Montgomery County, Maryland, is on track to reimpose its indoor mask mandate later this week.
The indoor mask policy is automatically triggered if the county sees seven consecutive days of substantial or higher transmission of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines substantial transmission as greater than 50 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days.
The county’s own dashboard indicated the county had marked its seventh day in a row with a case rate higher than 50 on Monday.
However, that doesn’t mean masks are coming back on immediately.
Under the county’s latest Board of Health order, approved by the county council earlier this month, officials are directed to use figures on the CDC’s COVID-19 dashboard — which lags behind Montgomery County’s dashboard by a day.
That means, the official seventh day isn’t likely to be reached until Tuesday.
In addition, county officials have said they will provide a four-day notification period to allow county residents and businesses time to prepare for the change. That means the earliest the mask mandate would be back in effect is first thing Saturday morning.
The data-driven mask policy was introduced in late summer when the county began experiencing an uptick in coronavirus cases driven by the more infectious delta variant.
Earlier this month, the county council, sitting as the board of health, retooled the mask regulations to avoid a whiplash of shifting mask changes.
In late October, there was widespread confusion when the mandate was lifted and then set to be triggered again after just two days based on worsening case numbers.
Under the current regulations, the county has to see seven consecutive days of substantial transmission to re-trigger the mask mandate and seven consecutive days of lower-than-substantial transmission for the mask mandate to be revoked.
In addition, the county will rescind the mask policy completely once 85% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated. According to CDC data, as of Saturday, just over 78% of Montgomery County residents have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The recent authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for young children ages 5 to 11 is expected to be a boon to the effort to get more county residents vaccinated.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan and Luke Garrett contributed to this report.
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