By Garrett County Joint Information Center Team
The past week brought changes to many of Maryland’s COVID-19 restrictions that have been with us in some form for the past year.
Governor Larry Hogan ended the statewide mask mandate effective Saturday, May 15, following updated guidance from the CDC. Face coverings continue to be required on public transportation, and in schools, child care and health care settings.
The Maryland Department of Health issued a public health advisory strongly recommending that all non-vaccinated individuals age 2 and older continue to wear face coverings indoor and in outdoor locations where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
“The relaxing of the face covering mandate does not mean the pandemic is over,” said Garrett County Health Officer Bob Stephens. “We need to go slowly as we move forward. COVID is continuing to circulate in the community. The recommendation is that those not vaccinated should continue to wear a face covering indoors and in crowds. We should also continue to practice social distancing when not wearing a mask to protect yourself and anyone in your family, including young children, who are not yet able to be vaccinated. Some individuals perceive that there is no longer a threat. We need to take this time to gradually return to normal and watch what happens.”
During a press conference on Friday, Governor Hogan advised that private businesses and workplaces may put their own policies in place.
“Please continue to keep a mask handy, there are still businesses that ask you to wear a face covering,” Stephens said. “Be patient as we all work through these issues.”
The change in the mask mandate came as a surprise on Friday, after the Governor had said Wednesday that the mandate would be lifted when 70% of Maryland adults receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Friday’s announcement followed CDC’s statement the day before that fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.
The Governor qualified his announcement by saying local jurisdictions may continue to use their own emergency powers on these matters.
The governor also said Maryland’s state of emergency would remain in place, because it carries with it some benefits for local business and enables the state to continue to use the National Guard for such activities as the vaccination effort.
Persons interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccination should visit garretthealth.org to schedule an appointment or at least see where clinics are being held throughout the week. Most clinics also accept walk-ins to receive a vaccine. Both Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are available through the Health Department at this time. For help scheduling a vaccination appointment call the COVID-19 Hotline at 301-334-7698.
Clinics using Pfizer vaccine are in the planning stage in cooperation with Garrett County Public School’s to vaccinate students who are 12+. More information will be available soon. Pfizer is currently the only vaccine brand that had their emergency use authorization expanded to include adolescents who are12 through15 years of age.