Montgomery County imposes vaccine mandate


Graphic by Julianne Cruz

Earlier in September, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) passed a mandate requiring staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 29.

All MCPS employees had to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 29 under a new mandateone of many efforts to combat a global pandemic that the CDC reports has killed over 700,000 and infected over 44 million Americans. 

The resolution, passed unanimously by the MCPS Board of Education on Sept. 9, dictates that all MCPS staff—barring exceptions for those with documented medical or religious exemptions—must submit proof of full immunization against COVID-19 by Oct. 29. MCPS staff had previously been allowed to forgo vaccination in favor of compliance with weekly testing, but this option has been eliminated under the new requirements. 

MCPS staff who are in the process of vaccination but are not yet fully immunized must, in the meantime, comply with weekly COVID-19 testing, as must those who are exempt for medical or religious reasons. 

Because we interact with hundreds of other people a day in our schools, I agree that all MCPS staff should be vaccinated,” government teacher William Vicari said.  “Unless and until daily rapid testing becomes available on a wide scale, this is the best way to ensure the safest environment possible in our schools.”

However, new requirements have been met with some opposition. An online petition with over 1,000 signatures from those claiming to be MCPS teachers and staff has called for the Board of Education to reverse the decision. 

“We have a variety of reasons for declining to submit to COVID vaccinations,” the petition reads, “ranging from concern about its effectiveness to concerns about its side-effects, to our own personal health situations and history, to strongly held religious beliefs … For all of these reasons, we submit that the Board’s recent vaccine mandate is not only unwise for the sake of the school system, but it unlawfully infringes on our right to make our own medical decisions under threat of terminating our employment.“

Nonetheless, MCPS Department of Communications Director Chris Cram told WUSA9 that approximately 80 percent of MCPS employees—nearly 25,000 people—had received their vaccines as of late September.

MCPS has also announced that it will now offer religious exemptions to the mandate.

This follows a federal lawsuit filed by an unidentified administrative employeea devout Christian, according to Bethesda Magazinewho argues that the mandate is discriminatory and violates his constitutional rights.

“He holds the sincere belief that obtaining a COVID-19 vaccination would conflict with the edicts of his religion and, therefore, that obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine would constitute a sin in the eyes of God,” court documents state.

In addition to the requirements for school staff, the Board has mandated that all student athletes who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine must submit proof of vaccination in order to participate in school athletics, starting Nov. 15.

Another push to expand vaccinations in Montgomery County has been spearheaded by Montgomery County Council members Hans Riemer and Will Jawando, the Washington Post reports, who have introduced legislation that, if passed, would mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all county employees—approximately 9,000 individuals. Under the bill, those who fail to comply would be given 40 days to come into compliance before facing termination. 

These efforts follow several vaccine mandates issued by Maryland and the federal government. In August, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced COVID-19 vaccination requirements for healthcare workers and nursing home employees, according to

In early September, President Biden ordered that all businesses with more than a hundred employees require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing. President Biden also mandated vaccinations for large swathes of health care workers, as well as most employees of the federal governmentwith no option to instead comply with weekly testing. 

The Center for Disease Control’s COVID Data Tracker reports that, of those in Montgomery County 12 years of age or older (i.e. those currently eligible for the vaccine), 90.2 percent are fully vaccinated, and 96.6 percent of residents older than 65 years have been fully vaccinated as of Oct. 15.

These are significantly higher than nationwide rates, where 65.3 percent of the total population has received at least one dose and 66 percent of those over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated.

According to MCPS, there have been five confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Richard Montgomery High School. The most recent infected individual was last present in the building on Sept. 28. 

MCPS follows contact tracing guidelines of the Department of Health and Human Services. If MCPS determines that an unvaccinated student was exposed to COVID-19, the student’s family will be notified via a letter. The student must self-quarantine for ten days; quarantining students may not return to the building until the ten days have elapsed, regardless of any possible negative COVID-19 test during the ten-day period.