Montgomery Co. waiting for virus transmission levels to drop before ending indoor mask mandate

Montgomery County, Maryland, has long led the state in terms of the percentage of its population that has been vaccinated, but a county official said the transmission rate of the virus still has to fall a little more before the indoor mask mandate will be reconsidered.

The county is currently reporting a “substantial” rate of virus transmission by Centers of Disease Control and Prevention metrics, with a seven-day average of 66 new cases reported per day. Sean O’Donnell, with Montgomery County Health and Human Services, said the county needs to reach “moderate” levels of transmission — which would be a seven-day average of 49 news cases per day.

“I know a lot of our residents are interested in the mask mandates and when that could potentially change,” he said. “That needs to go to a moderate transmission level as defined by the CDC … So we’re currently adding a rate of 66, so we still need that to come down a little bit further.”

The discussion of whether county employees should be mandated to get vaccinated has been a contentious topic in recent weeks, with Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich saying he believes that implementing them would force the resignation of a number of personnel from critical services in the county, such as the fire and police departments. Many on the council disagree, and plan to bring a bill forward that would put a mandate in effect for county workers.

On Wednesday, Elrich said he hoped to foster more discussion around the topic of vaccine mandates before the county council sent a bill to his desk.

“I know that … there are council members who all share the same concerns I do that, at the end of the day, we have to deliver critical services, and we need to be able to tailor what we do to match our ability to deliver the services we’re supposed to deliver,” Elrich said. “So hopefully we all can come to some agreement that we can move forward in a way that doesn’t jeopardize my ability to get an ambulance to arrive on time.”

The Montgomery County Council is set to hold a public hearing on the vaccine mandate Oct. 19.

Elrich also said that it was “fair” to assume that the 7% of county workers who have responded that they are not vaccinated have no plans to do so.

“At this point obviously they’ve had plenty of time to get vaccinated,” he said.

Another 14% of county workers have yet to submit their vaccination status.

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.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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