gloom. It’s a message of hope.
The Delta variant is a tougher enemy, a more effective fighter than its predecessors, but our vulnerable unvaccinated population is only 30%. We are fully capable of vaccinating everyone who is currently not vaccinated BEFORE the fall weather comes, before flu season, before COVID surge season.
In other words, we can stop this thing with NO new restrictions, no more threats to our economy, to our families.
So please, please find someone who is on the fence or reluctant to get that vaccination and beg with them. Plead with them. Warn them how deadly this new variant is, and get them vaccinated. Save someone’s life.”