Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that, effective immediately, the state will lift its outdoor mask mandate, with all restrictions on outdoor dining ending Saturday.
Hogan touted the state’s progress in fighting the pandemic as evidence that Maryland is ready to take further steps in moving toward a new normal. More than 60% of residents 18 and older have been vaccinated, Hogan said; and supply is no longer as restrictive a factor in getting vaccines to those who want them.
The decision comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement that fully vaccinated Americans can go outdoors without wearing a mask, unless in a crowded area.
“Lifting this emergency order is in line with the new CDC advisory guidance yesterday, regarding masking, and it follows the advice of our team of public health experts, as well as the advice of national health leaders,” Hogan said.
Hogan urged all residents who haven’t done so already to sign up to receive a vaccine, and to exercise caution until they are fully vaccinated.
Also beginning Saturday, residents will no longer have to preregister for the state’s mass vaccination sites. Hogan said direct registration with each site will now be possible as supply issues ease.
“I want to stress once again that the fastest way for us to put this pandemic behind us once and for all is for every eligible Marylander to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” Hogan said.
Masks will still be required for large ticketed venues, indoor businesses and public transportation.
While outdoor dining will no longer have any restrictions beginning May 1, indoor dining restrictions will remain in place for now, according to Hogan.
Hogan also said that Marylanders should try to do as much outdoors as they can because the risk of spreading the virus is much lower.
Counties react to Hogan’s changes
While Hogan may be easing statewide restrictions, it is still up to the counties to decide if they will keep tighter health safety measures in place.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said that while the improving health metrics were a good sign, the county would not be following the state’s lead immediately.
“We will follow the CDC guidelines on masking per the existing board of health order, which directs us to use the stricter of the CDC or state guidance,” Elrich said. “Despite his statement on the website, the governor’s order regarding masks does not comport with the CDC guidelines.”
Similarly, the county will not follow the governor’s easing of restrictions on outdoor dining. Elrich said they would defer to the county’s board of health and regulations and guidance.
Baltimore County, however, said that it will align with all of Hogan’s actions. In a statement, County Executive John Olszewski said despite the end of the mask restrictions, residents must still do their part to help “end this crisis once and for all.”
“As Baltimore County remains in alignment with the state’s next steps, we must continue to stay vigilant, follow the guidance of scientists, and get fully vaccinated as soon as possible to preserve the progress we’re making together,” Olszewski said. We will continue to closely monitor key data in the coming weeks and we remain fully prepared to take steps as necessary to protect public health.”
In an emailed statement, Howard County executive Calvin Ball said the county will follow Hogan’s order, eliminating the outdoor mask requirement and outdoor dining restrictions effective Saturday.
Ball also partially lifted restrictions on spectators for activities at Howard County indoor athletic facilities.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said Thursday the county is rescinding its order requiring masks to be worn in outdoor public spaces.
“We’re continuing to focus on our data and applicable guidance from federal and state public health agencies,” said Pittman. “Rescinding this order shows we are getting closer to pre-pandemic life – we need folks to continue getting vaccinated so that we can take more steps in that direction.”
In an emailed statement to WTOP, Frederick County Communications Director Vivian Laxton said the county attorney is reviewing the governor’s executive order and its implications to an outside mask order currently in effect.
DC and Virginia
Both Virginia and D.C. have said they are currently in the process of reviewing their own outdoor mask mandates to decide whether it would be an appropriate time to lift them.
D.C. Health said it’s in the process of reviewing CDC guidelines, but did not give a date as to when an announcement would be made.
Virginia similarly said the state is reviewing the CDC guidance.
“This is an exciting step forward. The Governor will continue to follow the CDC, as he has throughout this pandemic, and we’re reviewing our mask mandate now to determine if and where we need to make changes,” said Alena Yarmosky, press secretary for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
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