There is no hope for an indoor vaccination requirement in Montgomery County anytime soon. The Montgomery County Council shelved the resolution after more than two dozen county residents testified against a possible vaccine mandate at a public hearing last Tuesday.
Council President Gabe Albornoz questioned the mandate’s efficacy to increase Covid vaccination rates at press briefing on Monday. According to the county’s Covid data dashboard, 95 percent of residents have received their first vaccine dose and 83.5 percent have received full dosage of the vaccine. “If the goal is to increase vaccination rates, they can’t get much higher than they are,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why the Council, at least at this time, are not confident that this is a tool that’s necessary right now.”
Albornoz also cited the county’s declining Covid transmission and hospitalization rates as a factor for tabling the legislation until further notice. “We’re going to let the situation on the ground dictate what’s happening,” he added. “Because the numbers are receding as quickly as they are and the legitimate concerns raised by the small businesses who would be charged with enacting this, that’s the reason we’re pausing this at the moment.”
County Executive Marc Elrich’s administration proposed a regulation earlier in January that would have required people aged 12 years and older to provide proof of vaccination against Covid before entering public indoor spaces, such as restaurants, bars, and fitness centers. The mandate would have eventually required anyone 5 years and older to show proof of vaccination as well. Earl Stoddard, Elrich’s assistant chief administrative officer, says the administration disagrees with the Council and that the legislation made a lot of sense, given that being vaccinated makes people less likely to spread Covid.
While the administration is disappointed with the Council’s decision, Stoddard and the rest of the team will not reintroduce the proposal. “I think the issue is dead for now,” Stoddard says. “But if we see another variant or surge, we will repurpose it at that point.”
Correction: This article has been updated to include the regulation’s provision that would require patrons 5 years old and older to show proof of vaccination when entering public indoor spaces.