ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Maryland State Board of Education on Feb. 22 voted to rescind its mask mandate in schools, but the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review in the Maryland General Assembly, which oversees regulations or standards in the state, has a say.

“This action aligns with the data and the science, the recommendation of the State Superintendent of Schools, and the guidance of medical professionals across the country,” Governor Larry Hogan said.

Board members voted by a 12-2 vote to rescind an emergency regulation mandating the use of face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The board’s decision as they got pressure from lawmakers, educational leaders, and the governor. Earlier this month, Hogan urged the board to rescind the mask mandate in a letter.

Maryland’s school masking mandate has been going on since the beginning of the school year. Then, the Board updated the regulation in December to establish “off-ramps” for the state’s school systems to allow students to go without masks which were later approved by state lawmakers. 

However, counties can lift mandates if a county’s spread of COVID-19 is moderate or if vaccination rates are above 80%, which do not include children under 5 in the school or the surrounding community.

During a presentation, Dr. Jinlene Chan, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Health, said there were over 200 pediatric hospitalizations when the omicron variant hit. Hospitalizations among adults peaked at 3,462 patients and pediatric hospitalizations peaked at 61.

However, State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury said the mandate had come at the right time because it kept schools open during multiple waves of cases.

“If I would go back, I would do it again, because it did what it needed to do,” Choudhury said.

Now, Choudhury believes they have a smarter response to returning masking policies to local control because the state is in better condition. Vaccines and testing should be more available, and the state has the “off-ramps” method.

“We have a very smart response, we have very smart off-ramps, let them decide,” Choudhury said. “If they want to come up and use one of the off-ramps, they can. If they do not, then that is fine.”

If the General Assembly approves of the board’s decision, Southern Maryland’s superintendents will have to decide whether to enforce masks. 

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