2021 | Government

UPDATED: Montgomery County indoor mask mandate will be reinstated on Saturday

County has again reached 7 straight days of ‘substantial transmission’

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This story was updated at 5:05 p.m. Nov. 16, 2021, after the CDC COVID data tracker confirmed state and local data regarding coronavirus case rates, and to add the official order from James Bridgers, the county’s acting health officer.

Montgomery County’s indoor mask mandate will return Saturday.

Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, confirmed in a text message that the CDC data on Tuesday confirms a “substantial transmission” level countywide for seven straight days, meaning the mask mandate will go back into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.

James Bridgers, the county’s acting health order, sent an order to county leaders on Tuesday confirming that the mask mandate would be reinstated Saturday. 

County Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard previously wrote in a text message on Monday that Bridgers had the final say on when the mandate would be reinstated.

Montgomery County Council members, acting as the Board of Health, recently amended the regulations for the mask mandate to require seven straight days of “substantial transmission,” per CDC guidelines.

Previously, the order required the mask mandate to be reinstated if the county re-entered substantial transmission for one day. The council amended that provision to avoid a swing from mandate to no mandate, then back again, within a few days.

According to the CDC, substantial transmission is 50 to 99.99 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, over a seven-day period. Under the current county Board of Health regulations, the mask mandate is lifted when there are seven straight days of “moderate transmission” or “low transmission.”

Moderate transmission, per CDC guidelines, is defined as 10 to 49.99 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, over a seven-day period. As of Tuesday, the county’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 60 cases per 100,000 people, over a seven-day period.

Monday was the seventh straight day the county was in substantial transmission, according to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard. County officials have said the CDC data can lag about 30 hours behind, due to different data feeds and other factors. On Tuesday afternoon, the CDC COVID data tracker showed the same case rate as the county’s on Monday, which was 57.4 cases per 100,000 people, over a seven-day period. 

As part of the amended Board of Health order, Council members agreed to add a clause that terminates the mask mandate order a day after 85% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. As of Tuesday afternoon, 78.2% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, means two weeks after a person has received both doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. 

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