2021 | Coronavirus

UPDATED: County mask mandate scheduled to go back into effect on Wednesday

Board of Health to meet Tuesday to review order

share this
Coronavirus dept of health photo

Editor’s note: County officials on Monday, Nov. 1, said the county is considering delaying the return of the mask mandate to Tuesday, Nov. 9. See story.

***

This story was updated at 8:10 p.m. Oct. 30, 2021, with new information about an indoor mask mandate being reinstated.

Montgomery County’s indoor mask mandate will be reinstated Wednesday — unless the County Council, acting as the Board of Health, votes to change it Tuesday, according to the county’s acting health officer.

On Saturday, James Bridgers, the acting health officer, sent a memo to County Council leadership and County Executive Marc Elrich. The notice says that because the county has entered “substantial transmission,” per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the mask mandate would be reinstated, unless the Board of Health acts.

“Effective November 3 at 12:01 a.m., subject to possible action by the Board of Health, all persons in Montgomery County over the age of two must wear a face covering in any location accessible to the public,” Bridgers wrote, noting that there are exceptions to the mask mandate.

Those exceptions include:

  • Patients going to the dentist or receiving facial treatments need to wear masks in the examination room, but not while receiving treatment.
  • Actors, singers and other performance artists didn’t need to wear a mask on stage if they were at least 6 feet from the audience. The rule also applies to people giving speeches or broadcasts.
  • People didn’t need to wear a mask if they must identify themselves for security purposes.
  • People unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition or disability didn’t need to wear them.

The state reported 108 new positive cases of the coronavirus in Montgomery County on Saturday morning, which has the county in “substantial transmission” for the second straight day.

Senior officials said this week that the county’s indoor mask mandate would be reinstated if the county sees just one day of “substantial transmission.”

An indoor mask mandate was lifted at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, after the county reported seven straight days of “moderate transmission.”

But County Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz told Bethesda Beat Friday evening that he and his colleagues were waiting on an order from Bridgers.

Council members passed the Board of Health order in early August, reinstating the mandate.

It was initially unclear on Friday whether the mask mandate would be reinstated by that Tuesday meeting, if at all. Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard told Bethesda Beat on Friday the mandate would likely not be reinstated over the weekend.

Stoddard did not immediately respond to a voicemail left on his cellphone Saturday morning.

Per CDC guidelines, “substantial transmission” is 50 to 99.99 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, over a seven-day period. “Moderate transmission” is defined as 10 to 49.99 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, over a seven-day period.

The county enters “substantial transmission” when it hits 50 cases or more per 100,000 people, calculated over a seven-day period. As of Saturday evening, the county’s rate is listed as 53.3.

County Council Member Andrew Friedson wrote in a text message on Saturday that he had been working on proposing potential changes to the Board of Health order before the county entered substantial transmission on Friday.

Both he and Albornoz said the proposed changes to the Board of Health order are meant to avoid a “yo-yo effect” of the mask mandate being lifted and reinstated multiple times in a short time frame.

County officials have previously said they need to confirm state and local data with CDC data before determining which state of transmission the county is in, so there is a delay in making pronouncements, even after new numbers are released.

According to the CDC, 91.1% of the county’s eligible population — those 12 years and older — are fully vaccinated, as of Saturday. Of the total population, 77.3% are fully vaccinated, and 85.8% had received at least one dose of a vaccine.