Md. legislators prepare to vote on statewide school mask mandate
MARYLAND – In just two weeks, a statewide mask mandate in Maryland’s schools could become a reality. Last week, the state Board of Education voted to mandate the masks in every public school. At this point, all but three counties in Maryland have a mask mandate in their schools. Two of those counties are Dorchester and Somerset Counties. But before that becomes law of the land, Maryland’s legislators need to give it final approval. The Maryland General Assembly’s Joint Administrative, Executive & Legislation Review Committee will be voting on whether or not to approve the mandate on September 14th.
Local legislators on the committee say they’re busy preparing for the upcoming vote, and some have already made up their minds. “When we look at a mask to be worn that is really lightweight and it adds a safety measure to save lives, this needs to be mandated. So, on September the 14th I will be voting in favor of the mask mandate,” said Speaker Pro Tem Sheree Sample-Hughes.
Speaker Pro Tem Sample-Hughes says it’s important to make sure every school district is better prepared to deal with COVID-19 this year than last. “What do you do if all of the children are affected and have COVID, and then we’re looking at other measures where they’re not even in the school building? Last year it was very well known that a lot of the parents wanted their kids to return to school. But, we were trying to figure out how, safely, to do that,” said Speaker Pro Tem Sample-Hughes. “This is an area where we can make a difference. If we can at least use the knowledge that we have that masks work, and help safeguard to some degree, then we need to do that, and it’s time to move forward.”
Speaker Pro Tem Sample-Hughes also points to the fact that hospitals are already struggling with the burden of COVID-19 patients. She says mandating masks in schools will only help to alleviate that. “This is real. People are losing their lives, and we need to take it as serious as it is. To that degree, and understanding how vital are resources are that we have, and how scarce our resources are to help keep people healthy. We need to be respectful of all those things,” said Speaker Pro Tem Sample-Hughes.
But, other legislators on the committee say they have some questions and concerns they would like to see addressed before they cast their final vote. State Senator Addie Eckardt says districts have already been working with county health officials to come up with mitigation strategies on their own. “I have serious concerns that after those plans went in effect, that the state board kind of superseded all of those plans, and made a decision just straight across the board,” said Sen. Eckardt. “In our rural areas for many of our schools a one size fits all doesn’t quite work as well as individual policy based on the needs.”
Sen. Eckardt also says she worries about lulling people into a false sense of security if masks are mandated. “Will we send a message to everybody that because masks are worn it will give folks a false sense of assurance? And we will have more kids coming to school sick?” said Sen. Eckardt. “I think it’s an individual decision to take the vaccine or to wear the mask. I think it’s a personal responsibility, and I would like to see people exercise that personal responsibility for the greater good,” said Sen. Eckardt.
The committee vote will be happening virtually on September 14th.