Montgomery Co. will vote next week on extending the mask mandate through the end of February

Lawmakers in Montgomery County, Maryland, are expected to vote next week on extending the indoor mask mandate through the end of February.

Lawmakers in Montgomery County, Maryland, are expected to vote next week on extending the indoor mask mandate through the end of February.

The indoor mask mandate is currently due to expire on January 31.

Montgomery County Council, sitting as the Board of Health, will hold a public hearing on the mask mandate at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday before the expected vote.

The proposal comes as the county still sees a very high number of COVID-19 cases caused by the more infectious omicron variant, although county data also shows the rate of transmission is dropping precipitously from a peak earlier this this month. Hospitalizations in the county remain elevated from previous surges, but are also down sharply.

Under the proposal currently before the council, masks would be required in indoor public spaces until Feb. 28, but the mandate would end early if COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to decline.

A news release on the council’s website says data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that tracks the rate of COVID-19 cases, test positivity rate and hospitalization utilization in the county is expected to fall below the “high” levels and stay down for seven consecutive days.

  • The number of cases per 100,000 population over the past seven days, currently at 917, is expected to fall below 100;
  • The test positivity rate, which is currently 15%, is expected to fall below 10%; and
  • The percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, which is currently 28%, is expected to drop below 15%.

The county’s mask mandate has been a source of contention and confusion in the past. Under a regulatory board, approved by the board late last summer amid the delta’s surge, the county’s mask mandate was also tied to the county’s case rate, which has seen the mask warrant “toggle” on and off.

Under a later version of the health regulatory board, which was also overturned, the mask mandate would have been dropped once 85% of the county’s total population of over one million had been fully vaccinated – a milestone reached by the county this week.

Earlier this week, council members in neighboring Prince George’s County extended his indoor mask mandate until March 9.

DC’s mask mandate, issued by Mayor Muriel Bowser, is due to expire on January 31.

The county council is also expected to continue discussions on Tuesday on a “vaccine passport” measure that would require restaurants, bars and fitness centers to check customers’ vaccination cards before they can enter the premises.

At a hearing earlier this week, a number of business groups pushed back against the proposal, saying it would place an undue burden on businesses, could lead to clashes with customers and do little to encourage vaccination since already 95% of the county population has already received a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The measure, which is modeled after a similar COVID-19 vaccine requirement in DC, is strongly supported by County Executive Marc Elrich, who called it a common sense approach to ensure that businesses operate safely.

In an interview on Friday on the WAMU program “L’heure de la politique”, the president of the Council, Gabe Albornoz, indicated that he was inclined to vote “no”.

“For me, right now, the juice is not worth it,” Albornoz said, adding, “I think given our high vaccination rates and our success, overall, I think we have to wait-and-see approach, and also see how it works with the District of Columbia.

More news on the coronavirus

Looking for more information? DC, Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official websites here: Virginia | Maryland | CC

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