MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — A mask mandate will be reinstated in Montgomery County after the council voted unanimously to enact the new requirement at a hearing Thursday afternoon.
Starting Saturday, all individuals will be required to wear a face covering while in indoor public settings. The legislation coincides with other regions in the areas like Prince George's County and D.C. once again requiring face coverings as COVID cases surge nationwide due to the prevalence of the delta variant.
"I'm sorry we're back here again -- I know this that this extraordinarily frustrating for everyone that has stepped up and done what they have to do," Councilmember Nancy Navarro said. "I know this is seen as a step back, but we have to be hopeful, and we have to also think about those who are not eligible to be vaccinated yet and not just do this for ourselves but for our community."
The final resolution also included a sunset clause amendment that will lift the mandate if the county maintains seven consecutive days of "moderate" transmission, as determined by Center for Diseases Control (CDC) data.
To see the transmission rate in your county, click here.
A separate amendment will also now mandate all county employees to show proof of vaccination against COVID or face more stringent testing and masking requirements.
Despite the unanimous vote, several constituent speakers at the hearing expressed frustration with the new mandate. Many like Robert Van Alstyne cited that with such a high vaccination rate in the county, the majority of residents are not at risk of becoming severely ill from COVID.
"Are we really trying to protect adults who have made the selfish decision not to get vaccinated?" Van Alstyne asked. "They made a choice not to care about their health, or those in the community. A mask mandate will give them no reason to be vaccinated."
According to data from the Maryland Department of Health, more than 60% of all residents in Montgomery County have received their second dose of a vaccine, and more than 4% have already received a single-dose vaccine.
However, some councilmembers like Gabe Albornoz said that despite a high vaccination rate, he would vote in favor of the resolution to protect those ineligible for the vaccine, including children under the age of 12.
Albornoz said that he is concerned about the long-term consequences of COVID in children, and added that masks are the most effective way at preventing the transmission of the virus.
"With the highly contagious delta variant surging, and much that's unknown about the variants, we need to go back to basic prevention," Albornoz said. "That means wearing a mask now even if we've been vaccinated. What's different this time is that we have the tools to stop this disease by getting everyone who is eligible vaccinated.”