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Baltimore County state of emergency to expire after partisan divide

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. will allow a local state of emergency to sunset Wednesday rather than ask the politically split Baltimore County Council to vote to extend it.

County spokesman Sean Naron said the county has seen “encouraging progress” on the number of coronavirus cases. Hospitalizations due to coronavirus complications in the county are down by 37% over the prior three weeks, and the seven-day positivity rate has declined to 3.13%. When the state of emergency order was approved in August, the positivity rate was 4.79%.

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Baltimore County’s coronavirus risk Tuesday was considered “substantial” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with an average of 10 new daily cases per 100,000 people over the past week.

“We continue to urge all residents to take precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones, including preparing to get their children vaccinated as soon as they are able,” Naron said in a statement.

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The emergency order has rankled council Republicans since Olszewski, amid a rise in case numbers, sought to reinstate it in August after the original order expired in July. Olszewski, a Democrat, needed the council’s signoff to extend the state of emergency for 30 days, which the council twice approved by a 4-3 vote split across party lines.

Olszewski’s administration argued that the order helped health officials secure funding and supplies to support its coronavirus response more quickly. The order also allowed Olszewski to impose restrictions like capacity limits on gatherings and in businesses.

Council Republicans, such as Todd Crandell, argued that Olszewski did not need the local order to adequately obtain resources.

“The state of emergency has nothing to do with the health care community,” Crandell previously said. “It’s all about optics. It’s all about money. It’s all about control.”

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Baltimore County and Baltimore City were the only two Central Maryland jurisdictions that established a local emergency order related to the pandemic after the state’s ended in August.

The county will continue to mandate mask-wearing in its government buildings, Naron said.

Olszewski also signed an executive order to continue allowing restaurants and bars to serve customers with expanded dining options outdoors.

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