MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now asking people to put on a mask indoors in some places even if they’re vaccinated. This recommendation is being made because of the highly contagious Delta variant which is spreading throughout the U.S.
But, the CDC recommendation applies to people in areas where COVID-19 is reaching dangerous levels. This is why Montgomery County leaders are closely monitoring new cases to see if there is a need to reinstate a mask mandate.
There are a number of factors the county would consider before reinstating a mask mandate. According to the CDC guidance, they’re recommending areas where there are more than 50 cases per 100,000 people over the course of 7 days to wear a mask.
Montgomery County is well under that metric – averaging around 30 new cases per 100,000 people in the last 7 days.
Dr. Travis Gayles, Health Officer and Chief of Public Health Services for Montgomery County said they’re assessing a host of things like the number of new cases as they increase and correlate with the number of people who are hospitalized after contracting the virus.
“We have a new marker that is a little different now than last year," Dr. Gayle said. "While we're seeing a small handful of breakthrough cases, they [vaccinated residents] are protected from having more severe courses of illness that would result in hospitalizations and unfortunately result in fatalities. So we're looking at a host of those different measures to try to get a sense of the direction we need to go,” Dr. Gayles said.
He added that gives the county a better sense of how severe the threat is. According to Montgomery County, 70.5% of the eligible population within the county are fully vaccinated. That is another one of the factors in determining the next steps to keep everyone safe. But that also means hundreds of thousands of people are still unvaccinated and that remains concerning.
”The reason why we are potentially moving in a direction where we might consider reinstalling the mask mandate, and those types of requirements, is we really truly want to drive down community transmission as much as possible." Dr. Gayles said.
Montgomery County is the largest county in the state of Maryland. It is home to more than 1 million people. Dr. Gayles is encouraging everyone who is eligible to continue to get vaccinated.
“When we look specifically at individuals who are 12 years and older, being those who are eligible to be vaccinated, we have fully vaccinated 83% of those individuals, and 91.2% of those individuals have received at least one dose," Dr. Gayles said. "Because of our population size, we have probably over several hundreds of thousands of individuals who are not vaccinated and thereby at increased risk of having a more complicated course of COVID should they contract it. So, we're doing our due diligence, to again, try to raise the percentage of those who are fully vaccinated, who have maximum protection."
There are still several mass vaccination and testing sites throughout Montgomery County. But as for right now – no county-wide mask mandates are being reinstated.