1 day after it lifted, case rate has Montgomery Co. planning to reinstate mask mandate

One day after Montgomery County, Maryland, lifted its indoor mask mandate, the case rate in Maryland’s most populous county ticked back up to a level that, per the county’s health regulations, automatically triggers reinstating the mandate.

A county official told WTOP the move won’t happen immediately, but that officials are planning for the mask mandate to be reinstated next week — unless the county council rewrites the health regulations in the meantime.

As of Friday, county data showed there were just over 50 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, a level which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies as “substantial” spread. That came after several days of lower community spread.

However, Acting Health Officer James Bridgers is waiting for updated data from the CDC before he sends the required notice of the county’s transmission level to the county council, assistant chief administrative officer Earl Stoddard told WTOP’s Luke Garrett in an interview Friday afternoon.

Updated CDC figures are expected Saturday.

Following that, Stoddard said, the county wants to give four days’ notice to residents to plan for the move to re-mask. Stoddard said that’s the same number of days’ notice the county provided in August when the county first moved to reimpose the mask mandate amid the rise in cases driven by the delta variant.

That means the earliest the county is expecting the mask mandate to be back in force in public indoor settings, such as restaurants and stores, is Wednesday, Nov. 3, Stoddard said.

However, the county council, sitting as the board of health, meets Tuesday, and it’s expected the council will discuss possibly amending the health regulation to avoid a yo-yo effect of shifting mask rules.

The health regulation at issue dates to early August, when faced with the delta surge, the council rolled out data-driven mask rules tied to the level of community transmission in the county.

Those rules included an automatic phase-out once the county hit seven straight days of moderate or lower transmission, which the county achieved on Thursday, thus ending the mask mandate.

But higher-than-usual numbers Thursday and Friday — more than 200 cases over the past two days alone — pushed the seven-day case rate per 100,0000 residents beyond the threshold.

The regulations, as written, direct the county’s health officer to “promptly notify” the public and the council if the level of transmission changes and then calls for the mask mandate to be reimposed without further action by the council.

Overall, the county has one of the highest vaccination rates in the region, with more than 90% of eligible residents being fully vaccinated.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan and Luke Garrett contributed to this report. 

More Coronavirus News

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.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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