WASHINGTON — Here across the D.C. area, the week of April 25 has been monumental in terms of masks.
On Tuesday, CDC's Director Rochelle Walensky announced that vaccinated individuals can safely do many activities outdoors sans mask, including gathering in small groups and exercising.
Then on Wednesday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed an executive order, which in part, lifted the mask mandate for outside activities.
"Lifting this emergency order is in line with the new CDC advisory guidance yesterday regarding masking, and it follows the advice of our team of public health experts, as well as the advice of national health leaders, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, among others, all of whom agree that the risk of transmission outdoors is very low, especially for those who have been vaccinated," Hogan said during his weekly COVID briefing on Wednesday.
Hogan emphasized to Marylanders that vaccinations are still a necessity to help end the pandemic.
"Although it is no longer a state mandate, if you are not yet vaccinated, public health experts still strongly recommend that you immediately get vaccinated and that until you do, that you should continue to be cautious and continue to wear masks, especially when you cannot be physically distanced," Hogan said.
But some people online are worried this is just way too soon.
Can individual Maryland counties decide to keep their mask mandates even though Governor Hogan lifted it?
Yes, according to the Governor.
Governor Larry Hogan- press conference April 28, 2021
WHAT WE FOUND OUT:
Governor Hogan addressed this question during a press conference unveiling his new executive order.
"The state law always has given local governments the ability to have stricter, they can’t ignore the state requirements, but they can always be stricter," Maryland's 62nd governor said. "I wouldn’t advise that because this is the advice of the CDC and the state.”
Already one county in Maryland says they’re not going to follow the state order.
The Montgomery County Council and County Executive Marc Elrich issued this statement, saying that their regulation, which includes outdoor face mask requirements, is “unaffected by Gov. Hogan’s latest executive order.”
Under the regulation, in general, face coverings are required at any outdoor venues and outdoors when individuals "are unable to consistently maintain at least six feet of distance from individuals who are not members of their household."
"We will follow the CDC guidelines on masking per the existing Board of Health order which directs us to use the stricter of the CDC or state guidance," Elrich told WUSA9. "Despite his statement on the website, the Governor’s order regarding masks does not comport with the CDC guidelines."
Our VERIFY researchers reached out to the county about what enforcement would look like.
"Montgomery County utilizes complaint-based enforcement but relies on public education being the first step before any type of enforcement action," Scott L. Peterson, a Montgomery County government spokesperson, said. "Our enforcement teams will continue to enforce the guidelines. If there are large outdoor gatherings of people of unknown or mixed vaccination status, we would expect our residents to continue to adhere to distancing and current CDC guidelines for masking.”
Further, towards the eastern shore, Anne Arundel county rescinded their outdoor face-covering requirement Thursday.
"We’re continuing to focus on our data and applicable guidance from federal and state public health agencies," Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said. "Rescinding this order shows we are getting closer to pre-pandemic life - we need folks to continue getting vaccinated so that we can take more steps in that direction."
Prince George's County decided to lift its outdoor mask mandate as well.
So we can verify, that yes, individual counties can make stricter mask rules than the state.