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Hogan Aims To Change Face Mask Requirements At Maryland Schools

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Gov. Larry Hogan plans to make new recommendations on face mask requirements in the classroom to the State Board of Education.

"We're going to ask that they consider making some changes to that at their meeting this month," Hogan said during a press conference on Tuesday.

Hogan is turning his attention to school mask requirements as COVID-19 cases are dropping in Maryland. In fact, his focus on mask requirements comes just days after he announced during his State of the State speech that the COVID-19 state of emergency would end on Feb. 3.

Currently, there is no statewide rule on the use of masks indoors, but some cities and counties have been putting policies in place.

"We are still well above the CDC's threshold for masking recommendations, which is a case rate of seven per 100,000 people," one local health officer told WJZ.

People have been coping with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020. Many of them want to know when it will be safe to no longer wear a face mask indoors.

There is no set timeline for the day when that will change, but the path toward it looks promising, according to Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman.

"COVID-19 vaccines, treatment, and making it through the Omicron wave are sending us in the right direction," Kalyanaraman said.

As a result, health officials are evaluating whether people will continue to wear masks, he said.

Health data shows that every county in Maryland still has high transmission of the virus, and that makes some people want to continue masking up. Also, the state positivity rate is just over 5%.

"People should keep wearing the mask until we are sure that the pandemic is over," Bayo Omolola of Baltimore said.

But not everyone feels the same way as Omolola.

Audrey Wentz of Baltimore said that she has noticed fewer and fewer people wearing masks.

Baltimore City still requires face coverings inside public places, but cross over into Baltimore County and face masks are optional. Regardless, the State Board of Education requires all students and staff in the state to wear face masks, and Hogan may soon have something to say about that.

"We are having discussions with the state board of education," Hogan said. "They have said they are going to review their mask recommendations for schools on a monthly basis."

Right now, schools have an off-ramp option to lift the mask requirement—but only under certain conditions. They can lift the requirement if 80% of the county is vaccinated or if the county's transmission rate is "low" or "moderate" for two straight weeks.

The State Board of Education reviews those key COVID-19 metrics at monthly meetings. The next one is scheduled for Feb. 22.

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