Montgomery County will lift its indoor mask mandate on Thursday morning, though restaurants, bars, and other businesses can still choose to require masks, officials announced Wednesday. Face coverings will still be mandatory in schools and on public transport.
County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said the county’s coronavirus metrics have significantly improved from the summer, when the mandate was reimposed, but emphasized that Montgomery’s — and Maryland’s — battle against the virus was far from over.
“Even with all the improvements, this pandemic is not behind us,” he said. “Covid is definitely not over and we shouldn’t act like it is.”
According to coronavirus data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Montgomery on Tuesday recorded seven consecutive days of “moderate transmission” — meaning a case rate between 10 and 49 new infections per 100,000 residents — which automatically triggered the lifting of the mask mandate. The county has among the highest vaccination rates in the region, with 77 percent of eligible residents fully vaccinated as of this week.
Nonetheless, Elrich emphasized, the virus has not been eradicated from the suburb of 1 million. Since the start of October, the county has recorded more than 2,300 new infections and 30 covid-related deaths.
Elrich urged residents to continue wearing a mask in crowded indoor places even if it isn’t mandatory and said he would not hesitate to reinstate an indoor mask requirement if case rates tick up again this winter.
Masks are still required in all public schools in Maryland, including in Montgomery County Public Schools. Any change to this rule would require a vote by the State Board of Education.
D.C., Prince George’s County and Baltimore City reimposed indoor mask mandates over the summer, as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus drove up case rates across the region. According to CDC data, all three of those jurisdictions recorded seven-day average case rates above 50 per 100,000 residents on Wednesday, placing them in the category of “substantial transmission." The agency has recommended indoor mask-wearing in areas with substantial or high transmission.