Vaccination mandate for restaurants, some indoor MOCO locations offered

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD — A vaccine requirement for patrons of restaurants, entertainment venues, gyms and more was debated at a Tuesday meeting of the county council serving as the board of health. The measure was officially presented at the meeting and council members had a few main questions about the potential order.

Washington, DC Vaccination Mandatewhich Montgomery County’s proposal mirrors in many ways, will go into effect Jan. 15 for restaurants, nightclubs, indoor entertainment venues, indoor exercise facilities and indoor meeting rooms.

Montgomery County’s mask mandate is currently in effect until at least January 31. Read the full Montgomery County proposal here.

What would be the expected outcome of the mandate?

Council members asked if the purpose of the mandate is to encourage people to get vaccinated, to reduce transmission, or some other measure. Council Chairman Gabe Albnornoz noted that it would be important for this objective to be clear, so that if the mandate comes into effect, there is a way to measure its success.

How are the establishments included in the order decided?

Acting Chief Health Officer Earl Stoddard said there are a few main factors in deciding where the vaccine mandate will be applied. The first is anywhere masks cannot reasonably be worn, such as restaurants. Another would be places where mask application has historically been difficult, such as fitness centers. Stoddard said exercising and wearing a mask can be difficult for many people and has led to ignoring the mask mandate in some cases.

Places of worship, pharmacies, libraries and more have been excluded from the requirement because it is important not to cut people off from the services they need if they are not vaccinated, said Silvia Kinch, chief of the Montgomery County Labor Relations and Public Safety Division. .

How will it be applied?

Customers will be asked to show their vaccination card to workers in the restaurant, concert hall or other location where the mandate is in effect. There are currently no plans for an app or other technology to enforce the mandate.

Some council members raised concerns about people asking for exemptions and asked if the mandate could potentially place the burden on workers to be able to decipher whether someone is telling the truth about being exempted from getting vaccinated. against COVID-19.

Businesses would be asked to make reasonable accommodations for anyone who is determined to be exempt from getting vaccinated, Stoddard said – although having an exemption would not mean those customers would have the same access as vaccinated customers. . In the case of an unvaccinated person going to a restaurant, for example, they might not be able to sit inside but would be allowed to eat outside or come in wearing a mask to get a takeout order. , Kinch said.

What will be the vaccine requirement?

The proposal currently mirrors the Washington, DC proposal, which states that a fully vaccinated person received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Montgomery County’s proposal has a mandate to start in waves, with the first dose required by Jan. 22 and the second dose required by Feb. 15.

Albnoroz pointed out that the command seems a bit outdated without the inclusion of a callback requirement.

“That’s something we’re going to have to take note of,” Albornoz said. “Otherwise it’s just a
at best a symbolic gesture and not one that really has any real validity or effectiveness in terms of public health. »

The recall requirement could be added to the proposal, Stoddard said. They didn’t initially include it so it would have some congruence with DC’s proposal, but he said he thought it was a worthwhile addition, although it might add some complexity for workers in the restaurants and other places that need to determine if someone is eligible for a recall.

In Maryland, everyone 18 and older is eligible to receive a booster injection either 5 months after their second Pfizer or Moderna injection or two months after receiving the Johnson and Johnson injection. Marylanders between the ages of 12 and 17 can only receive a booster if they received their second Pfizer vaccine at least five months ago.

What happens next?

Tuesday’s meeting was just a presentation of the proposal. A working session where stakeholders can offer their comments and opinions will be scheduled, Albornoz said.

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