Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday that the state will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lift the indoor and outdoor mask mandate in most settings.
The only exceptions, Hogan (R) said, will be public transportation, health care settings and schools. Earlier this week, Hogan said he wouldn’t lift the mask mandate until at least 70 percent of the state’s adult population received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
Businesses will still be able to enforce their own mask mandates, the governor said. He urged everyone who hasn’t done so to get vaccinated, as it’s the easiest way to be protected against the coronavirus.
Vivian Laxton, communications director in County Executive Jan Gardner’s (D) office, said in an email county officials will follow Hogan’s lead regarding the mask mandate.
“The Frederick County Board of Health’s order concerning large gatherings remains in place,” Laxton wrote. “A responsible party must be designated for all gatherings of 100 or more people. The person’s name and contact information must be filed with the Frederick County Health Department at least one week prior to the event.”
Frederick County reported 17 new COVID-19 cases and no related deaths Friday. The county’s positivity rate is 2.5 percent, just under the statewide mark of 2.6 percent. Seventeen people with the virus in the county were in the hospital, with three of those in intensive care.
Since the pandemic began, Frederick County has seen 19,631 cases and 313 deaths.
The state reported 512 new cases and 12 deaths in the last 24 hours — bringing the statewide total to 455,257 and 8,716 respectively.
After Hogan described the state’s health metrics trending in the right direction, he summarized perhaps what many Marylanders felt as the mask mandate was lifted.
“Today is the day that so many of us have been waiting for and working towards: We finally do clearly see that light at the end of the tunnel,” the governor said.
The state of emergency remains in place, he said, even though business restrictions have been lifted. He urged those who haven’t been vaccinated to continue to wear masks. He added state officials wouldn’t be checking to see whether people had gotten their shot.
“There’s no way to put that into some kind of an order to say how are we ever going to find out who is or who isn’t,” Hogan said. “Nobody is checking vaccine IDs.”
Along with the mask mandate, business restrictions will be lifted in the county Saturday. But business owners will still have the ability to require masks for customers, employees or both.
Mike Clements, owner of Idiom Brewing on East Patrick Street, said the brewery will probably allow customers to forgo masks if they’re comfortable. He said his staff is almost entirely vaccinated, but he will probably have them continue to wear masks until people feel more comfortable.
“I mean the majority of folks in Maryland have been vaccinated … so we’re pretty comfortable with it,” Clements said.
Other businesses are holding off on lifting the requirements, however. James Smith, owner of Jerk N’ Jive Caribbean Kitchen with locations on East Street and Prospect Boulevard, said he wants to make people feel as comfortable as possible when they come to eat at the restaurant. While he acknowledged that a majority of Maryland residents 16 or older have been vaccinated, he doesn’t want to jump too soon.
“We still have customers who come to the door, look, and order carryout,” Smith said. “So if I can sort of ease their fear a little bit by continuing with the masks, continuing with the 6 feet apart, continuing with every other booth, we’ll do that for at least 30 days.”
Staff writer Erika Riley contributed to this report.