It’s official: The indoor mask mandate in Montgomery County, Maryland, which is automatically triggered by the county’s COVID-19 case rate, will return this weekend.
The county’s acting health officer, Dr. James Bridgers, notified the county council Tuesday that the county had marked seven days in a row of “substantial” transmission of the virus, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The county is giving residents and businesses four days’ notice to prepare for the change. That means the mask mandate for indoor public places goes back into effect Saturday at 12:01 a.m.
The announcement came the same day D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the District, which remains an area of substantial transmission, would end its indoor mask mandate Monday.
Neighboring Prince George’s County, Maryland, also has an indoor mask mandate.
Under Montgomery County’s current health order, the mask mandate automatically ends once the county experiences seven consecutive days of lower-than-substantial transmission.
Substantial transmission is defined by the CDC as greater than 50 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days.
The case rate on Tuesday was just under 60, according to county data.
While hospitalization rates and deaths remain low in Montgomery County, the county council, sitting as the board of health, unanimously approved the data-driven approach to the mask mandate in early August, basing decisions about whether to reinstate — or revoke — the mask mandate on the case rate.
The change came as the county began experiencing an uptick in coronavirus cases driven by the more infectious delta variant.
While it aimed to provide clear on- and off-ramps for the county’s mask policy, the data-driven approach has led to some consternation among residents and council members as case rates in the county have fluctuated.
Late last month, after the county had finally seen seven consecutive days of lower than substantial transmission, triggering and end to the mask mandate, an increase in cases meant the county was on pace to reinstate the mask mandate just two days later. That led the county council to hastily meet and rewrite the health order to require seven consecutive days of substantial transmission before the mask mandate could be reinstated.
In addition, the update health order says the health order will be rescinded entirely once 85% of the county’s population of roughly 1,050,000 is fully vaccinated. According to the CDC, just over 78% of the county’s population are fully vaccinated currently.