Starting next week, employees and visitors in state buildings in Maryland will no longer have to wear face masks as COVID-19 rates continue to drop, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday.
The new mask guidance for state buildings and leased space in public or shared buildings goes into effect Feb. 22, according to a news release from Hogan’s office.
“Given the dramatic declines in our health metrics, we are now able to take another step toward normalcy in state operations,” Hogan said. “In addition, we continue to offer paid leave for state employees to get their booster shots, which provide critical protection against the virus and its variants. I want to thank all of our dedicated state employees for their tireless efforts that have helped make Maryland’s COVID-19 response a national model.”
The change does not apply to masks in schools, though Hogan has called on the State Board of Education to rescind its mask policy and is encouraging parents to weigh in on the matter ahead of the board’s next meeting on Feb. 22.
In a letter to the board last week, Hogan said “a growing number of medical professionals, parents and bipartisan state officials throughout the nation are calling for an end to school mask requirements,” and that experts “who previously advocated for mandated masking in schools now call for eliminating these temporary measures.”
The state board is made up of 13 regular members and one student member who are appointed by the governor.
In response, the school board said it was “watching with optimism as Covid-19 metrics improve in the State,” and pointed to previously adopted “offramps” to masking requirements, which include lifting the requirement based on high vaccination rates in school systems and their surrounding counties, or based on moderate or low transmission of the virus.
Maryland, like the rest of the U.S., was hit hard by the omicron variant of the coronavirus, which has sent case counts, hospitalizations and deaths surging. However, over the past few weeks, the numbers have been falling sharply.
Maryland is now reporting the lowest COVID-19 case rate of any state, according to figures presented by Hogan’s office. COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped to 751 — down 78% from a peak last month. The COVID-19 positivity rate — the percentage of COVID tests coming back positive — has dropped to about 3%, which is down 87% from a peak last month.
Hogan lifted the statewide indoor mask mandate in May 2021, which required masks in all businesses, stores and restaurants.
However, the governor reintroduced a measure specifically for state buildings in early January amid the early omicron surge.
Counties around Maryland have their own mask mandates, many of which are lifting as well.
Over the weekend, Frederick County officials dropped their mask mandate, citing the improved COVID rates.
As it stands, Montgomery County remains on track to lift its indoor mask mandate Feb. 21.
Prince George’s County’s indoor mask mandate will remain in effect through March 9.
- Sign up for WTOP alerts
- Latest coronavirus test results in DC, Maryland and Virginia
- Latest vaccination numbers in DC, Maryland and Virginia