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With vaccination benchmark reached, county prepares to reopen

by Judith Hruz


Montgomery County residents on May 28 will see fewer restrictions than they have since the coronavirus pandemic began 15 months ago.

With more than 50 percent of residents having received both doses of the Pfizer or Modern COVID-19 vaccine or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — a milestone reached May 14 — the county will follow any state requirements in place.

On May 28 those residents will be fully vaccinated. An individual is fully vaccinated two weeks after he or she receives all required doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

State guidelines have generally been less stringent than those of Montgomery County, whose officials chose to remain more cautious.

County Executive Marc Elrich has called Montgomery County “totally unique in the state of Maryland,” saying if the county had followed the path of other jurisdictions, who had less strict safety guidelines, “that would have added hundreds, if not thousands, of more cases a week.”

Several week ago, County Council President Tom Hucker (D-Dist. 5) said “all of our residents have had to make sacrifices,” but public health has been the county’s top priority.

On April 27, as the County Council, sitting as the Board of Health, agreed the county was on the right track in loosening guidelines based on how well the county has done with administering vaccinations and keeping the community safe.

Montgomery County follows face covering guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Everyone must continue to wear face coverings on public transportation, in schools and in child care and health care settings. People who are not fully vaccinated must still wear face coverings indoors in public areas and where interaction with others is likely or where food is prepared.

Face coverings are no longer required outdoors, but the Maryland Department of Health strongly recommends that all non-vaccinated individuals over the age of 2 years continue to wear face coverings in all indoor settings and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Private establishments and workplaces may put in place their own policies or guidance.

Any businesses can require a mask and that requirement must be followed, Erich said.

County officials remind residents that COVID-19 and its variants have not gone away, and with nearly 50 of residents still not vaccinated, there is still a chance of the virus spreading.

County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said that although the numbers continue to improve, everyone must continue to be vigilant.

“We don’t consider this ‘let’s stop, spike the football,’” he said.

“Just because we’re getting better doesn’t mean we’re done with this,” he added.

Officials will continue to work with community partners to find new ways to convince those who have not been vaccinated to get inoculated.

They are also looking to make vaccination clinics more convenient for everyone.

Officials also remind the community that 13 percent of the county population is under 12 years of age and are not yet eligible for the vaccination.

“We believe we have vaccinated the majority of residents who are actually looking to get vaccinated,” Elrich said.

Residents who wish to get vaccinated no longer need to preregister and be “invited” to make an appointment. They can go directly to www.govaxmoco.com to make an appointment.

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