Another state of emergency for Baltimore County, Maryland, was declared on Monday, mandating residents ages 5 and older to wear masks in indoor public spaces as the omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads.

The order — which requires masks in restaurants, retail stores, places of worship, and other places that serve the public, with some exceptions — is set to begin Wednesday at 9 a.m.

"We’ve made undeniable progress in our fight against this deadly virus, but it is clear the omicron variant significantly challenges our efforts to combat the pandemic,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. in a press release. “Renewing Baltimore County’s state of emergency ensures we have every tool in our toolbox to keep our residents safe and keep our children where they belong: inside the classroom.”

Exceptions to the mandate include eating and drinking in restaurants, medical exemptions, swimming or other physical activities, or in situations when wearing a mask would inhibit services, such as dental care or getting a shave.

Cases in the county have been on the rise since Nov. 26, 2021. Hospitalizations rates from omicron have increased by 188% and the positivity rate has increased by 264%, despite 76% of the population aged 5 and older receiving at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to county officials.


The county will use funds from the American Rescue Plan to create a large testing site and supply 100,000 rapid at-home testing kits to residents, which will be available at testing sites, health clinics, and libraries for free.

“Government has an obligation to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our neighbors. I know firsthand that vaccines work. They help keep people out of hospitals — and keep people alive. Unfortunately, too many people have selfishly chosen to not get vaccinated,” Olszewski said. “As a result, Baltimore County must now take this additional action to help limit the spread of COVID-19, reduce the burden on our healthcare system, and save lives.”


Olszewski tested positive for COVID-19 last week despite being fully vaccinated, according to the Baltimore Sun.

A local state of emergency was declared in August amid a rise in delta variant cases, but officials allowed it to sunset in November. The Baltimore County Council is expected to hold a vote on Monday to consider the continuation of the county’s state of emergency beyond that date, according to the press release.