After a two-day court hearing considering the county’s suspension of indoor dining in front of the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, County Executive Steuart Pittman signed a new executive order maintaining indoor dining at 25 percent capacity. Upon issuance of Executive Order #40, Titan Hospitality Group agreed to dismiss its case challenging the county’s previous executive order, which suspended indoor dining for four weeks.
The new executive order renders the temporary order granted by Judge William Mulford II on Dec. 16 moot, as limited indoor dining is now permitted. Today’s order allows indoor dining at 25 percent capacity for establishments that collect information for contact tracing purposes and follow all other safety protocols. Outdoor dining is permitted, provided that tents have at least half of the number of sides up at all times.
Pittman issued the following statement:
Yesterday in court, Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, Dr. Eili Klein of Johns Hopkins Medicine, and I described the metrics and considerations that led me to suspend indoor dining from Dec. 16 to Jan. 13. I believe we demonstrated to the court that the county’s decision was based on our strong desire to save lives and protect public health and was neither arbitrary nor capricious. However, the prospect of a sudden and disruptive closure of indoor dining prompted me to evaluate the best course of action at this time.
Since Dec. 10, when I announced the four-week suspension of indoor dining, much has changed. Catastrophic hospitalization projections, rising case rates, rising death rates and restrictions put in effect by the state and the county have altered public behavior. Case rates have dropped slightly and hospitalization projections have been adjusted downward. We still expect a challenging surge in COVID hospitalizations and a post-holiday case rate increase, but the improved forecast allows us to maintain our current level of restrictions.
In recognition of the progress our residents have made holding our numbers down in the last two weeks, I am pleased to announce that Anne Arundel restaurants may continue offering indoor dining at 25 percent capacity. We will monitor community spread daily, consult with public health experts, provide assistance to our businesses and residents, and facilitate the flow of federal relief funds to our people and businesses that are currently struggling. I encourage county residents to support our local restaurants and go to aacounty.org/carryout to find a restaurant to pick up your next meal.
I look forward to entering the new year with a little less conflict and a lot more hope.
According to the Anne Arundel Department of Health, the county’s case rate peaked at a seven day average of 48.7 cases per 100,000 residents on Dec. 12. The case rate has leveled off and is down slightly from that high, although health officials warn that limited testing over the Christmas holiday may account for some artificial changes in the coming days.
To align with the new indoor dining provisions for restaurant and food service establishments, social clubs, bowling alleys, mall food courts, and other businesses that serve food are now permitted to resume indoor dining at up to 25 percent of capacity with the same contact tracing provisions in place.
In addition to the revised indoor dining restrictions, Executive Order #40 limits third-party food delivery service fees to 15 percent of the purchase price of an online order. On December 21, The County Council voted 4-3 to pass similar emergency legislation, but the bill died because it required five votes as a result of its emergency status. During the same meeting, the County Council unanimously approved $2 million of funding to Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation to support the Restaurant Workers Humanitarian Relief Fund. This program will expand the debit card distribution program that is managed by Anne Arundel County Workforce Development.
In other efforts to support the local restaurant industry, Anne Arundel County established a $10 million grant program through Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation to support local restaurants. County Executive Pittman also waived the annual restaurant fees due in February and committed $1 million to support Feed Anne Arundel, a partnership of local restaurants, Arundel Community Development Services, Inc., the Anne Arundel County Partnership for Children, Youth & Families, Anne Arundel Connecting Together, and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.