After showing signs of improvement while battling the coronavirus pandemic, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said the jurisdiction’s indoor mask mandate will end Monday.
That means customers won’t be required to wear masks or face coverings inside grocery stores, gymnasiums, and other locations.
As for Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assessed the county’s community transmission rate as “moderate,” the second lowest mark in the spread of COVID-19. Data from the federal agency shows the county as the only jurisdiction in the state of Maryland and D.C. region with that designation.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you Prince Georgians,” Alsobrooks said Friday during a press conference. “From the very beginning of the pandemic, we said we would listen to the experts and make our decision based on science and medicine. We are trending in the right direction.”
Some of the county’s data include the county’s weekly case rate at 45 per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of nearly 2.3%. Exactly two weeks ago, the weekly case rate stood at 104 cases per 100,000 residents and almost 5.2% positivity rate.
However, Alsobrooks said she has heard from some residents who still aren’t comfortable in removing their masks in public.
“I know and understand the concern of any resident who says at this point they aren’t ready to remove their masks,” she said. “If you are still hesitant, I want you to know that we all support and respect it. Nobody will force anyone to remove a mask and you can continue to wear your mask as long as you feel comfortable. Please be respectful of all of those who are still choosing to wear a mask.”
Masks must still be worn on public transportation such as Metro and the county’s “TheBus,” based on guidance from the CDC.
Faces inside the County’s public schools must also remain covered, CEO Monica Goldson announced Friday.
Goldson, who joined Alsobrooks at Friday’s press conference, defended her decision for the more than 206 schools to revert back to virtual learning for several weeks in December and January. When in-person learning resumed the week of January 17, about 85,000 student take-home COVID-19 tests were uploaded in the system.
This will be the last week for students to conduct COVID-19 tests at home.
Goldson said weekly student positive cases decreased from 888 the first week of implementation to 246 this week.
One reason to keep the indoor mask requirement rests with a vaccine still unavailable for children younger than 5. However, students can take off masks and face coverings while outdoors for recess and students participating in spring sports.
The public schools will utilize the state Department of Education’s guideline to review its masks policy once at least 80% of the county’s population becomes fully vaccinated. The figure currently stands at nearly 73%.
“We implemented every tool available to the school system in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she said. “We have done our best to exercise due diligence at every turn. We are making progress and turning the corner.”