Gov. Larry Hogan asked the Maryland State Board of Education to end its mandatory mask policy for students and staff.
Hogan sent the letter on Friday, citing that COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide have fallen below 1,000 people a day, down from a high of 3,500 a day last month. Then on Monday, he announced that masks and face coverings used to fight the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 that causes the COVID-19 disease will no longer be required in all state buildings starting on Feb. 22.
Maryland ceased its indoor mask mandate for other public places last May, and the state has since boasted the lowest case rate nationwide. But the requirement for schools has been in place since December as the Omicron variant cases spiked.
“The COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges for all Marylanders, but it has been perhaps most difficult and disruptive for our children,” he wrote. “We have seen the harmful effects of prolonged school closures on the education, health, and emotional well-being of Maryland students. The consequences include failing grades, regressed social development, and increased mental health challenges. If these trends are not reversed quickly, we face the unthinkable prospect of a generation left behind, both academically and socially.”
Hogan noted that “a growing number” of medical experts, parents and representatives from both political parties are advocating for an end to the school mask mandate. “As long as vaccines and boosters continue to protect well among the vaccinated and as long as hospitals are not overwhelmed, restrictions should be lifted,” said Dr. Leana Wen, the former Baltimore City health commissioner.
However, on Friday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published results from a study of emergency room and urgent care visits between Aug. 26 and Jan. 22 that indicates the effectiveness of COVID-19 boosters begins to wane after four months from the time of the shot.