Charles County residents will have to continue to remember their masks before entering local businesses for at least another month.
The county commissioners voted unanimously on Sept. 10 to extend a mask mandate for another 30 days in their first meeting since the end of July.
The decision came after a recommendation from Dr. Dianna Abney, the county health officer, during an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Charles County.
“We need to see a substantial downward trend before we say this was successful,” Abney said.
Abney also said the mandate must be confined with other measures such as vaccination, social distancing and increased hand-washing measures.
The presentation also included information from a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that stated that communities where mask mandates were required had lower case and death rates.
While counties with in-state dining saw an increase to death and case rates, Abney stressed that rates among communities with mask requirements saw lower rates, even with open indoor dining.
Around the state and the country, COVID-19 transmission remains high as the delta variant continues to spread, especially among unvaccinated residents.
In Charles, residents that were not fully vaccinated accounted for 83.3% of new cases between Sept. 1 to Sept. 8.
“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” William Grimes, vice president of ancillary services and incident commander at the University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center, said at the meeting.
The majority of patients in the intensive care unit are unvaccinated, Grimes said.
One individual in the intensive care unit was vaccinated, but Grimes said that person was admitted two days after receiving their second dose, meaning they were likely positive before they received the shot.
CDC guidelines state that a person must have both shots and be 14 days past the day of their second shot to be considered fully vaccinated.
Two other individuals in the hospital who were vaccinated also tested positive for COVID-19, but those individuals were in the hospital for different conditions and their cases were asymptomatic.
With schools back open, Grimes said the hospital was preparing for the potential of a pediatric surge of patients, though Abney said the hope was the school system’s mask mandate would temper juvenile cases.
There was some conversation on Friday about the renewed resolution concerning language explicitly outlining punishments for violating the mask mandate. The resolution stated that violators could face a misdemeanor charge that contained a one-year jail sentence, a $5,000 fine, or both.
Wesley Adams, county attorney, said the language was added in response to questions his office had received.
However, Commissioner Vice President Bobby Rucci (D) was concerned about adding language that could add to more anger over the mask mandate.
The criminal penalties have been in place since Gov. Larry Hogan (R) first established mask mandates at the beginning of the pandemic.
The decision was made to pass the resolution with language consistent with last month’s proclamation, but Commissioner President Reuben B. Collins II (D) clarified that the commissioners were not attempting to create new penalties.
“This is not the commissioners making a new provision. This is state law,” Collins said.