Montgomery County lifts indoor mask mandate


Greer Vermilye

Though the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing, there’s no longer an indoor mask mandate in Montgomery County.

By Zach Poe

Update: Montgomery County reinstated its indoor mask mandate on Nov. 20 after recording seven straight days of “substantial” coronavirus transmission.

Montgomery County officials lifted the local indoor mask mandate on Oct. 28 after the community met CDC guidelines for removal of the requirement. The county satisfied the CDC criteria after recording fewer than 50 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents and reaching “moderate” virus transmission levels during the week leading up to October 28. 

Private businesses can still require masks inside their facilities, and MCPS will continue to enforce their mask requirement inside academic buildings and on school buses.

“I’m happy that the mask mandate is over,” junior Matthew Hallan said. “It’s good to lift the mandate for a while, but things could possibly get worse during the holidays so we may have to bring it back.”

On October 30, just two days after county officials removed the requirement, local transmission rates hit “substantial” levels, bringing lawmakers to consider reinstating the mandate. However, transmission levels returned to moderate levels as of November 1, prompting officials to forgo reintroducing the mask mandate. As of now, the mandate will only return if cases reach seven consecutive days of “substantial” transmission.

Some educators, like photography teacher Michael Seymour, are pleased that the county’s facial covering requirement is over, though Seymour said he wishes that MCPS would similarly remove its in-school mask mandate. 

“I’m glad the mask mandate has come to an end,” Seymour said. “I would love to see it come to an end in schools as well, but I don’t think MCPS will do so anytime soon.” 

Other staff members, such as social studies teacher Richard Obando, feel that the district should keep its mask mandate in place until county transmission levels reach “low” levels. 

“At this point, I would not feel safe if the mask mandate were dropped for schools,” Obando said. “My classes have between 28 and 35 students in each period, and I feel that the pandemic is not at a point where it would be okay to have no masks in a school setting.”

Coronavirus cases in MCPS schools have been relatively stable over the past few weeks, consistently lingering in the single digits.

Many students and staff are looking forward to experiencing local buildings mask-free, which they haven’t been able to do in nearly two years, though they recognize the significance of ensuring protection against the virus.

“Hopefully, if things are trending in the right direction, I’d hope to see the mask mandate gone from schools in February or March,” Obando said. “For now, though, it’s up to state guidelines and we should follow them until this pandemic is over.”