Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced Howard County will be in alignment with Governor’s Hogan’s order to lift outdoor masking requirements and remove outdoor dining restrictions, effective May 1, 2021. Additionally, Ball announced a partial lifting of COVID-19 restrictions on spectators for activities held at Howard County indoor athletic facilities, in effect at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 30, 2021. Photos of the event can be found here, and video can be found here.

“We have made these decisions based on the guidance of the Howard County Health Department and after careful consideration of Howard County’s progress in the fight against COVID-19,” said Ball. “Athletics are important to so many Howard County families. We recognize that youth sports keep kids and families thriving and well. We know we all want to get back to where we were before the pandemic, and it is going to take all of us working together to get vaccines into arms to get there.”

To date, 55% of Howard County residents have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 38.2% are fully vaccinated, and the County’s 7-day average positivity rate is below three percent. Residents are encouraged to continue to get tested for COVID-19, which is still vital in the fight against the virus. To see a full list of testing locations, visit HCHealth.org.

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Under the new guidance for indoor athletic facilities, up to two parents, guardians or family members per player will be allowed to watch games or practices held within indoor facilities. Previously, spectators were only allowed at outdoor sports events and limited to two family members.

“Youth sports can play an important role in the lives of children, including supporting their social, emotional, and physical development,” said Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County Health Officer. “This is especially important considering the isolation that many young people are feeling while spending less time in school or around friends and family. However, these activities are not without risk of COVID-19 exposure to participants and spectators and precautions should still be taken, including: wearing a mask when indoors, maintaining physical distance, staying home if feeling sick, and getting vaccinated if eligible.”

“We realize that so many Howard County parents have struggled with being unable to watch their children grow and succeed during practices and games held during the COVID-19 pandemic.” said Department of Recreation & Parks Director Raul Delerme. “Given Howard County’s current vaccination numbers, we have made the decision to allow up to two family members to participate as spectators during indoor sports events.”

“While I’ve enjoyed coaching in Howard County over the past year, we’ve all been waiting to see what would happen with the spectator policy,” said Phillip Warner, Volunteer Youth Volleyball League Coach. “It’s been difficult for the kids balancing learning virtually with everything else and I am excited about this new policy.”

Indoor athletic facilities owned and operated by Howard County Recreation & Parks include the Meadowbrook Athletic Complex in Ellicott City and the county’s three community centers (the Roger Carter Community Center, the Gary J. Arthur Community Center and the North Laurel Community Center). Recreation & Parks also offers athletic programs held at public elementary and middle schools throughout Howard County.

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Scott E