As summer begins to sizzle, Anne Arundel Executive Steuart Pittman applauded the County Council’s bipartisan vote to end the emergency order and announced it would be signed today.
“The County Council had a good night, most of what passed was 7-0,” Pittman said Tuesday. “We love that, that shows that folks are working together.”
The council passed a series of amendments and legislation Monday night that set a deadline for the county state of emergency no later than 5 p.m. Friday. Restaurants will keep the special privileges of outdoor seating throughout the fall and can now seat more than 50% outdoors. Businesses and workplaces still have the right to enforce their own mask mandates.
The end of the executive order means Pittman will no longer have the power to create further capacity limits for restaurants, businesses and other entities in the county, he said. The emergency order will end after he signs the bill.
While the county is slated to end its local emergency order, Gov. Larry Hogan’s state of emergency has not been lifted in Maryland. The end of the county order comes more than a year after it was implemented in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, 636 county residents have died from the illness. Anne Arundel County appears to be the first to end its emergency order since the pandemic swept into Maryland back in March.
Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman said COVID-19 numbers continue to drop and he credits those who are getting vaccinated. According to Kalyanaraman, 70% of all adults in the county have received at least one shot.
“I think the most critical piece is that our hospitalizations continue to drop,” Kayanaraman said. “That’s how we’re going to know we’re doing well, at the same time our case rate is decreasing.”
Several bills were before the council on the subject of ending the emergency order, but they opted instead to all sign onto an amended bill requested by Pittman’s administration and introduced by Councilwoman Sarah Lacey. It passed unanimously following the amendments.
“I’m sure partisanship is not a factor in celebrating the end of COVID or at least the end of the worst of COVID,” Lacey, D-Jessup, said.
Councilman Nathan Volke, R-Pasadena, had been pushing for an end to the emergency order for months, and this time the county’s smaller COVID-19 numbers brought Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman on board as well. Pittman’s administration agreed to side with Volke’s amendments removing the 50% outdoor seating limit previously in place during the pandemic.
Director of Government Relations Peter Baron expressed his support for Volke’s amendments and said these clauses are unnecessary.
“They’re not essential to accomplish the purpose of the bills, so, in the spirit of the lost art of compromise, the administration supports the removal of these,” Baron said.
Volke’s part of the deal was withdrawing his bills that were at odds with Lacey’s.
“This ensures for businesses that they do have the ability to move forward with this outdoor seating for the rest of the summer and into the early fall,” Volke said.
Councilwoman Amanda Fiedler, R-Arnold, said she was happy to be voting on this bill.
“I just want to extend my appreciation to Councilman Volke for being tireless in this effort,” Fiedler said. “I know we have co-sponsored several similar pieces that addressed components of this bill and appreciate the work with the administration to get to this point.”
Baron said he is excited to see the county in a position to end the emergency order as COVID-19 numbers have decreased.
“If you’re anything like me, you have been watching the county numbers every day, and the numbers for our case rate have been extremely encouraging over the last couple of weeks, and our vaccination numbers are looking pretty good too,” Baron said.
In May, the State of Maryland reported under 100 new confirmed COVID-19 cases for the first time since March 25, 2020.