MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — As a new Axios poll finds one in three Americans say the pandemic is over, county leaders in both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties are recommending people voluntarily wear their masks indoors as COVID-19 cases start to rise again.
Montgomery County issued its recommendation Tuesday, attributing the recent rise in COVID cases in the county and region.
“Our current surge in cases is lasting longer than expected, which leaves more people at risk of being exposed to COVID-19,” County Executive Marc Elrich said. “I encourage everyone to wear masks indoors in public spaces when possible as well as continue to use our ample testing and vaccination resources we have in the county. I know we are all tired of this virus, but the virus is not tired of us.”
The Prince George’s County Health Department issued its voluntary mask-wearing in indoor places recommendation on Friday after it had a 35% increase in COVID cases over the last week.
“In terms of COVID in the community, we’re definitely seeing more infections. For example, in the state of Maryland, the positivity rate is 6.5% and most recently it was as low as 3% so we’re definitely seeing an increased rate of positive infections in the community,” Dr. Sunil Madan, the Chief Medical Officer of Luminis Health, Doctor’s Community Medical Center said.
D.C. and the Northern Virginia region are seeing a similar trend in COVID cases.
D.C.’s weekly case rate was listed as a "medium" level for the first time since February.
It’s been a similar trend in the Northern Region health district of Northern Virginia with the number of cases going up for the first time since the winter omicron variant surge, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
As the numbers rise, Theatre Washington made the decision this week to extend its policies to require masks and proof of vaccination through July 31.
“Our audiences are overwhelmingly telling us they want these policies to stay in place and so we’re not trying to put too many mileposts out there that we can’t see, so for the moment we’re only extending through the end of July and we’re not trying to predict what will happen after that and really just wanting all of our audiences to know they can have confidence coming back to the theater,” said Maggie Boland, the Managing Director of Signature Theatre.
Not being able to foresee how the variants can change is something doctors are considering too.
“There’s always unpredictability of where things can go. There is always a possibility of an uptick and there’s always an ability for the variants to escape our own immunity. But the bottom line is if people continue to protect themselves, we can stay above this,” Dr. Anita Gupta, an Assistant Professor Adjunct in Dept. of Anesthesiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, we are potentially not concerned about a huge wave, again it’s really going to be hopeful.”
“Right now for me, it’s about wearing masks whenever possible, and right now in the Washington D.C. - Maryland region, although we’re seeing an uptick according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource center even though we’re beginning to see an uptick the concern should be most people should get vaccinated. They should wear their mask and they should stay tested.”