From Mandate to Mandate: Montgomery County Moves on Masks

Montgomery County’s mask mandate inside public buildings will not be reinstated this week due to an amendment to existing health regulations that were passed by the County Council.

The indoor mask mandate ended on Oct. 28 after seven consecutive days of fewer than 50 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people in Montgomery County. However, according to the County’s COVID dashboard, the rate of community transmission was substantial from Oct. 29 to Nov. 5.

“[Cases] probably increased because the mandate was lifted. People may have unmasked because they were vaccinated, but [this] was obviously [going to happen,]” sophomore Anastasia Paschalidis points out.

The data supports Paschalidis’ conclusion. On Oct. 30, there were over 53 cases per 100,000 people in Montgomery County, a three-percent increase from the day before. Cases increased until last Friday, when transmission rates became moderate again, meaning that the mask mandate will not be reinstated for at least a week.

The legislation passed by the Council (which acts as the Board of Health) states that as soon as there are seven days of moderate community transmission, the mask mandate will be reinstated. However, as soon transmission rates become moderate, county residents must wait seven days until they can take their masks off. Most residents were expecting this to happen, though.

“They will [probably reinstate the mask mandate] because they’ll see [removing the mask mandate] makes [COVID] worse,” sophomore Tolu Adegbamigbe accurately predicted.

The Council met on Nov. 2 to discuss the mandate with health officer James Bridgers, and held a public hearing later in the afternoon. They approved a resolution that would automatically end the mask mandate after 85% of county residents are fully vaccinated as well. Most residents are likely to stay masked in spite of these new regulations.

“[I’ll] probably [keep wearing my mask],” admits sophomore Brooklyn Frank. “Just in case.”

Although the Council’s amendments give county residents time to figure out whether the mask mandate is being enforced or not, the new regulations are still confusing. Many in Montgomery County are wondering when masks will be needed forever or not.

Sophomore Ashley Vasquez admits, “I honestly don’t know [when this will end]. Remember, we were supposedly supposed to be out of school for only two weeks [at first].”

Regardless of whether or not masks are mandated next week, next month, or next year, everyone who lives in Montgomery County should stay vigilant. COVID-19 is an ongoing pandemic, and we should err on the side of caution until everyone is safe.