Montco recommends masking outdoors in certain settings, regardless of vaccination status

People wait to cross the street, some wearing face masks

People wait to cross the street in downtown Chicago, Ill., Saturday, May 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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If you find yourself in a crowded outdoor setting or in close contact with people who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Montgomery County officials are recommending that you mask up.

The recommendation, made by county commissioners in consultation with the Office of Public Health, is directed toward the general public, regardless of vaccination status.

Montgomery County, and the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is experiencing high levels of community transmission of the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The county’s masking guidance aligns with the CDC’s recommendations in areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases.

“This means wearing a mask when outdoors if you cannot stay at least 6 feet apart from people who do not live in your household,” county officials said in a statement on Friday.

The new guidance, officially in effect beginning Monday, Sept. 6, aims to “maximize protection from the delta variant,” per the county.

Montco continues to recommend mask-wearing in indoor public spaces. Masks are required for staff and visitors to all county buildings and facilities.

County officials also continue to emphasize that “vaccination is the most important public health action to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”

COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective at preventing illness and death, but the delta variant spreads more easily than earlier variants of the virus, County commission chair Dr. Val Arkoosh previously explained.

Where an earlier variant of the virus infected two to three people on average, the delta variant is seeing an average of five to eight people infected, and vaccinated people may be able to spread the virus without necessarily showing symptoms.

Though the majority of people getting sick from COVID-19 are unvaccinated, Arkoosh said everyone must help mitigate the spread of the highly contagious delta variant. In addition to getting vaccinated, that means wearing face masks.

Residents interested in registering for the vaccine by phone may call the Montgomery County COVID-19 hotline at 833-875-3967. A list of county-run vaccine clinics can be found online.

For immunocompromised individuals, Montco is now accepting appointments for a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

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