MoCo residents required to mask-up indoors again

Heather Jauquet

MoCo an area of substantial transmission

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Signs notifying Montgomery County Residents that Masking is Required indoorsHeather Jauquet/Author

Beginning on Saturday, August 7, at 12:01am, Montgomery County is once again required to wear masks indoors. On Thursday, August 5, The Montgomery County Council sitting as the Board of Health, unanimously reinstated the mask requirement. The decision was based on the county once again reaching substantial transmission for the spread of COVID. 

What is substantial submission?

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines substantial transmission as 50-00 cases per 100,000 residents over a period of seven days.  

Montgomery County further defines substantial submission as 8 to 9.99 percent test positivity during the past seven days. That equates to either 75 new cases per day or 525 cases over a seven-day period. Health officials say the once that threshold is met, the mask mandate would take effect.

On Wednesday, August 4, Montgomery County reported 98 new COVID cases. The seven-day average for new cases is about 78.7 cases which would be past the threshold for the mask mandate.  

Why are we masking again?

The masking mandate is put into place because Montgomery County has entered a phase of substantial submission. The regulation is a preventive measure for residents. 

“This [masking mandate] is an effort to prevent us from getting to the point to see hospitalizations increase…We don’t want to wait for that number to get to a significant point before we take a certain level of action. And hopefully, by putting forward this measure, this will prevent any conversation about closures, capacity limits, those kinds of things.” —Dr. Travis Gayles, County Health Officer and Chief of Public Health Services

What are the primary indicators that help the Board of Health make their decisions?

According to the Montgomery County Government COVID-19 Information Portal, the Board of health uses primary and secondary indicators to determine masking mandates, the size of social gatherings, restrictions on indoor activities, and any actives considered high risk based on contact tracing data.  

If and when any restrictions are put in place, it is done so in order to reduce the risk of transmission.  

The primary indicators that Montgomery County analyzes are:

  • Case rate (cases per 100, 000 people during the last 7 days)
  • Test positivity rate or percentage (during the last 7 days)
  • Rate of transmissions

Secondary indicators Montgomery County evaluates are:

  • Percentage of change in new cases per 100,000 people during the last 7 days compared with the previous 7 days)
  • Percentage of hospital inpatient beds that are occupied
  • Percentage of intensive care unit beds occupied
  • Percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 parties. 

When can we see an end to the indoor masking mandate?

According to the Montgomery County’s deputy health officer, Dr. James Bridgers, the threshold for the mask regulation to be removed would be 14 days of a “moderate” or lower transmission level. 

Although there is a 14-day guideline based on CDC guidance and will be served as a model, the Board of Health has the final say for Montgomery County.

What do you think about the masking mandate while indoors in Montgomery County? Has anything changed for you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Heather Jauquet writes articles centered around the DMV and her adventures in other local communities. Follow her to get information about Montgomery County education, government, and community news. When she's not writing, she's running. Got a story to share? Email her: hjauquet@gmail.com

Gaithersburg, MD
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