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Anne Arundel Executive Defends Mask Mandate, Admits Difficulty Enforcing It; Covid Strains Maryland Hospitals, Schools

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- Omicron has swept through Anne Arundel County, and people lined up to get tested in Glen Burnie. Hospitals here are at more than 90 percent capacity—and most of those patients are unvaccinated

"Our baseline threshold is 70 percent, so they are under a large amount of stress at this time," said Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, Anne Arundel County's Health Officer.

After the county council rejected a mask mandate, the health officer ordered one.

And while the county executive admits the mandate is tough to enforce, he believes it was the right call.

"I know that there were businesses that were attempting to implement mask mandates and that was not coming from the government, and that there was a lot more pushback in those cases because it was not mandated by the county," he said.

"The enforcement is complaint driven. We have not been closing businesses down for this. I think businesses understand that we're all in this together and trying to get as many people to wear masks as possible, but there will be some who do not comply  and the chances are they will get away with it."

Across the state, covid cases are skyrocketing. The number of hospitalizations has nearly doubled in the last two weeks.

Many nurses are at their breaking point.

"We have a nursing workforce that is physically mentally and morally exhausted. They feel a sense of betrayal in a relationship with the public in terms of the public not being willing to do the vaccines that we know save lives in something as simple as masking, which is the least intrusive and most effective public health action that we can take now to stop the transmission of illness," said Dr. Tener Veenema with Johns Hopkins.

In Baltimore County, all public schools are closed for the second straight day.

You can get updates on their status here:

And in Baltimore City, 60 schools remained virtual only Tuesday. Here is the latest on schools in the city.

Imani Kelly says her daughter is among those isolating.

"Somebody tested positive so right now we are quarantining and they just gave us all her materials and stuff until everything is cleared up. And then we'll be able to come back. I believe they're taking all the necessary precautions," she told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. "It is really scary. And it's hard to get the tests. Nowadays, everything is booked up. Everything is full. I think the best thing to do is if your kids are sick, just stay home."

13 hospitals in the state are under crisis standards of care.

The Maryland National Guard will assist at multiple new and expanded testing sites opening around Maryland on Wednesday.

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