The Wash
A photo of a sheet of paper that says masks are required to be worn indoors.
Montgomery County adopted a new policy that will require seven consecutive days of substantial COVID-19 transmission rates in order to reinstate the indoor mask mandate. (Gianna Gronowski / The Wash)

Montgomery County mask policy suspended for foreseeable future

Montgomery County Council updated the indoor mask policy Nov. 1, receiving mixed reactions from county residents amid lower transmission rates.

Montgomery County has suspended its indoor mask mandate for the foreseeable future due to a new amendment to the county’s policy. Recent transmission rates proved how difficult the amendment makes reinstatement of the mask mandate.

The county initially lifted the indoor mask mandate for public spaces after seven consecutive days of moderate transmission, or below 50 cases per day, effective Oct. 28 at 12:01 a.m. 

Though Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich reported substantial transmission rates, or over 50 cases per day, the following day on Oct. 29, he held off reinstating the mask mandate until the council could hold a public hearing on Nov. 1.

The Montgomery County Council then amended the county’s indoor mask policy again at the hearing to include criteria which makes it more difficult to reinstate the mask mandate.

Whereas previously a single day of substantial transmission rates would immediately recall the mask mandate into effect, the county now requires there to be a week of high transmission rates reported. If at any time the transmission rates dip below 50 cases, the countdown clock starts over.

The county reported transmission rates of 49.68 cases per 100,000 residents for Nov. 8, meaning there would need to be another seven uninterrupted days of substantial transmission for the mask mandate to be reinstated.

Council President Tom Hucker, D-District 5, said the amendment would “help reduce confusion about our indoor masking requirement and also provide us with a clearer picture of our health trends and the status of the virus’ effects on our county.”

The council voted unanimously in approval of the amendment after hearing testimony from county residents.

A screenshot of the virtual council hearing in which each council member is raising their hand over Zoom.
The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to approve the amendment to the county’s indoor mask mandate in public spaces. (Courtesy of Montgomery County Council)

Some residents voiced their support of making it more difficult to reinstate the indoor mask mandate, while others went further to say they believed the ordinance should be done away with altogether.

“I get where the mask mandate comes from. I fully support that, I’ve said that before,” Matthew Libber, owner of Maryland Soccerplex said. “I think there is some reason to believe that we can move forward without masks later on once vaccines are fully available for everybody.”

Paul Meyer, father to a 2 year old, said the best thing people can do to protect the younger unvaccinated population is to get themselves vaccinated. “And in a county with a 99.9% vaccination rate, we’ve taken care of that,” Meyer said.

Meyer said the county officials need to determine what level of risk is acceptable. “If we’re going to keep going back and forth with mask mandates, we need to discuss what our goals are here. Are we trying to get to zero covid?” Meyer said. “Almost all experts agree that this is impossible.”

Montgomery County resident and parent Bradley Jensen said he removed his children from Montgomery County Public Schools and has become a customer of businesses in un-masked neighboring counties so his family could “enjoy the freedoms” that came along with no mandates.

Gianna Gronowski

Graduate Journalism student at American Univeristy, '22. Highlighting politics, human rights, and anything else that sparks interest.

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