Mask mandate extension, vaccine passport could be in store for Montgomery County

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich is recommending an extension of the indoor mask mandate as well as vaccine passports for restaurants.

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It comes as county health officials say hospitalizations have nearly doubled in a month, from 66 to 130 as of Wednesday.

"This does correspond with the increasing case rate that we’ve seen across the county," said Sean O’Donnell, Montgomery County emergency preparedness manager, during Wednesday’s media briefing.

The county is now seeing about 100 cases per 100,000 people in the past 7 days.

The county council decided to sunset the indoor mask mandate after the county vaccination rate reached 85 percent. As of Wednesday, officials said it was 80.9 percent.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Montgomery County re-instating indoor mask mandate this weekend

During the briefing, Elrich said the council should reconsider ending the mask mandate.

"I wouldn’t [end it] if it were up to me," Elrich told FOX 5.

It’s up to the council, but Elrich said he’s urging them to keep the mandate in place until the caseload declines.

"Now you’ve just got a variant of the virus which is infecting the herd that’s either already been vaccinated or has already had COVID. So this notion of herd immunity doesn’t seem to be valid at this point," Elrich said. "We have astoundingly high rates of vaccination, and we’re still getting more cases."

Elrich also said Wednesday that he would also like to see vaccine passports for restaurants, which he calls vulnerable points because people are unmasked. That would mean you have to be vaccinated to dine in the county, a first in Maryland and the D.C. region.

READ MORE: Montgomery County schools backing off employee vaccine mandate

He acknowledged state officials have been resistant to the idea and could potentially prevent the county from moving forward.

It’s unclear if the county council will agree with Elrich.

When FOX 5 interviewed council president Gabe Albornoz last month, before the Omicron variant made headlines, we asked if the mask mandate would ever be gone for good.

"If there were a new variant similar to delta variant that came on the scene, all bets would be off, and we’d have to reevaluate once again," Albornoz said on Nov. 16.


Council members are expected to meet soon with county health leaders to decide on what’s next.