Montgomery County’s mask mandate inside public buildings will continue until Jan. 31 at the earliest, due to a vote taken by the County Council on Jan. 4.
The mask mandate was reinstated on Nov. 20 of last year, however, it would have expired once 85% of people in Montgomery County were fully vaccinated. Since over 84.9% of the county’s population is vaccinated as of Sunday, the mandate would have likely ended this month, in spite of a drastic increase in COVID cases.
The Council also voted to end the automatic expiration of the mask mandate after seven days of “moderate transmission” (less than 50 cases per 100,000 people), which caused much confusion a few months ago. Montgomery County’s rate of transmission is now over 1,800 cases per 100,000 people, which is considered “high transmission” by the CDC (since it is over 100 cases per 100,000 people).
However, even if the mask mandate returns, its lack of specification might make it completely ineffective at combating the Omicron variant. According to experts cited by USA Today, only three-ply surgical masks, KN95, and N95 masks are effective.
Despite all of this research, many Montgomery County residents still wear cloth masks, and a surgical face mask mandate (which exists in countries like Austria and Germany) could prove controversial. Fortunately, as the local COVID outbreak continues to rage, people are switching to more protective masks on their own.
In order to end the current COVID surge, everyone has to take greater precautions. As MCPS students, we should be extra vigilant and take more protective steps to ensure that we all don’t get COVID. Though people can make their own choices on how to best protect themselves, science recommends that we upgrade our masks and stay consistent with safety measures. Stay safe.