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VERIFY: When will your community need a mask mandate? Here's what the CDC recommends

The CDC recommends indoor masking regardless of vaccination status in counties with "substantial and high community transmission." Here's what that means.

WASHINGTON — Across the country, the Delta variant is on the rise. According to the CDC COVID-19 tracker, nearly 61% of U.S. counties are seeing a "high" level of community transmission. 

The Verify team looked into the latest data from the CDC to break down when mask mandates are recommended for local communities. 


When are local mask mandates recommended by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention?



According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, people should start wearing masks indoors when the transmission rate locally is "substantial," or "high," defined as over 50 cases per 100,000. 


Across the country, local leaders are grappling with the decision about whether to mandate masks. In places like the D.C., the mandates have already returned, while other cities and states have rejected such an action. 

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention recommends that local jurisdictions make this decision by looking at the local transmission rate. If the transmission rate is "substantial" or "high," people are recommended to mask up indoors, whether they are vaccinated or not. 

  • Low Transmission Rate: 0-9.99 cases per 100,000 persons in the past 7 days
  • Moderate Transmission Rate: 10-49.99 cases per 100,000 persons in the past 7 days
  • Substantial Transmission Rate: 50-99.99 cases per 100,000 persons in the past 7 days
  • High Transmission Rate: Over 100 cases per 100,000 persons in the past 7 days

According to the CDC, there are 1,960 counties that currently have a high level of community transmission, representing nearly 61% of total transmissions. 

  • High Transmission Rates: 1,960 Counties (60.87% of U.S. Counties)
  • Substantial Transmission Rates: 609 Counties (18.91% of U.S. Counties)
  • Moderate Transmission Rates: 479 Counties (14.88% of U.S. Counties)
  • Low Transmission Rates: 171 Counties (5.31% of U.S. Counties)

In the D.C. area, numerous counties have started to show signs of rising transmissions. 

Moderate Transmission (10-49.99 Cases Per 100,000):

  • Montgomery County
  • Howard County
  • Frederick County
  • Fairfax County
  • Calvert County

Substantial Transmission (50-99.99 Cases Per 100,000):

  • Washington, D.C.
  • Arlington County
  • Alexandria
  • Prince George's County
  • Loudoun County
  • Prince William County
  • Charles County
  • St. Mary's County
  • Anne Arundel County

High Transmission (Over 100 Cases Per 100,000):

  • Fauquier County
  • Stafford County

To see the transmission rate in your county, click here

Will There Be A Mask Mandate?

The Verify team reached out to local jurisdictions, to ask whether they were considering a mask mandate. So far, the Verify team has received a response from Montgomery County, Fairfax County, and Loudoun County. 

Washington, D.C. already has a mask mandate, which began on Saturday July 31. Prince George's County has not yet responded to the Verify team inquiry. 

Montgomery County:

A spokesperson for Montgomery County referred the Verify team to a Friday press release, outlining the next steps for a possible mask mandate. According to the release, County Executive Marc Elrich has recommended that face coverings "be required in the event the County's transmission status increases to substantial transmission. 

"The County Council, acting as the Board of Health, will make the final decision," said the spokesperson. 

Fairfax County: 

A spokesperson for Fairfax County said that they plan on recommending face coverings, when the transmission rate hits substantial as recommended by the CDC. 

"The Fairfax County Health Department will make the same recommendations if the level of transmission in the Fairfax health District reaches substantial or high," the spokesperson said. "Regardless our priority continues to be encouraging everyone to get vaccinated." 

Loudoun County:

A spokesperson for Loudoun County told the Verify team that there is not a mask mandate at this time, despite a "substantial" transmission rate. 

"Loudoun County does not have a specific 'level' or 'threshold' for county actions regarding mask requirements," the spokesperson said. "We are continuing to monitor and evaluate Loudoun County COVID-19 data, as well as recommendations provided by the CDC, VDH, and the Governor's Office." 

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