Howard County Public School System Universal Indoor Masking Remains in Place

Announced by the Howard County Public School System on February 1st:

On Feb. 1, 2022, the Howard County Executive lifted the countywide mask mandate for indoor private facilities. Please note that this does not impact HCPSS. The universal indoor masking requirement in HCPSS schools, offices and on school buses remains in place based on guidance from the Howard County Health Department, Maryland Department of Health, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In July 2021, HCPSS implemented a mask requirement for all staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. That requirement preceded any state-level mask mandates for schools and was put in place as part of our multi-layered mitigation strategies. As the pandemic has evolved, public health guidance has continued to stress the importance of masking as an effective strategy to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The HCPSS mitigation measures implemented in our schools and buildings were driven by the goal to return to in-person instruction but also to remain open for the entire year.

Consistent with HCPSS requirements, the county’s updated executive order requires masks in all County buildings and facilities, and on public transportation. The County also encouraged the continued use of masks as a precautionary measure.

More information related to HCPSS health and safety measures is available online.


For Background:

Per the Maryland State Department of Education, masks are required in all Maryland public school buildings for all students, staff and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. The state mandate reflects guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maryland Department of Health, and is in alignment with an HCPSS masking directive that already was in place.

Masks also are required while on school buses. Masks are not required for any students or staff while eating/drinking indoors. Masks are not required outdoors, however they are recommended for unvaccinated individuals.

Students and staff are required to wear masks at all other times while indoors. Some students and staff have received medical exemptions for mask-wearing, which will continue to be granted. School administrators will hold anyone in the building accountable for properly wearing a mask when it is required.

There are “off ramps” for local school districts to lift mask mandates based on the following guidelines: Students can remove their mask when 80% of a county or the city has been vaccinated, a single school where 80% of students and staff members are vaccinated and 14 days where there is low to moderate community COVID-19 transmission.

Reported back in early January in the WBAL story (link above):

The superintendent was asked if there were any school systems meeting the mandate for unmasking at this point. He said Howard and Montgomery counties were close.

Here are what the numbers need to be to reach “Low” or “Moderate” via the CDC website:

In Howard County the Case Rate per 100K is 34.1 as of yesterday.

The Positivity Rate is reported as 8.47% in Howard County.

So just looking at the state numbers, Howard County looks to be close to meeting the requirements to have the ability to remove masks in schools via the “off ramps” for local school districts to lift mask mandates per the COVID metrics:

  • Case Rate would fall into Moderate (34.1).
  • Positivity Rate would fall into Substantial (8.47%).

Update: I am looking into the Case Rate…because according to the CDC Howard County falls into the HIGH category.

So based off that metric each county would need to fall down to an average daily number of around 7 (currently it is around 34). That seems like an unlikely number for any county to reach in the near future.

I am going to do additional research, but if this is correct (the metric of Case Rate) I would not expect masks to be removed in schools anytime soon.

Positivity Rate would only need to fall by .48% to get into the Moderate category. The way the numbers have been falling since the middle of the month it is likely to fall below 8% soon. Of course…it would need to stay at “Moderate” levels or below for 14 days or more before anything could be done.

We know that Howard County has achieved the 80% of residents vaccinated…not sure what the numbers are today for the school system (needs to be 80% of students and staff members are vaccinated). If anyone has seen those numbers reported let me know.

I am betting many folks will be watching the numbers a little more closely now to see if Howard County can get to the point where there would be the possibility of removing masks in schools.

I will do my best to watch the numbers this month. You can view the state COVID-19 dashboard here:

Scott E

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