2021 | Government

Rockville, Gaithersburg, Takoma Park still requiring masks in city facilities

County lifted its mask mandate late last month, recently amended its regulation

share this

This story was updated at 3:15 p.m. Nov. 5, 2021, to include more details on Rockville’s vaccine mandate for city employees. 

The county’s largest municipalities are keeping mask mandates in place at city facilities, even though Montgomery County lifted its indoor mask mandate late last month.

Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park all currently require masks at government facilities, and encourage them when physical distancing is not possible at outdoor venues.

Montgomery County Council members, acting as the county’s Board of Health, recently amended the regulation setting the indoor mask mandate, requiring a longer period of time of higher case counts before the mandate would be reinstated.

The County Council is also deliberating on whether to implement a coronavirus vaccine mandate for county employees.

Here is where Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park stand on mask mandates and employee vaccine mandates.

Rockville

Rockville City Manager Rob DiSpirito said in an interview that the city is still requiring masks in indoor facilities, for employees and visitors. City Hall remains closed, but employees are working their regular business hours, he said. 

DiSpirito said the mask mandate will remain in place until at least early December, to align with the city’s vaccine mandate for its employees.

Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and the City Council approved the vaccination mandate last month. It requires all city employees to either get both doses of a two-dose coronavirus vaccine or the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine by Nov. 15.

Medical and religious exemptions are allowed. If the city approves an exemption, the employee must agree to weekly coronavirus testing.

DiSpirito said the potential early December target for lifting the mask mandate allows employees to be fully vaccinated, which occurs about two weeks after a person gets their final dose of a vaccine, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But when to end the mask mandate and under what parameters is still being considered, he added.

Gaithersburg 

Gaithersburg city employees and visitors are also still required to wear masks in city facilities, and are encouraged to wear them at outdoor venues where physical distancing is not possible.

City Manager Tanisha Briley wrote in an email that because the coronavirus is still spreading at higher rates in the greater Washington, D.C., region than in Montgomery County, the city is still exercising caution.

“Montgomery County’s numbers are remarkable and demonstrate the power of high vaccination rates,” Briley wrote in an email. “However, we live in a robust regional ecosystem where most of our neighboring communities have not seen the success we have here in Montgomery County. Though I wish it were true, the virus does not respect jurisdictional boundaries.”

Briley previously told Bethesda Beat that city officials would take the lead of President Joe Biden’s administration, regarding vaccination mandates. The U.S. Department of Labor recently released rules that require employers with 100 or more employees to set rules either requiring vaccination, or regular testing and face coverings to be worn at work.

Employers have 60 days to get all of the vaccine and testing program requirements in place, according to the Department of Labor news release. That means the deadline is in early January.

Briley wrote in a text message that the city’s “vaccine or test policy” would align with the Department of Labor’s rules. 

Takoma Park

Takoma Park has adopted a similar policy to Rockville and Gaithersburg regarding indoor mask mandates. City Manager Jamal Fox wrote in an email that masks will be required in city facilities “until further notice.”

Regarding vaccine mandates, Fox wrote that the city is reviewing the rules released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Department of Labor officially filed an emergency temporary standard (ETS) in the Office of the Federal Register to set up the rules, Fox wrote. 

“We are in the process of reviewing the ETS,” Fox wrote. “We believe the mandate will apply to the City once approved by [Maryland] Occupational Safety and Health — Division of Labor and Industry. At this very moment, the OSHA ETS does not apply to the City. We will continue to watch these new developments and implement any requirements that apply to the City at that time.”

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