Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday evening he will lift the state mask mandate for all residents, effective Saturday, May 15, and Anne Arundel will follow suit.
The announcement comes the day after the Centers for Disease Control released a similar recommendation, encouraging localities to allow vaccinated adults to go about their lives unmasked in most situations.
Hogan’s order goes further and rescinds the mask order for all residents, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated or not, but requires masks on public transit, in hospitals and in schools. Unvaccinated residents are strongly encouraged to wear masks, Hogan said, but not required.
County Executive Steuart Pittman issued the following statement after Hogan’s announced the end of the mandate.
”Anne Arundel County will follow the State’s decision regarding the lifting of the mask order,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said. “If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, go get your shot. We need a summer surge in vaccinations to prevent a fall surge in cases.”
The CDC recommendation met reluctance from other governors across the country, who have been hesitant to lift their mask orders while a large portion of the population remains unvaccinated. This Wednesday, Hogan said he would lift his own order if 70% of the state’s adults received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine. He also announced Wednesday he would lift all restrictions on businesses effective Saturday.
As of Friday, roughly 41% of Maryland residents were fully vaccinated and about 65.6% of adults had one shot.
The CDC recommendation changed the benchmark, Hogan said, and sped up the state’s timeline. Enforcing the mandate for only unvaccinated people would be a “logistical nightmare,” Hogan said, so the state is lifting it altogether.
Hogan praised individual Marylanders and businesses for their actions during the pandemic. Hogan’s orders forced business closures, some of which never recovered. And mandates to wear masks angered some residents who held protests throughout the state.
The governor has said those choices were made to slow the virus’ spread, ultimately leading to today’s announcement that signals the beginning of a return to normalcy.
As people recover from the trauma of the pandemic, Hogan asked Marylanders to show respect to people who continue to wear masks.
Anne Arundel County COVID-19 statistics have been on the decline in recent weeks. The case rate per 100,000 residents and hospitalization census have fallen to the lowest level since the fall. Sixty-three percent of county residents age 18 or older have gotten a coronavirus vaccine and with the opening of eligibility for children age 12 to 15, the county has seen increased vaccinations in recent days.
But Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the county health officer, said there is still concern the novel coronavirus and its variants could spread among the remaining unvaccinated as the mask mandate lifts. Twelve people died from coronavirus on Friday, including two in Anne Arundel County.
“We’re really shifting responsibilities to individuals to do the right thing,” Kalyanaraman said. “We need the unvaccinated folks to stay masked, and that puts the burden on them, and that hasn’t worked tremendously well.”