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Photo courtesy of Natalie Weger of Richard Montgomery High School

After nearly three months, Montgomery County’s indoor face covering requirement ended on Thursday, the seventh consecutive day of moderate transmission, per the Board of Health’s Resolution No. 19-975. The county has consistently been at moderate COVID-19 transmission levels since Oct. 21.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines moderate transmission levels as 10-49.99 total new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days, or 5-7.99% Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) positivity during the past seven days. As of Oct. 28, the county has had 47.8 new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days. Montgomery County’s test positivity rate for the past seven days is 1.4%.

The countywide indoor mask mandate had been in effect since Aug. 5, when it was reinstated because the county reached substantial transmission levels. The CDC defines substantial transmission levels as 50-99.99 total new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days, or 8-9.99% NAAT positivity during the past seven days. 

In counties with moderate to low transmission levels, the CDC recommends that unvaccinated individuals wear masks in public indoor settings. Although the mask mandate has been lifted, the CDC still recommends that counties with high to substantial transmission rates require everyone to wear a mask in public and indoor settings. 

Some Montgomery County students have voiced concerns about the repeal of the mask mandate. 

“I would rather prefer that it not be lifted, at least for a little bit more,” Poolesville High School junior Gina Im said. “We saw how many people caught COVID the first week of school, and because it’s approaching flu and cold season everyone with masks off is probably going to make matters worse. Honestly, it just feels safer with the masks because COVID is still a big issue.”

Richard Montgomery High School junior Katherine Beza expressed similar sentiments. “The risks are still prevalent around the county and as the vaccine does not necessarily prevent someone from contracting COVID, and because children are not vaccinated yet, I think that masks should continue to be worn indoors,” Beza said. 

Although the mask mandate has been lifted, businesses and organizations can still require face coverings in their establishments. 

Montgomery County Public Schools released a statement on Thursday, announcing that there will be no changes to their masking policy. All people in MCPS schools or offices will still be required to wear masks.

Additionally, face coverings are still required for all persons in Montgomery College facilities and for all persons over two years of age at City of Gaithersburg facilities and City of Rockville facilities. The federal government also requires masks to be worn on public transportation.

“[The mask mandate] is too important to end after only seven days. It should be longer for something as big as a global pandemic,” Richard Montgomery junior Phoebe Freeman said.

More information on COVID-19 transmission levels in Montgomery County can be found on the county’s COVID-19 data dashboard.

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