Gov. Larry Hogan lifted Maryland’s indoor mask mandate Friday in a quick policy shift that followed new federal masking guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hogan, who said Wednesday that masks would remain mandatory indoors until 70% of Maryland adults were at least partially vaccinated, walked back that benchmark at a news conference Friday in Annapolis.
“The state of Maryland will now also be lifting the mask mandate in conjunction with all the other measures,” Hogan said.
He announced earlier this week that all COVID-19 capacity limits on businesses, restaurants and other venues will end on Saturday.
The change to Maryland’s masking policy came as other nearby states also decided to lift their mandates in response to the new CDC guidelines, which said vaccinated people can largely ditch face coverings, including in most indoor settings.
People who are not fully vaccinated are still encouraged to wear masks, and businesses can set their own rules about face coverings, Hogan said.
Masks will still be required on public transportation, in health care settings and in schools.
After the CDC’s surprise announcement Thursday, states around the country also began relaxing their masking guidance. The CDC’s new recommendations said that vaccinated people should continue to follow state and local rules for masking.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he would lift his state’s indoor mask mandate at midnight Friday, and Delaware Gov. John Carney said the state’s mask mandate would end in a week.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he would not yet lift the state’s mask mandate.
Hogan on Friday said the CDC’s new guidance was welcome news.
“Our team was being cautious,” he said. “We had already decided to lift the mask mandate. We said we were going to do it by Memorial Day weekend” — the deadline Hogan had set to get 70% of Maryland adults at least partially vaccinated — “We’re just speeding it up a little faster now thanks to the actions by the CDC.”
The state of emergency that Hogan declared in response to the COVID-19 crisis remains in place, but he has steadily lifted COVID-19 restrictions as Maryland’s metrics improved. He lifted Maryland’s outdoor mask mandate late last month.
“As many of us take off our masks and start to put this pandemic behind us, I ask each and every one of you to please just be kind and respectful of one another,” Hogan said.
“Some people feel comfortable getting back to normal life right away,” he said. “For others, it may take more time before they feel safe. That’s perfectly okay.”
Madeleine O’Neill covers the Maryland State House and state issues for the USA TODAY Network. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @maddioneill