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Montgomery County considers new indoor mask mandate

The Montgomery County Board of Health will vote on the measure during a special meeting Thursday.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — As the Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to surge across the country, some local counties in the D.C. region are coming up with plans as to how they will combat the disease.

On Thursday, the Montgomery County Council, sitting as the county Board of Health, will consider a proposal that would institute an indoor mask requirement for all locals, regardless of the vaccination status, if the county reaches substantial transmission of the coronavirus in the future.

Currently, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Montgomery County is currently at a moderate level of community transmission. However, for the last month, the number of COVID-19 cases in Maryland’s most populous county has steadily increased.

The CDC categorizes moderate transmission right under substantial transmission.

Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker said he expects the proposal will be approved by the county’s health board.

He said it was important that Montgomery County residents all have a responsibility to fight the coronavirus’ spread.

“We all have to take precautions to make sure we're doing everything we can to prevent other people from getting sick,” Hucker said.

He added that he expects many locals will follow an indoor mask mandate in the county if it is ultimately instituted.

“People want to do the right thing,” he said. “There's a certain amount of social pressure. If [people] see other people wearing masks, they wear a mask. If nobody's wearing a mask, they feel silly wearing a mask. So, let's all do the right thing indoors.”

Currently, 70% of Montgomery County is vaccinated, according to Hucker. However, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich recently said in a statement he believes the Delta variant’s ability to easily spread from person to person further shows the need for a new mask mandate.

“While we have a high rate of vaccination in the community, health officials have determined that this variant is very easy to spread and we want to be sure that those in the community who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated, such as children under the age of 12, are protected,” he said. “No one wants to go back to wearing masks but in the absence of a 100% vaccination rate in the community, masking is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus and protect the health of our community.”

Jaime Sorto, an employee at La Malinche, a Spanish and Mexican Tapas restaurant in Silver Spring, said he supports an indoor mask mandate in Montgomery County. He said workers at his restaurant did not stop wearing masks indoors when the virus waned during the spring.

"I do it for my clients and also I do it for my family,” he said. “Because I know this pandemic is not over yet."

But not everyone has been excited to hear that a new mask mandate may go into effect in Montgomery County. One resident, who did not want to be named, said he is worried more regulations will harm business.

"It's stopping our economy,” the man said.

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