MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — The indoor mask mandate is ending in Montgomery County starting Thursday, Oct. 28, County Executive Marc Elrich said in a COVID briefing Wednesday.
The mandate is coming to an end after the county hit a key metric: being in the CDC-defined level of "moderate transmission" for seven days straight.
The county is currently experiencing a case rate of 44.8 in the past week out of 100,000, as well as a test positivity rate of 1.4.
Elrich celebrated the announcement, highlighting the news just in time for families looking forward to Halloween. He commended the community's positive outlook throughout the pandemic.
"We didn't arrest people, aren't doing the scary things people were worried about," Elrich said. "This was voluntary compliance with things that were meant to keep people healthy. And we've been very, very lucky."
Elrich also shared that it was important to note that the county is nearly in the same place with cases as they were last year, except last year was an ascending curve and this year the curve is descending.
"I'm actually excited," said Sergio Laguna, who manages a car dealership in downtown Bethesda. "I think almost everyone in the county has been fully-vaccinated. I think people are a little tired of having to wear masks inside businesses."
According to data from the Maryland Department of Health, 86% of all residents in Montgomery County have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and more than 60% have received two doses.
Some residents, however, said they were a little worried about people who remain unvaccinated throwing all caution to the wind and violating the continued CDC guidance that urges them to wear masks inside.
"I think if you're vaccinated, it's great," said Gina Brown, who lives in Chevy Chase. "I think if you're unvaccinated, you should probably stay covered."
Despite the county's mandate lifting, any entity in the county can still require indoor masking as desired, maintaining the right to refuse entry or service, Elrich said, and the mandate is still in effect in all schools and on public transportation.
He added that choosing not to wear a mask indoors, at large gatherings "is still not a smart thing to do."
"Especially for those who are not vaccinated, you should still take the most cautious path you can," Elrich said. "Remember that though the mandate is lifted, we are still seeing 50 cases a day on some days."
Cherie Hope owns a gym named Silver Stars Gymnastics in Silver Spring. She said she is personally pleased that the mask mandate has been lifted in Montgomery County. However, she said her business still plans to ask people to put on their masks when they come inside.
"We’re going to keep it in force here just because all children haven’t had the opportunity to be vaccinated,” she said.
Parent Tessie October said she appreciates Hope's decision.
“It’s important to think about all the people who could potentially get infected," she said.
Hope points out that many of the children in her gym do not have a problem wearing face masks in the first place.
“Not really," said 10-year-old Calder Henry Kong. "I mean it doesn’t fall off unless it’s actually on my wrist. But we usually don’t take it off.”
The current mandate has been in place in the county since early August when concerns arose over the Delta variant.
Elrich added officials are now preparing to vaccinate kids ages five to 11 and vaccinations could kick off as early as next week, pending FDA/CDC approval. The county is expecting 13,000 doses for children in their first shipment.