Gov. Larry Hogan will lift Maryland’s indoor mask mandate on Saturday, following recent federal health guidance on mask usage from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Masks will still be required in public transportation, health care facilities and schools for anyone older than 5.
Montgomery County, however, has been setting its own timetable for easing various COVID-19 restrictions, as local jurisdictions have been allowed to do. As of Thursday, Montgomery County still planned to continue with its plan.
For mask usage, Montgomery County has said it is following CDC guidance. As of May 4, when the county last updated a web page on mask use, masks were required in public in many indoor places in the county, and were only needed outdoors for people who were not vaccinated.
But on Thursday, the CDC’s new guidance was that “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Health and Human Services, said Friday that the County Council could review Hogan’s change and the CDC update when it meets Tuesday as a county Board of Health. She had not heard of any other plans.
County officials have said numerous times that they only hear of the state’s plans for changes in COVID-19 restrictions when Hogan publicly announces them, limiting their ability to coordinate any changes with what the state does.
Hogan announced the latest decision during a press conference on Friday afternoon.
Before Friday, the state was planning to remove the mandate on indoor masks once 70% of the state’s adults had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Hogan’s announcement comes a day after the CDC issued its latest guidance.
Hogan recommended that unvaccinated people still wear masks in most situations.
Trying to mandate masks for unvaccinated people would have created a “logistical nightmare,” Hogan said. There’s no way to put it into an order because no one is checking whether people are vaccinated, he said.
“If you’re not vaccinated, you should probably continue to wear a mask because it’s the only way to keep you safe,” he said. “If you have been vaccinated, you have no reason to wear a mask because you’re already safe.”
Businesses and workplaces can set their own policies with masking and “we support their ability to do so,” Hogan said.
The state of emergency in Maryland remains in place, allowing certain exceptions, such as for alcohol to be sold for takeout. The order is no longer imposing restrictions, Hogan said.
On Saturday, the state’s indoor and outdoor restrictions on venues and dining will also be lifted, reopening businesses to the sense of normalcy that Hogan has strived for by Memorial Day.
In response to Hogan’s announcement of the venue and dining restrictions being lifted, county officials said on Thursday that they plan to stick to their three-phased reopening plan which is tied to vaccinations.
Under the third and final phase, once 50% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated two weeks after a second dose or a one-dose vaccine, the county will drop local restrictions and adhere to the state’s guidance.
Managing Editor Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.