Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate John King Jr., right, chats with supporters Feb. 17 in Annapolis after he announced the beginnings of a statewide meet and greet tour. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

Protestors Urge Lawmakers To End Masks, Vaccine Mandates

@WJFjabariwill

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – With slightly more than four months left until the June 28 primary election, Maryland gubernatorial candidate John King Jr. announced Thursday he and running mate Michelle Siri will embark on a statewide meet and greet tour.

It began in downtown Annapolis behind the State House where King summarized his campaign’s three pillars to improve the state: education, economic development/economic dignity and the environment.

“We need to do it with a racial justice lens. It will require…a movement,” he said.

On Friday, the campaign released an economic equity plan. Some of it includes accelerating the $15 minimum wage by 2023 instead of 2025; apply legal sexual harassment protections for all employees and unpaid interns; and enact a universal child tax credit (the state currently provides a child tax credit for families who earn $6,000 or less per month and children with a disability).

A few dozen people protest in front of the Maryland State House on Feb. 17 demanding lawmakers eliminate mask requirements and vaccine mandates. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

King and Siri greeted people at Lawyers’ Mall near the State House, but the duo and their supporters calmly grabbed signs and walked behind the building because a few dozen protestors loudly greeted lawmakers as they walked outside the front of the building.

Protestors chanted “Free our children!” and held signs such as “Unmask our kids,” “Let our kids breathe” and “End the mandates, free the smiles.”

The protest happened one day after the Anne Arundel County School Board voted unanimously to make masks optional throughout the school system.

One of the reasons for the change comes as the county, where the city of Annapolis is located, accumulated an 80% vaccination rate, according to county health officials. That serves as one of the benchmarks the State Board of Education outlined for local school boards to eliminate mask requirements.

Anne Arundel County Superintendent George Arlotto wrote in a letter dated Feb. 17, the change will go into effect Friday, Feb. 18. However, he wrote that children must still wear masks on school buses.

“The lifting of the mask mandate is a major step forward for our school system and brings us one step closer to the normal we have all sought since March 2020,” Arlotto said. “The case rate has been below 15 for six days now. We have all worked hard to get to this point. I urge us all to continue to exercise prudence and caution as we traverse the road ahead.”

The State Board of Education will meet Feb. 22 and is scheduled to review COVID-19 updates.

Gov. Larry Hogan has urged the board to eliminate a mask requirement in the public schools.

With the exception of the Senate and House of Delegates chambers and buildings, visitors aren’t required to wear masks or face coverings inside State buildings until Feb. 22.

King supports the state board keeping a requirement in schools “for now,” especially since children younger than 5 years old aren’t eligible for a vaccine.

“It’s very encouraging to see the improvement of lower positive rates, but I want to make sure that we don’t move prematurely to remove the very protocols that have helped keep us safe,” King said. “I appreciate folks’ frustration with how our lives have been disrupted over the last two years by COVID-19, but we’ve got to be responsible and safe as we move forward.”

Officials with the Food and Drug Administration announced Feb. 11, they postponed an advisory meeting Feb. 15 with Pfizer-BioNTech, one of the companies to develop a vaccine, to provide more time to study a vaccine for children between six months and 4 years old.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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