County May Restore Indoor Mask Mandate Per New CDC Recommendation  

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich has recommended the county reinstate the COVID-19 indoor mask mandate if the jurisdiction reaches what the CDC defines as “substantial transmission”: 50 new cases per 100,000 residents for seven days, which is about 525 new cases over a seven-day period for the county.

According to a county release Friday, “The CDC defines substantial transmission as 50-99 cases per 100,000 residents for seven days.  With 1.05 million residents, that equates to about 75 new cases per day or 525 new cases over a seven-day period. If that threshold is met, an indoor mask requirement for all residents, including those who are vaccinated, would take effect.” The recommendation is made in consultation with County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles.

Montgomery County reported 97 new daily COVID-19 cases Friday, up from 61 Thursday and 57 Wednesday. Most recent CDC data shows that the county had 335 new cases over seven days as of Tuesday, at a rate of 31.88 cases per 100,000 over that period. The county council, sitting as the Board of Health, will discuss and vote on the regulation next week on Thursday, Aug. 5.

Elrich’s recommendation comes after the CDC on Tuesday said that due to the new evidence about the Delta variant, people in areas with substantial or high transmission should wear a mask in public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status.

“We have seen the daily number of new cases go up for more than two weeks and the majority of the new cases are the Delta variant, which is highly contagious,” Elrich said in the release. “While we have a high rate of vaccination in the community, health officials have determined that this variant is very easy to spread and we want to be sure that those in the community who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated, such as children under the age of 12, are protected.”

“Obviously face coverings are the least intrusive mechanism that we have at this point,” Acting Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Dr. Earl Stoddard told MyMCM on Friday.


“We do not want to close businesses, we do not want to restrict the number of people that are in environments, we don’t want to limit gathering size. And so we’d rather go back to face coverings too early than wait too long and be left in a situation where the only choices that we have are those more deleterious or damaging actions like business closures or limitations.”

Stoddard said the county, at this point, does not expect a significant uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations due to vaccination rates. He pointed out that CDC definitions around quarantine/isolation and contact tracing have not changed, and the county wants to provide an environment for schools to operate successfully as the new academic year approaches. COVID-19 vaccines have not yet been approved in the U.S. for children under the age of 12.

“As our young people plan to come back into the schools, in a little under a month at this point, we are trying to provide a safe environment in our community that allows the school systems, both public and private, to be successful as they bring students back into the classroom,” Stoddard said, “recognizing that while we agree that young people do not tend to get as sick or have many of the negative consequences that our older residents have with COVID[-19] infection, but at the same time they’re still going to be quarantined, they’re going to be contact tracing, being kept out of schools.”

“So, we don’t want a disrupted education environment because of those quarantines and isolations and so we want to keep community transmission down.”

Washington, D.C. has reached CDC-defined “substantial” community transmission and will reinstate its indoor mask mandate on Saturday.

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Maryam Shahzad

About Maryam Shahzad

Maryam is a reporter with Montgomery Community Media. She graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019 with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism. Previously, she was an intern with MCM. She can be reached at or on Twitter @maryam_mcm.


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