Anne Arundel County’s health officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman said Tuesday morning he doesn’t anticipate extending the mask mandate beyond Jan. 31.
Kalyanaraman said the county’s case rate is going down, which was the stated goal of implementing the mandate.
“It is what is needed to decrease the spread and give our hospitals a chance to provide care to folks who need it,” he said during a Tuesday morning call with local media.
On Tuesday, Anne Arundel’s positivity rate of COVID-19 is 21.12%, which is higher than the state’s 19.77% rate, according to the Maryland Health Department. The county’s positive case rate per 100,000 residents is 106.23, compared to the state’s 139.46.
Anne Arundel has recorded 80,440 cases of COVID-19 and 891 deaths. Over the last week, 39 residents have died, which is more than five a day. The one-week total is the largest of any week since the pandemic began, according to Kalyanaraman
In all, 390,525 county residents have been fully vaccinated, a rate of 67.42%.
After the Anne Arundel County Council voted Jan. 7 against allowing County Executive Steuart Pittman to extend his seven-day mask mandate and state of emergency, Kalyanaraman issued a public safety order under state law extending the mask mandate to the end of the month, which requires face coverings in indoor county public areas and crowded outdoor public settings.
Last week, Republican County Council member Nathan Volke and Republican county executive candidate Herb McMillan reached out to a lawyer about the legality of the health department’s mask mandate order. A lawsuit challenging the public health action was filed on Friday.
Pittman said Tuesday that he believes no judge will grant a temporary restraining order on the mask mandate with the current COVID conditions.
“Our health officer made this public health order using the same state law that he has done twice before during the pandemic,” said Pittman, a Democrat. “We are better than this, and we do care about our neighbors. And while the mask mandate is a small act on the behalf of our health department, requested by our hospitals and residents and business owners, it will end. It is temporary.”
Pittman said it is important to defend the right of the county’s health officers and others around the state to protect public health by winning this case. He is not sure if the plaintiffs will drop the case. The state attorney’s general office will be defending Kalyanaraman in the case, according to Pittman said.