The indoor mask mandate in Montgomery County, Maryland, could soon come to an end if COVID-19 transmission continues to drop, county health officials said Tuesday.
The COVID-19 transmission rate is moderate in Montgomery County, down from substantial transmission, the county's acting health officer told the council last Thursday.
Montgomery County's indoor mask mandate will be lifted if moderate transmission continues for seven days in a row. If the rate of transmission increases to substantial again, however, the countdown would have to restart.
When the mask mandate is lifted, people will no longer be required to wear masks in public facilities, but businesses may choose to keep their own mask requirements.
"I personally will continue to wear a mask indoors and in crowded outdoor settings because, along with being fully vaccinated, it is the best way of reducing the risk of the transmission of COVID-19," Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said in a release.
According to the CDC, 90.6% of eligible county residents are fully vaccinated, Elrich said.
Montgomery County reinstated its mask mandate in August as the delta variant took hold. Since then, people have been required to wear masks inside businesses, restaurants, stores and offices, as well as any other indoor public spaces. (Read more about the current mask mandate here.)
Masks are also required in Montgomery County Public Schools, and if the rest of the county does lift the mandate, schools would not be included. That would require a state action by the State Board of Education, a public information officer told NBC Washington.
The CDC has five levels of community transmission: high, substantial, moderate, low and very low. Substantial transmission is defined as more than 50 cases per 100,000 residents or above an 8% positive testing rate, over a 7-day period.
Montgomery County had 45.4 cases per 100,000 residents on Tuesday, according to the county's COVID data page, putting it in moderate transmission. Its 7-day test positive rate is 1.4%.
“As levels of community transmission of COVID-19 decrease, it is important to remember that we are coming up on flu and cold season, as well as winter months where we are indoors more, and everyone who is unvaccinated should continue wear a mask when around others is a good, basic public health practice that has been seen in other parts of the world for decades,” said Dr. James Bridgers, the county's acting health officer, in a release from the county.