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Ball issues indoor mask mandate for Howard County

ELLICOTT CITY – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on Thursday signed an executive order requiring masks be worn indoors in all businesses and facilities open to the public, as well as public transportation, in Howard County.

Ball’s decision came in consultation with local health and business leaders. The requirement is effective Sunday at 5 p.m.

“With the rapidly multiplying number of COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron and Delta variants, positivity rates in double digits, and increases in hospitalization, this is a necessary step to further protect our residents,” Ball said. “Being vaccinated, getting a booster and wearing a mask are the three best ways to protect yourself and those around you.”

Maryland’s testing positivity rate has climbed to 12.8%, and statewide hospitalizations have surpassed 1,500.

“Masks are a simple and effective tool we can all use to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community as we continue to observe an increase in cases across Howard County,” Howard County Health Officer Dr. Maura Rossman said. “The contagious nature of the Omicron variant has increased the need for everyone to practice basic prevention techniques, like getting vaccinated including a booster, wearing a mask, and staying home if feeling ill.”

“We have been looking at the data and while businesses and employment have been making progress, we have not fully recovered,” said Lawrence F. Twele, CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority. “Taking steps to get through this latest spike is critical so our local economy can maintain momentum

Howard County has nearly 87% of its residents fully vaccinated and 95% receiving at least one dose. Recent studies, however, indicate antibodies diminish significantly after six months, increasing risk for COVID-19 and making boosters necessary.

Only 74% of Howard County residents ages 65 and older have gotten a booster. County officials say those who are 65 or older should get a booster immediately to increase protection from COVID-19 and particularly the omicron variant. Currently, 52% of all eligible residents have received a booster.