Indoor mask mandates are returning to Montgomery and Prince George's counties, where the delta variant is causing a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Montgomery County's mandate begins at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday. The Montgomery County Council on Thursday approved to reinstate the mask mandate whenever the county reaches "substantial" community transmission as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC, Montgomery County has reached a substantial level of community transmission, with nearly 58 cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days.
The 115 new cases the county reported Thursday are the most the county has seen in one day since April.
"This is an effort to prevent us from getting to the point where we start to see hospitalizations increase," Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said of the mask mandate. "Hopefully, by putting forward this measure, this would prevent any conversation about closures, capacity limits, those kinds of things."
The masking requirement terminates once the county returns to moderate or low transmission rates for seven consecutive days under the CDC guidelines, officials said.
On Sunday at 5 p.m., everyone over the age of 5 in Prince George's County must also wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
“After consulting with health officials who are monitoring our COVID-19 metrics daily, we have been advised that we are now at a point where we must reinstitute an indoor public mask mandate to keep Prince Georgians safe,” Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said.
“The spread of the new Delta variant shows that we can only get out of this pandemic by getting more people vaccinated. If you have not been vaccinated, please do so as soon as possible, not only to protect you and your loved ones, but also to prevent us from sliding back further in our recovery.”
Some residents voiced frustration over the mandate.
"Some would argue this is to protect the unvaccinated, but those individuals have had their chance and weighed the risks," Montgomery County resident William Fitzmaurice said.
Governor Hogan echoed a similar tone during an afternoon press conference in Annapolis
"Those of you who refuse to get vaccinated at this point are willfully and unnecessarily putting yourselves and others at risk of hospitalization and death. You are the ones threatening the freedoms of the rest of us," Hogan said.
Hogan said he won’t impose a statewide mask mandate. But state employees working in congregate settings will have to show proof of vaccination beginning Sept. 1.
The new measures come as nearly a half-dozen of the state’s larger counties are seeing a substantial level of community transmission
But given the state’s high vaccination rate and low numbers of hospitalizations and death the governor says Marylanders should not live in fear.
"Marylanders should feel confident about going about their daily lives," Hogan said.