Howard County schools to make indoor masking optional in March

Students in Howard County, Maryland, will no longer be required to wear masks indoors starting March 1.

The Howard County Board of Education on Thursday voted to make face coverings optional using the first condition — at least 80% of the county ‘s population is fully vaccinated — of the state Department of Education’s off-ramps for school districts to lift mask requirements.

Schools and offices will continue to have additional masks available as needed, for those who want to continue wearing them, a news release said.

“While masks will no longer be required in schools, every student and staff member should feel encouraged and supported to make the decision they feel most comfortable with,” Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Martirano said in a statement, adding a reminder to practice civility and to respect the choices of others when it came to masking.

Vicky Cutroneo, the chair of the Board of Education, said in a statement that she’s pleased with the board’s support to use the “off-ramp” to masking.

“As we have seen a decline in cases and transmission in our county, and the optimistic community message from the Health Department this week regarding declining metrics, I believe this is the right time to make masks optional,” Cutroneo said.

The federal requirement for masks on public transportation remains unchanged so anyone on a school bus will still be required to wear a mask.

The Biden administration is expected to significantly loosen federal mask-wearing guidelines to protect against COVID-19 transmission on Friday, The Associated Press reported. It was not immediately clear how the new guidance would affect federal mandates requiring face coverings on public transportation.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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