On Monday at 11:59 p.m., Montgomery County’s indoor mask mandate is set to expire, meaning they will no longer be required in many businesses countywide, including restaurants, bars and retail stores.
The mandate has been in place since mid-November and was set to end multiple times before Monday. County Council members and county health officials, however, have held off on lifting the mask mandate, citing the winter surge of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Here is a look at where masks will be and not be required in different settings countywide.
Montgomery County government
The end of the mask mandate means that masks will no longer be required in county government buildings, said Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services.
“We will strongly encourage mask wearing in County buildings but no mandate (excluding health care spaces and congregate sites such as detention centers and shelters),” Anderson wrote.
Face coverings are also still required on Ride On buses and other forms of public transportation, per federal law.
Gaithersburg will still require visitors face coverings and physical distancing within its buildings when the county’s mandate ends. City officials also recommend masks in outdoor settings when physical distancing is not possible.
“We are following CDC’s guidance regarding community transmission levels and masking which recommends universal masking when in substantial transmission, which is our current level,” City Manager Tanisha Briley wrote in a text.
As of Friday, Montgomery County was in high community transmission — a level above substantial — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 data tracker.
Additionally, proof of vaccination is required at the city’s Arts Barn & Kentlands Mansion. Without proof, attendees can also provide a negative PCR within 72 hours of an event.
Masks are required for city employees, contractors and others in city buildings who are allowed in to conduct quick business like paying a bill, according to city officials.
Masks are also required in all city-owned facilities throughout Rockville, including community centers and the Glenview Mansion.
City Manager Jamal Fox recently announced that the mask mandate will apply to visitors and employees in city facilities “until further notice.”
Montgomery County Public Schools
It is still unclear what might happen in the coming weeks. School officials said that for now, they are leaving the mandates in place.
However, the state Board of Education is scheduled to meet Tuesday and is expected to discuss the statewide mask mandate for schools. The state board has said local school districts would have “off-ramps” to consider when deciding whether to lift the indoor mask mandate.
According to a recent news release from the state board, those are:
- “If at least 80 percent of the county population in the county where the schools are located is fully vaccinated, as reported by [the Maryland Department of Health].”
- “The local superintendent may lift the face covering requirement for a school facility or facilities after a principal or designated school official verifies that 80 percent of the school staff and students in the school facility have been fully vaccinated.”
- “The local superintendent may lift the face covering requirement in schools if the county has sustained 14 consecutive days of moderate or low transmission rate of COVID-19 cases, as reported by the CDC.”
Private schools operate on a case-by-case basis regarding masking in schools. Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard told Council Members earlier this week that some private schools have recently decided to go mask-optional.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington recently announced it would terminate the mask mandate, beginning Monday, Feb. 21 in its school facilities across Maryland. Masks will still be required in public school buses, and in Washington, D.C., where Mayor Muriel Bowser recently extended the order.
“While masking has been one of the health and safety protocols that allowed our schools to stay open, experts have begun to acknowledge that masking children has its drawbacks,” Kelly Branaman, Secretary for Catholic Schools for the archdiocese wrote in a prepared statement.
“We recognize that many parents and students have asked to ease measures such as mask requirements more quickly. Others say they would feel more comfortable maintaining precautions a while longer.”
“We appreciate and will fully support whatever decisions that parents make for their own children regarding whether to wear a face covering in school or not,” Branaman added. “Enforcement of this decision is between parent and child, not school personnel.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com