Regardless, Elrich (D) said, it looks likely that the county will hit its threshold to lift the mandate this week. “Assuming that everything stays the way it is, we’re going to be in the right place,” he said.
According to state data, about 70 percent of Montgomery residents are fully vaccinated, the second-highest rate after Howard County.
Elrich added, however, that he would not hesitate to recommend that the board of health reinstate a mask mandate if transmission levels surge again this winter. He said he hopes that restaurants and shops that have implemented indoor mask requirements will keep them in place even after the countywide mandate ends.
“Our masking has been one of the hallmarks of why we’ve been able to drive down exposure,” he said. “I would hate for people to think that this is automatically the permanent end to it.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Monday hailed the progress the state has made in recent months in distributing vaccines and the resulting drops in case and transmission rates.
But he is also urging people, especially those with underlying conditions, to get vaccinated.
He said Monday that more than half of the Maryland residents who died last month of covid-19, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, had diabetes and hypertension, indicating the necessity for vaccinations and boosters among that population.
Hogan said state health officials are strongly recommending that residents with underlying conditions get a shot as soon as possible. Hogan said the state has the supply and capacity to provide a vaccine and a booster to anyone who wants one.
“From day one of this crisis, our focus has always been on preventing hospitalizations and deaths, and these vaccines have all proven to be extremely effective at this,” Hogan said. “However, the data we now have clearly does show that the level of protection does begin to wane over time, beginning after five or six months, especially for those who are immunocompromised, have comorbidities, and are most vulnerable.”
Neil J. Sehgal, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, said he recently spoke to his students about the death of Colin Powell, who was vaccinated but also was being treated for cancer, which can suppress immunity.
“We’ve known for a long time that comorbidities like diabetes and hypertension lead to an elevated risk if you are infected,” he said. “And we also know that immunity wanes over time.”
Hogan also is encouraging parents of children ages 5 to 11 to get them vaccinated once the shots become available as early as next week. He said more than a half a million children in Maryland would be eligible for the vaccines and that the state has ordered 180,000 doses to distribute.
“We think that will serve us well,” Health Secretary Dennis Schrader said.
Schrader said Maryland placed its order for vaccines for the youngest group of soon-to-be-eligible residents last week. The state expects to receive authorization from the federal government as early as next week.
Hogan said there are 515,000 children who will be eligible to receive a vaccine.
Jilene Chen, deputy health secretary, said the state has been working closely with school systems to ensure that doses are distributed. She said the shots will also be available at pediatrician offices, local health departments and pharmacies.