ANNAPOLIS — A General Assembly committee on Jan. 5 formally affirmed the Maryland State Board of Education’s revised mask mandate which includes three ways to make face coverings voluntary.
The emergency regulation, approved by the state board in December, passed the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review by a vote of 11-5. In his testimony State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury said he did not plan to return to the committee with another emergency regulation on this topic.
"It does let us go through this school year as we continue to get vaccination rates up," Mr. Choudhury said.
If a school can show 80% of students and staff are fully vaccinated a local board can allow them to become optional. Another way is if 80% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated.
The third "off ramp" — which is what Somerset County Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Gaddis is monitoring — is if the county has reached 14 days of moderate to low COVID-19 transmission per the CDC.
"The 14 days is probably our best opportunity because we have not mandated vaccines nor will we be mandating vaccines, that is a personal choice," Dr. Gaddis said during the December school board meeting. He said the public can check CDC.gov daily for updates.
Countywide, according to Maryland’s coronavirus tracking website, less than 43% of Somerset County residents have received two doses of vaccine, with nearly 5% having taking the single-dose jab by Johnson & Johnson.
Meanwhile the CDC categorized Somerset County as "High Transmission" recommending everyone wear a mask in public indoor settings.