Council says many unanswered questions linger over Montgomery Co. vaccine passport proposal

Montgomery County’s proposed vaccine passport, which would require people entering businesses such as restaurants and bars, leaves too many questions unanswered, according to the Maryland county’s council president.

Gabe Albornoz and other members of the council are still wondering about the logistical concerns of requiring businesses to screen customers before they could enter.

“There are concerns about the ability to actually enforce this because of the current situation on the ground with staffing levels” Albornoz said.

Those worries don’t end with the ability of staff at a business to check for proof of vaccination.

Questions have been raised about what would happen if customers ignore the regulation and police are called. “There are concerns raised about the status of Montgomery County police and all that is already on their plate and adding another layer to it,” Albornoz said.

County Executive Marc Elrich’s administration introduced the regulation that would require anyone 12 and older to show proof of vaccination before entering a range of businesses, including bars, restaurants, conference centers and gyms. Eventually, the requirement would include anyone 5 years old and older.

Albornoz said the council also wanted to see how a similar regulation in the District of Columbia has fared.

The county’s COVID-19 transmission rates and hospitalization declining also have Albornoz questioning the value of a proof of vaccination policy.

“The numbers are going down,” Albornoz said.

Sean O’Donnell with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services said there had been a fairly steady decline of positivity rates over the last week-and-a-half.

“Our acute-care bed utilization is continuing to decline, which is extremely good news,” O’Donnell said.

Albornoz said there were simply too many questions about mandating the proof of vaccination. It was not clear “as to whether this is the right tool at this moment.”

Another proposal up for consideration is the county’s current mask mandate, which is set to expire at the end of January. A new regulation could extend it to Feb. 28.

Under the latest proposal, there are a number of factors that could trigger the expiration of the mask mandate. These include whether the test positivity rate, the hospitalization bed utilization rate and the number of cases per 100,000 drop for seven consecutive days. Those numbers would also have to fall outside of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “high” category.

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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.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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