COVID-19 Mask Mandate Proposal (Charles County, MD)
On Wednesday, the Board of Charles County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on Draft Ordinance 2021-22, “The Promulgation of a Local Health Regulation Requiring the Use of Face Coverings to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19.” Should this ordinance go into effect, Charles County will reinstate its county-wide mask mandate.
Last month on November 30th, the Board rescinded the county-wide mask mandate, except for all buildings operated by the Charles County government. This rescission was based on the sharp decline in COVID-19 transmissions, positivity rate, hospitalizations, ambulance transports, and COVID-related deaths in the County.
However, as more data was collected, it was soon apparent that compared to the rest of the State of Maryland, Charles County remained at a higher rate of positivity for COVID-19. The Board began to receive reports of continued pressure on the County’s health system and increasing COVID-19 positivity rates. The Health Officer for Charles County eventually advised the Board that the community transmission rate of COVID-19 would be rated “substantial.” The CDC recommends vaccination efforts and masking in areas with “substantial” or “high” COVID-19 community transmission rates.
If enacted, masks that cover both the mouth and nose. would be required in “any business, commercial establishment, restaurant, store, place of worship or any other building open to the public.” However, there are several exemptions to the proposed requirement. One would be exempt from wearing a mask indoors if:
They have a disability or medical condition.
The mask would impede communication by or with persons with a hearing impairment or other disability.
As determined by workplace safety guidelines, the mask would create an unsafe working condition.
The mask would make it impossible to receive services requiring access to the face, mouth, or head.
Eating food or drinking a beverage.
Swimming or other physical activities.
Operating any public transportation conveyance if the person is the sole operator and located in a separate compartment off-limits to riders.
If it is necessary to observe one’s entire face for security purposes.
If the resident is under five years of age.
The proposed ordinance states that it will not apply to the municipal governments of LaPlata, Indian Head, and Port Tobacco. Those municipalities are free to develop their mask requirement if they see fit. A violation of the mask mandate is punishable by a fine for a first offense, up to $50, and second and subsequent offenses up to $100.
The Board is still taking public comment on the mandate. If you wish to speak for or against this proposal in writing, fill out the online hearing form here. However, if you want to speak during the hearing itself, please call 301-885-2779 to register to speak during the public hearing. Registration to speak will begin at 8:00 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m. on December 15th.