This story was updated at 4:20 p.m. Feb. 14, 2022, to include a comment from a spokesman for County Executive Marc Elrich.
Montgomery County Council President Gabe Albornoz said Monday that there “are no plans” to bring a proposed vaccine passport to a final vote in the near future.
Washington, D.C., announced on Monday it will end its vaccine passport mandate for indoor businesses on Tuesday.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich previously proposed a vaccine passport for many indoor businesses, with specifics released in late December.
It exempted some indoor settings, like grocery stores, medical facilities, big-box stores and houses of worship. It also exempted people who were only briefly entering a business, like picking up a takeout order or making a delivery.
On Monday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the District is ending its vaccine mandate for businesses on Tuesday. Bars, restaurants, retail stores and other businesses could still independently require vaccines, but the government mandate will be lifted.
In August, Elrich told reporters that political leaders in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area were considering a vaccine passport for the entire region.
Albornoz has said in previous news briefings with reporters that it would be important to see how the proposal is rolled out in other jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., the first one in the area to do it.
On Monday, Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Elrich, wrote in a statement that the county executive was “disappointed” that the County Council never voted on the passport proposal.
“The County Executive believed that proof of vaccinations was the right course of action for our region and when the District of Columbia implemented their program at the end of last year, it was proper for Montgomery County to follow suit,” Peterson wrote. “He always believed that a proof of vaccine program would be temporary until we were at manageable transmission levels.”
Some businesses and community members have spoken out with strong opposition to the county’s proposal at previous public hearings. At a meeting in January, several speakers said that it would be difficult for businesses to enforce and that it could force them to close.
In light of Bowser’s decision, Albornoz said, it’s unlikely that Montgomery County can move forward with Elrich’s proposal. The County Council’s Health and Human Services Committee and Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee have had a few work sessions on the proposal.
“We just were not ready and prepared to move forward, and I think the decision that was made by the District of Columbia … validates the decision to wait and see how this was implemented, and its efficacy in other communities,” Albornoz said. “So, I think it was the appropriate decision to hit the pause button on that. And I don’t anticipate that we will be bringing that up anytime soon.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org