Don’t throw away your masks just yet.
While just three Maryland localities are requiring masks indoors, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests masking indoors for most counties because of the increasing COVID-19 transmission.
Here’s what you need to know:
Where is masking required?
Baltimore’s indoor mask mandate takes effect at 9 a.m. Monday. Face coverings will be required in all indoor spaces — public or private — within city limits.
In neighboring Anne Arundel County, masks are a must in county buildings.
Meanwhile, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Maryland’s most populous counties, Montgomery and Prince George’s, implemented indoor mask mandates which took effect over the weekend.
You can keep tabs on the latest mask rules here.
Are those the only places I should wear a mask?
The CDC recommends masking indoors in areas that it has deemed have a high or substantial community transmission of COVID-19. Most counties in Maryland meet that criteria.
The federal agency calculates community transmission by examining the new cases per capita over the past week and the seven-day average testing positivity rate. It recommends masking indoors in jurisdictions that recorded at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people over the past week or where the percentage of COVID-19 tests returned positive over the past seven days eclipses 8%.
About a week ago, just St. Mary’s County met the threshold. As of Friday, 20 counties did.
In the Baltimore area, the CDC’s indoor mask recommendation applies to Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties.
If you’re in an area with elevated coronavirus infections, the CDC says you should consider wearing a mask in crowds or in close proximity to those who aren’t vaccinated.
Is transmission higher in some places?
The CDC as of Friday classified the level of transmission in Carroll, Garrett, Howard and Queen Anne’s counties as moderate.
Baltimore and the counties of Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Caroline, Dorchester, Frederick, Harford, Kent, Montgomery, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s, Somerset, Talbot and Washington have substantial community transmission, according to the CDC.
The CDC says roughly 70% of counties nationwide have a high level of community transmission. In Maryland, Charles, Wicomico and Worcester counties had high community transmission as of Friday.
As of Sunday, Wicomico had the highest average daily testing positivity rate in Maryland at 7.61%, while Dorchester’s case rate of 23.71 cases per 100,000 residents tops in the state, according to data from the Maryland Department of Health.
Are there any new statewide rules?
There’s no statewide masking mandate.
However, Gov. Larry Hogan last week announced that state employees who work in congregate settings such as prisons and hospitals will be required to be vaccinated or to wear masks and undergo regular coronavirus testing starting Sept. 1.
While almost 60% of Maryland’s approximately 6 million residents have been fully vaccinated, Hogan and other leaders have implored those who’ve yet to be inoculated to do so.
Hogan said unvaccinated people account for almost all the COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths still occurring in the state.
Why are indoor mask mandates coming back?
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa cited concerns over the spread of the dangerous delta variant of the coronavirus when they reinstated the city’s indoor mask mandate.
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The delta strain is more contagious and data suggests vaccinated people can spread it.
Health officials say it has contributed to a rise of infections nationwide. In Maryland, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased almost threefold over the past month.
The state health department has said nearly every coronavirus sample sent to a laboratory for genomic sequencing was a delta variant infection.