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Montgomery County extends mask mandate

The council did not yet take any action on mandating vaccines in establishments such as bars, restaurants and gyms.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — Masks are still required indoors in Montgomery County until at least 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 21.

For the second time in the month of January, the Montgomery County Council—sitting as the Board of Health—voted to extend the indoor mask mandate which was set to expire Jan. 31. In light of a surge of omicron COVID cases, on Dec. 28, the council rescinded an order to automatically lift the mask mandate once 85% of Montgomery County residents were vaccinated.

In this latest mask mandate extension, the resolution explains that there is still a high level of community transmission and hospitalizations from the omicron variant of COVID-19. The resolution says these factors, therefore, require the Board of Health to continue the mandate "for the foreseeable future in order to mitigate the spread of the virus throughout the county."

A statement from the county council notes that as of Jan. 25, Montgomery County has experienced an average of 580 cases per 100,000 residents and its current transmission rate is about 9%.

The council, acting as the Board of Health, will meet with Montgomery County Acting Health Officer Dr. James Bridgers on a weekly basis to see if the mandate should be terminated sooner than Feb. 21. Bridgers will update the council on whether the following three indicators trend downward: the number of cases per 100,000 residents, COVID-19 hospitalization rate and test positivity rate. 

In a statement, Council President Gabe Albornoz urged residents to continue following COVID safety measures mask-wearing and getting vaccinated and boosted. He said he was hopeful the county "will contain this latest surge in cases next month."

"Until then, we must continue the tried and true protections that we know help to limit community spread," Albornoz said. "These steps help protect our most vulnerable residents as well as our first responders, medical personnel and essential workers who continue to keep our community moving.”

Also at Tuesday's council meeting, the lawmakers did not take any actions on determining if Montgomery County should mandate vaccinations at establishments such as restaurants, bars and fitness centers.

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