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County Executive Calvin Ball Lifts Howard County Mask Mandate

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on Tuesday issued an executive order rescinding the county's indoor mask mandate, more than a month after the Omicron variant fueled a surge in cases and hospitalizations.

Masks will still be required in government buildings and on public transit.

In a release, Ball said it was "vital" to sign the order on Dec. 23 as cases started to increase. Following the holidays, the county's positivity rate was nearly 30% and 84 people were hospitalized with the virus at Howard County General Hospital.

As of Tuesday, the positivity rate is down to 8.47% and hospitalizations have decreased by 60%, he said. Ball also noted high-quality masks and at-home testing kits are now widely available.

"Our metrics are encouraging; however, our residents should still use caution in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status," said Ball. "Due to Omicron's virulence, we still recommend the use of high-quality masks, such as N95s and KN95s especially for residents who may be at higher risk."

The county executive encouraged residents to get vaccinated and boosted. While 86% of residents age 12 and older are fully vaccinated, only 44% of eligible people have gotten their booster, he said.

"Residents are highly encouraged to get a booster as studies show that antibodies wane after six months and this may make the difference in keeping our family and friends out of the hospital," said Ball.

Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties recently let their mask mandates expire.

Harford County lifted a requirement for masks inside government buildings.

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