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Some of Maryland’s COVID emergency mandates including masking requirements ended Thursday. What changed?

Many of Maryland’s emergency restrictions, including a statewide mask mandate, ended this past week. Gov. Larry Hogan announced last month that Maryland would lift its COVID-19 state of emergency in two phases. Some policies ended Thursday and others will end after a 45-day grace period through Aug. 15.

Hogan declared a state of emergency at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, and extended it as the pandemic persisted. The order allowed the governor to impose restrictions and suspend regulations “if necessary in order to protect the public health, welfare, or safety.”

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As of Friday, the Maryland Department of Health reported a 0.57% COVID-19 positivity rate. Slightly more than 50% of Marylanders have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the health department. Hogan said these numbers informed his decision to lift the order, though he said “the battle’s not over.”

Are masks required anywhere in the state?

Masks are no longer mandated by the state in any settings, including schools, camps and child care facilities. But restaurants, businesses and workplaces may continue to require them. Local governments and school districts can impose their own mask mandates if allowed under local laws. There’s also a federal order requiring that people wear masks on all U.S. public transit systems.

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The Maryland locations of grocery store chains Harris Teeter, Wegmans, Giant, Safeway and Costco do not require masks for fully vaccinated shoppers, unless they’re required by local or state mandates.

Baltimore City lifted its mask mandate Thursday in alignment with the state. Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Howard, Harford, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties followed the state’s lead in lifting mask requirements as well. But mask guidance may be different in schools.

What about masks in schools?

Mask decisions are up to each county school system.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools require that elementary and middle schoolers stay masked indoors during summer programming. They may take their masks off while outside and socially distanced. High schoolers and adults must be masked in areas with elementary and middle school students. The school system has not yet made a decision about the fall.

Baltimore City Public Schools will continue to require masks indoors, but will allow staff and students to remove their masks while outdoors and social distancing.

Baltimore County Public Schools followed Maryland’s lead and no longer require masks in schools or offices as of Thursday. In a Facebook post, school board member Julie Henn said the system supports the right of staff and students to continue wearing masks for personal safety. Masks are still required on school buses, and encouraged for unvaccinated people to wear indoors and outdoors.

Carroll County Public Schools will make masks optional beginning Monday, according to spokeswoman Carey Gaddis. This is when the county’s summer school programs begin.

Harford County Public Schools no longer require masks in schools or offices as of Thursday. School officials told parents they can instruct their children to wear masks if they wish. The school system expects to start the 2021-2022 school year without masks, as well.

Howard County Public Schools have a mask requirement in place for their summer school programs, but they will “continue to monitor the guidelines moving forward so we can consider adjustments for the return of all students in the fall,” spokesman Brian Bassett said.

Montgomery County Public Schools still require students and staff in summer schools to wear masks indoors, but not outdoors. They have not made a decision for the fall yet.

Prince George’s County Public Schools require masks in their schools and office buildings.

Which policies ended Thursday?

Maryland ended several orders, including but not limited to: quarantine and testing requirements for travelers; the early release of inmates due to COVID concerns; the postponement of municipal elections; restricted supply of hydroxychloroquine and other drugs; and child care expansion for essential personnel. Permissions to sell to-go alcoholic beverages will also expire, though the General Assembly passed a bill allowing localities to continue the practice if they so choose.

Which measures will continue through Aug. 15?

Orders like the state’s moratorium on COVID-related evictions and foreclosures are subject to the 45-day transitional period. Other orders that will continue include: delayed expiration of driver’s licenses and other identification; activation of the National Guard; remote witnessing and electronic signing; health care license extension; Emergency Medical Services workforce augmentation; and video hearings for the Maryland Insurance Administration.

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