2021 | Coronavirus

Vaccination level might cause county to terminate mask measure by early January

Benchmark is 85% of population fully vaccinated; current level is about 79%

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Montgomery County officials said Monday that if current vaccination trends hold, the county’s indoor mask measure might be terminated by early January. 

County Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz said that as long as county residents continue to get fully vaccinated — including 5- to 11-year-olds, the youngest age group, which recently became eligible for the vaccine — the county should reach an 85% vaccination rate by the first or second week of January.

That benchmark is important, because the indoor mask mandate regulation contains a clause that states it will be terminated at 12:01 a.m. the day after the county’s vaccination rate reaches 85%, as measured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID data tracker. 

Sean O’Donnell, public health emergency manager for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters that that projection is based on multiple factors.

He said those include the rate at which those 12 and older have been getting fully vaccinated and the number of doses coming into the county. It also was determined by looking at how many kids 12 to 15 years old got fully vaccinated, and using that data to estimate how many from 5 to 11 years old will do so.

Montgomery County Public Schools and the Department of Health and Human Services have partnered to run vaccine clinics at multiple schools countywide for 5- to 11-year-olds. O’Donnell said that as of Sunday, 28,482 first doses had been administered at county-run clinics.

Pharmacies, grocery stores, pediatricians and other providers have also received thousands of pediatric doses, but it is unclear how many have been administered. Still, that work should also help raise the county’s vaccination rate. 

As of Monday afternoon, 78.6% of the county’s population has been fully vaccinated, and 88.6% has received at least a single dose of a two-dose vaccine, according to the CDC. People are considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after they receive two doses of a two-dose vaccine or two weeks after getting the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine. 

The other way the mask mandate could be lifted between now and the 85% full vaccination mark is the county reporting seven consecutive days of “moderate transmission” or “low transmission,” as measured by the CDC.

Moderate transmission is 10 to 49.99 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period, according to the CDC.

The county reinstated the indoor mask mandate at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, this past weekend, after reporting seven straight days of “substantial transmission.” 

According to the CDC, substantial transmission is 50 to 99.99 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period. As of Monday afternoon, the county’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 70.7 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period. 

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com