Governor Larry Hogan announced the end of a statewide mask mandate in state buildings this week, following several emergency orders in response to the Omicron variant surge. The mandate will end on Feb. 22, although “masks will continue to be strongly recommended for employees and visitors who are unvaccinated.”
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The mandate lift would apply to all state buildings, including “leased space in public or shared spaces.” This included the state capitol, other office buildings, and state correctional facilities.
Hogan’s reasoning for the mandate lift cites the rapid decrease in COVID-19 case rates. According to data from the Maryland Department of Health, the positive case rate was 3.68% as of Feb. 15. That’s over a 20% drop from the highest peak in early January 2022.
“Given the dramatic declines in our health metrics, we are now able to take another step toward normalcy in state operations,” Hogan said in an announcement.
The mandate lift follows last month’s series of emergency orders from the governor in response to the Omicron variant surge. At the time, COVID-19-related hospitalizations surpassed 3,000, causing at least four hospitals to enact crisis standards of care. The emergency orders created alternate care sites and placed holds on nursing license expirations under a 30-day state public health emergency.
Prior to the declaration, the Maryland Hospital Association (MHA) issued a letter to the governor requesting the reinstatement of the limited public health emergency that was previously in place last year.
In response to a request from State of Reform, MHA provided no comment on the indoor mask mandate lift.
Updated guidance from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) will be issued, according to Hogan’s office. Hogan also highlighted a January announcement that the state would provide two hours of paid leave for state employees to receive booster doses.