It’s official: Montgomery County, Maryland’s mask mandate for indoor public places — reimposed in late summer amid a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the delta variant — was lifted Thursday.
On Wednesday, the county marked its seventh consecutive day of “moderate” community transmission of the virus, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That meant Montgomery County would lift its indoor mask mandate at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
Under the board of health regulation adopted by the county in August, the indoor mask mandate was set to automatically phase out after seven days of moderate or lower transmission. The CDC defines moderate or lower as below 50 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days.
Going forward, businesses can still require patrons to wear masks indoors, and masks will still be required in schools and on public transportation.
Unvaccinated people are also still recommended to wear face coverings.
County Executive Marc Elrich thanked residents for their vigilance and continued to urge caution as, even with the lower rates, there is still community spread of the virus. Elrich pointed to one new death, three hospitalizations and 67 new cases in the county on Wednesday.
COVID-19 is “definitely not over and we shouldn’t act like it is; that would only put more people needlessly at risk,” Elrich said during an online news briefing. “I want to thank everyone for the vigilance and adherence to our guidance and that it’s allowed us to get back to moderate transmission.”
He added, “There’s no secret sauce in Montgomery County — basically, we had a set of rules that kept people safe and people took those rules seriously.”
In addition, the regulations adopted by the county council setting out the process for imposing the mask mandate and automatically phasing it out remain in effect. Unless modified by the county council, sitting as the board of health, if transmission rates in the county tick back up to substantial levels, per the CDC, the indoor mask mandate could be reimposed .
Montgomery County, which already has some of the highest vaccination rates in the region, is preparing to begin vaccinations of young children once authorized by the federal government — a move that is expected as early as next week.
The Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 will come in special packaging and in kid-sized doses.
There are an estimated 100,000 or so children in that age group in the county.
The county health department initially requested 20,000 doses from the state of Maryland and has received word it will receive 13,200, acting Health Officer Dr. James Bridgers said. In addition, however, more than 26,000 pediatric doses will be delivered to pediatricians, hospitals and other providers in the county. That means roughly 40,000 pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be available in the county in the first shipment.
The county’s initial rollout calls for nine “cluster” sites to administer vaccines at middle schools across the county.
Indoor mask mandates are still in place for D.C., Prince George’s County and Baltimore.
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