Montgomery County Council Approves Board of Health Regulation to Reinstate Indoor Masking When the County is an Area of Substantial COVID-19 Transmission

Montgomery County Council Approves Board of Health Regulation to Reinstate Indoor Masking When the County is an Area of Substantial COVID-19 Transmission

For Immediate Release

Rockville, Md., Aug. 5, 2021 — Today the Council approved a new Board of Health regulation to reinstate indoor masking when Montgomery County is an area of substantial COVID-19 transmission as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The lead sponsor of the Board of Health regulation was Council President Tom Hucker, at the request of the County Executive Marc Elrich.

The mask mandate will go into effect on Aug. 7 at 12:01 a.m. because according to CDC data and as reported by Montgomery County's Public Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles, Montgomery County is currently in the substantial transmission category.

"We must continue to take cautious measures and keep our guard up while COVID-19 cases are on the rise," said Council President Tom Hucker. "We have scientific data which demonstrates that wearing masks indoors in public spaces helps reduce the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a face covering is a minor inconvenience when it means protection for our children, immunocompromised and unvaccinated populations.

"While Montgomery County continues to lead the nation on vaccination rates, we have a segment of our population who are not yet eligible for the protection that the vaccine provides and others who are not vaccinated. With unvaccinated COVID-19 victims accounting for 99 percent of recent deaths, I urge everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect yourself, your loved ones and our community."

"With the highly contagious delta variant surging, and much that's unknown about the variants, we need to go back to basic prevention," said Council Vice President and Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee Gabe Albornoz. "That means wearing a mask now even if we've been vaccinated. What's different this time is that we have the tools to stop this disease by getting everyone who is eligible vaccinated.”

According to the CDC, the County is deemed to be an area of substantial transmission when the County reaches 50 to 99.99 total new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days or an 8 to 9.99 percent test positivity during the past seven days.

During the time periods when the County is an area of substantial transmission, the County's public health officer is required to notify the Council, the County Executive and the public that the indoor masking requirement has been triggered. The masking requirement terminates once the County returns to moderate or low transmission rates for seven consecutive days under the CDC guidelines. This approach ensures a clear, data-driven, public health guided metric based on the ever-changing COVID-19 community transmission levels.

This data can be viewed on the public-facing Montgomery County COVID-19 dashboard, and the regulation requires that the County's public health officer or a designee post COVID-19 metrics on the County's website daily.

Moreover, the new Board of Health regulation provides various exceptions to the indoor face covering requirement including but not limited to the following: eating and drinking; dental work, facials and shaving; public speaking and live performances; and swimming and physical activities where the use of a mask would pose a safety risk. Masks are also not required when it is unsafe for a person to wear one because of a disability or medical condition or when the ability to see someone's mouth is essential for communicating because of a hearing impairment or other disability. Businesses that follow CDC guidelines and must operate without masks indoors may request a waiver through the County's letter of approval process.

Finally, the regulation requires the County Executive to provide the Board of Health with an implementation plan by Aug. 20 to require all County employees who report to work at a County facility to either be vaccinated or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test each week. Data on County employee vaccinations and COVID-19 testing must be collected, and the aggregate data must be provided to the public on or before Aug. 31.

The Council staff report on the new Board of Health regulation can be viewed here. The updated Board of Health regulation will be posted on the Council's website and shared on social media as soon as it is available.

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