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Goodbye Masks: MD Pandemic State Of Emergency Ends July 1

Gov. Larry Hogan removes his mask during a press conference last year. Credit: Rachel Baye/WYPR
Gov. Larry Hogan removes his mask at a press conference last year. Credit: Rachel Baye/WYPR

Gov. Larry Hogan effectively declared victory on the COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday when he announced that the state of emergency he declared 15 months ago will end on July 1.

Hogan highlighted several data points as evidence that, at least in Maryland, the pandemic is on its last legs.

The positivity rate has gone from about 6% in January to just under 1% now.

The case rate, a measure that compares cases to total population, was 53.39 per 100,000 in January. Now it’s down to 1.57 per 100,000, the lowest point since the early days of the pandemic.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations are also down to a record low, from nearly 2,000 in January to just under 200 now.

“We have finally reached the light at the end of that long tunnel,” Hogan said.

When the state of emergency ends on July 1, the most immediately visible change will be the elimination of all state government mask mandates, including at health care settings and schools.

Private organizations and businesses will still be allowed to require employees and customers to wear masks.

Whether local officials can continue their own mask mandates, as Baltimore City has, likely varies by jurisdiction.

Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott plans to “deliver a path forward” during his press conference Wednesday, according to spokesman Cal Harris.

Local school systems may also be able to set their own rules.

“I would hope that they would follow the science and follow the direction of the state,” Hogan said of local school leaders.

In Baltimore County, masks will likely be required during summer school, which begins July 12, said Baltimore County Public Schools spokesman Charles Herndon.

“We are, of course, monitoring for changes in guidance from health experts and will incorporate those changes into any decisions or changes we might make this summer,” Herndon said.

Parents can make their own decisions for their children, Hogan said.

“We would not discourage anybody — if they felt their kids were safer, they can ask their kids to wear a mask,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone who has not been vaccinated continue to wear a mask. This includes any children under age 12, as no vaccines have been approved for that age group.

Mask requirements are not the only rules changing with the end of the state of emergency. The change also affects things such as marriage license procedures and early releases for inmates at state prisons.

But for some changes, residents will be able to ease in with a 45-day grace period, which begins July 1 and ends Aug. 15, “to help people complete the transition out of the pandemic,” Hogan said.

Someone whose driver license expired during the pandemic will have until Aug. 15 to renew it.

The state’s moratorium on foreclosures and evictions related to COVID-19 also ends on Aug. 15, as do a slew of other pandemic-related rule changes.

For example, health care practitioners will no longer have to report vaccines within 24 hours of administering them, and legal documents will need to be witnessed in person until new state legislation authorizing remote witnesses takes effect in October.

Even with the state of emergency ending, Hogan warned that COVID-19 is still a threat.

“If you have been vaccinated, you are safe, but those who have not gotten vaccinated will continue to be at risk,” Hogan said. “At this point, there's simply no excuse for not getting vaccinated.”

The vaccines are both safe and effective, he said.

However, the governor said he has no plans to require state employees to get the vaccine, as hospitals and health care systems have done.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye
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