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Mask Mandates Begin In Anne Arundel & Frederick Counties As Maryland Grapples With COVID-19

GLEN BURNIE, Md. (WJZ) -- As Maryland grapples with elevated COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, two more counties implemented indoor mask mandates on Friday.

Anne Arundel and Frederick counties now require people ages 5 and up to wear masks in indoor public spaces, from retail stores to houses of worship.

The pair join Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties, along with Baltimore City, all of which already had similar mandates in place.

Residents in Glen Burnie told WJZ on Friday that they support Anne Arundel County's mandate.

"I think we need it for right now until everything slows down," Bonita Phinney said.

The state's COVID-19 dashboard wasn't updated Friday due to the holiday, but the latest data shows the statewide positivity rate is above 20%, while more than 2,100 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19.

With cases on the rise heading into New Year's Day, many residents have been trying to find tests, which have been in short supply both here in Maryland and across the country.

"We had two members of my family take at-home rapid tests, and it came back positive," Renee Sullivan said. "We have not been able to find more rapid tests."

It's experiences like that which led the health department to establish two new state-run testing sites, one at Upper Chesapeake Health in Bel Air and another at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis.

The new testing sites are open seven days a week, including New Year's Day, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

But while the goal of the new testing sites is to keep up with public demand for COVID-19 tests, many residents said they still had to wait hours to get tested.

"I'll be ringing in the New Year here," Justin Magno joked.

The state announced Friday that it has received its first shipment of paxlovid and molnupiravir, two medicines recently authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19 patients.

The shipment, which includes 4,500 courses of the treatments, is being distributed to long-term care facilities, clinics and pharmacies over the next few weeks.

The prescription medications are intended to keep high-risk patients from getting seriously ill.

Frederick County's mandate, which was passed by the Board of Health on Thursday, will remain in place until the number of cases per capita drops below 20, or it is lifted by county officials.

The emergency mandate issued by Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman will expire on Jan. 7, unless it is extended by the County Council at its meeting next week.

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