ROCKVILLE, Md. - In Maryland, Montgomery County is getting closer to dropping its indoor mask mandate, but will county officials actually end the indoor cover requirement – especially as experts warn of a serious flu season and possible COVID-19 surges with upcoming holiday travel?
"I do think there will be some conversation. Candidly that I think that we made a commitment to our residents to say once we drop to moderate, we would go -- remove the face covering mandate, so I expect that’s exactly what will happen," said Montgomery County’s Dr. Earl Stoddard, taking some of those questions on FOX 5 on Monday.
The Assistant Chief Administrative Officer explained that the rules set forth when the county reinstated its indoor mask mandate almost two-and-a-half months ago, was done so by a Board of Health regulation. So when the county reaches a stated threshold for the certain required period, the change in policy should be automatic. No County Council acting as the Board of Health is necessary.
Montgomery County reinstated its indoor mask requirement back on Aug. 7 of this year, following CDC’s classification for "Substantial Transmission" or when a region has 50-99 cases per 100,000 people in a seven-day period.
In order to end this, the county needs to hit below 50 for seven consecutive days. Any "yo-yoing below and above 50 will restart the seven-day countdown. Below 50 is considered ‘Moderate Transmission’," according to the CDC.
On Monday, Montgomery County data showed it was close with a 52.54 transmission rate. While the CDC considers below 50 "Moderate Transmission," Stoddard said it’s the Montgomery County Council, acting as the Board of Health, who decided on the "seven-consecutive day" requirement.
"They set the seven-day removal threshold so, you know, not that we think it’s a bad idea. We actually recommended it be 14-days at the time but you know, seven days seems reasonable in the context of where we’re at. And so I have no reason to doubt it will be removed at that point," said Stoddard who added, "People are largely doing what we asked them to do and being responsible and it’s led to a lower transmission rate so I feel like we should be able to enjoy the fruits of our progress."
Stoddard said he personally is excited they may soon be able to take face coverings off, reaching the vaccination rates there are in the county.
Stoddard made clear dropping the indoor mask mandate would not change what happens in the school system. Also, there is a chance the mask mandate could be re-instated again, especially if we do so COVID-19 increases during the holidays. The county would have to hit 50 or more in transmission, also for seven consecutive days.