Weekly Message from the County Executive Marc Elrich 

Per Montgomery County:

Dear Friends,

President Biden visited Montgomery County this week. It was exciting to host him at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville. I want to extend my thanks to his administration, and our Congressional Delegation, for the landmark legislation that has been passed so far to help Montgomery County families recover and rebound from the COVID-19 health crisis. They will also help us reach our goals for combatting climate change, improving our transportation infrastructure, expanding broadband, and investing in health care and education.

President Biden helped us all by clearing the way for the widespread distribution of vaccines once they were available. His American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) put nearly $2 trillion dollars to work, making it easy for counties across the nation to get shots into arms, distribute treatments for COVID, and expand testing capabilities for all Americans.

In a recent county audit of ARPA funds, we determined that we have spent $193.1 million of the $204.1 million dollars allocated to Montgomery County. That includes $25 million for the Working Families Income Supplement Program, $13 million for minority health programs, and $8 million that helped businesses keep up with rent when revenues were lagging.

Receiving and allocating this much money so quickly is a difficult endeavor. I am proud of the collaboration between the County and our State and Federal partners to ensure that the money we received went to those most in need.

The American Rescue Plan was also behind remarkable job growth across the country. Last year, 6.5 million jobs were added nationally due to ARPA. Here in Montgomery County, we are seeing some of that growth in the life sciences industry. In the span of just a few months, about 3.5 million square feet of commercial space has been earmarked for labs and other biohealth purposes. We are now fourth in the nation for life science businesses and second in the nation for life sciences research talent, according to a recent report from CBRE.

The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provided historic investments in efforts to curb the impacts of climate change. This week, the Office of Management and Budget reported that the IRA “could cut the social costs of climate change by up to $1.9 trillion by 2050.” These Federal funds are critical to our county’s Climate Action Plan goals.

I am proud that, earlier this year, we were invited as an inaugural member to White House Building Performance Standards Coalition and were recognized for our aggressive efforts and legislative success regarding Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS). I hope we find similar success this fallwhen the County Counciltakes up our new building electrification legislative efforts.

President Biden this week announced a financial relief program for student debt for low- to middle-income borrowers. Student loan debt has skyrocketed, making it difficult for an entire generation to buy their first homes and to generate wealth and income. Student debt disproportionally impacts lower income and minority communities. It also discourages many people from going into public service careers such as teaching, nursing, social work or being a first responder. I applaud this effort to bring some Americans significant relief and I encourage qualified County residents with student debt to be aware and apply for these benefits.

President Biden, along with our Congressional Delegation of Senator Cardin, Senator Van Hollen, Representative Raskin, Representative Sarbanes, and Representative Trone have delivered time and time again for Montgomery County. We are honored to have the President visit, but, more importantly, we look forward to his administration’s continued support, engagement, and partnership on issues that reflect our values, our diversity, and our future.

New school year starts on Monday

The new school year starts Monday, making it a busy and exciting time for our schools, students, parents, teachers, and staff. When I was teaching, the week before school began was a busy time of preparation and anticipation to meet and work with new students. Ensuring that our schools and children are prepared for this transition back to the classroom is very important. This back-to-school checklist for parents from teacherlist.com is a handy resource for all families with children heading back to school.

This will be Superintendent Monifa McKnight’s first full school year as the new Superintendent. She and her administration, principals, teachers, and employees have been hard at work this summer developing a plan that adds reading specialists at every school and expands early education efforts to get more kids ready before kindergarten.

Dr. McKnight and her team have been working hard to address staffing shortages that have impacted every school system throughout our region, the State, and the nation. They have also continued to address school safety and the learning loss incurred by the students over the past two years because of missed time in class. They have reported that they will be assessing students and teachers to identify and address student needs through class instruction and targeted small group instruction.

I look forward to working with Dr. McKnight this year and joining her on a tour of some of the schools returning to class this coming Monday, including the new Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Gaithersburg. (pictured above)

This year, parents should know that there will be less emphasis on quarantines. If outbreaks occur (as they have the last two winters), the plan is to quickly identify positive cases, deal with them, and limit the disruption to classrooms and schools. I want to encourage all parents to vaccinate their children.

This Saturday is the County’s annual Back to School Fair at Westfield Wheaton from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services will host a free COVID-19 vaccination and immunization clinic. Many of the required immunizations to attend school, including Tdap and MCV4, will be available. Pre-registration is strongly recommended.

MCPS will offer free transportation to the fair from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. to and from the following high schools: Gaithersburg, Montgomery Blair, Paint Branch and Richard Montgomery.

COVID-19 community level status ‘low’ again

COVID-19 case rates once again are just over the 150 cases per 100,000 people mark, so we remain in the ‘low’ community level for the second week in a row—which is good news. When the previous school year ended in June, our case rate was nearly double what it is today.

  

There has also been a slight decline in our hospitalization rates in the last week. Week after week, I remind everyone about how important it is to be vaccinated and boosted. It helps lower hospitalization and mortality rates. Data shows the unvaccinated are three to four times more likely to need a hospital stay compared to the fully vaccinated. Boosted individuals are even more protected.

  

According to the CDC, 89 percent of our total population is fully vaccinated—which is the highest in the nation for a jurisdiction of our size and diversity. This has been an incredible accomplishment and we must continue to be vigilant and not give up on those who continue to refuse this protection.

The newest vaccine option—a protein-based vaccine developed by Novavax—is now available. It has been tested and deemed safe by Federal regulators. It differs from all the other vaccine options in that it is not based on mRNA technology. Please consider asking for it at your doctor’s office or sign up for an appointment on our website.

Our booster rates remain below 60 percent. This is a number that frustrates me. Getting boosted is easy, it is free at our health clinics, and usually there is no out-of-pocket cost for insured individuals who choose to go to pharmacies and other clinics. There are few jurisdictions in this region and State that continue focusing and messaging this as much as we do every single week, but we must not give up. In January—which is not that long ago–our hospitals were overwhelmed and it could happen again. Spikes in cases and hospitalizations are a result of new variants. The virus continues to mutate and evolve, which means being boosted and vaccinated is your best defense.

I do hope that the FDA approves the new booster shots created to address Omicron and its variants as soon as possible. It was good news this week that Pfizer and BioNTech announced they have asked the FDA to authorize an updated version of their COVID-19 vaccines. These new boosters are going to be critical in ensuring we do not see our healthcare system overwhelmed for a third winter in a row.

Monkeypox questions answered



Monkeypox, or MPX, cases have continued to rise with more than 400 now being reported in Maryland and more than 16,000 cases nationwide. On Monday, we held the County’s first virtual town hall on MPX to give the public more information about the County’s response and to answer questions from the community. Approximately 200 residents participated. I want to thank our DHHS team for putting together a successful and informative information session. We are still answering some of the questions we could not get to answer at the town hall. There are plans for more virtual town halls in the future.

Monkeypox continues to be considered a rare but contagious disease that is passed along most often from heavy skin-to-skin contact with someone who is infected. Kissing, cuddling, or sex have been known to spread monkeypox. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle or backaches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and bouts of exhaustion. Another telltale sign: a rash that can look like pimples or blisters. People are most contagious when the rash or lesions appear, typically lasting two to four weeks. Please take precautions and avoid being around people who are ill and symptomatic. Also avoid sharing items like towels, clothes, or blankets because that is another way the virus can spread.

Montgomery County is following CDC guidelines that were adjusted earlier this month to adopt a new vaccination method called intradermal. It is proven safe and effective and will allow more people to benefit from our vaccine supply. Close to three times the number of people seeking vaccines will be able to get them, and our supply has already been shipped. More than 2,800 people have pre-registered for the vaccine and we are in the process of training nurses and setting up clinics.

Please continue checking for the most current monkeypox information and details for future townhalls on our website.

The return of polio

In just the last few days, we learned that polio has returned to the U.S. after health experts declared it eradicated in 1979. In July, a New York City man was infected and paralyzed by the virus. Sewage samples taken following that diagnosis found that the virus had probably been spreading there for months.

I was among the first kindergartners lined up for a polio shot back in the 1950s. I remember looking back at the devastating impact polio had on families and communities and how important it was for everyone to get vaccinated when it was such a huge threat.

Polio’s 43-year absence was attributed to a global vaccination campaign. The incurable disease is preventable, but only by vaccination. Health experts believe the recent increase in anti-vaxxers has led to polio’s re-emergence. And there are pockets of America that are already resistant to vaccines and health care, leading experts to predict sporadic outbreaks of polio are possible.

Montgomery County soon will have the technology to monitor sewage water for traces of viruses like COVID-19 and polio. We are currently finalizing a wastewater detection program with the University of Maryland and other partners. This new system will allow us to respond quicker and alert the public earlier than we can now. This will be an important step for our public health efforts.

Update on ‘Streeteries’

As Labor Day approaches, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation is preparing to close two of our area Streeteries.

Streeteries have provided a practical solution to a pandemic-related problem. They served as much needed gathering spaces for restaurant customers during the height of the pandemic and provided a creative solution to community safety and social distancing issues. As the situation has changed, we have worked with the communities in each area to decide whether these spaces should continue to operate and in what capacity.

The Streetery on Newell Street in Silver Spring will reopen to cars after Labor Day. However, it will close to vehicular traffic for scheduled public events throughout the year. Plans for a new park have begun at the nearby former National Tire and Battery 1 acre site. A survey offers opportunity for community feedback on the design elements https://www.opentownhall.com/portals/260/Issue_12107 The Woodmont Avenue Streetery in Bethesda also will be suspended and partially reopened to traffic after Labor Day. That is needed for the construction of the long-planned and partially finished Woodmont Avenue Cycle Track.

Streeteries on Price Avenue in Wheaton and Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda will remain in operation after Labor Day.

‘Dog days’ of summer

“National Dog Day” will be observed on Friday, Aug. 26. It is a good time to remind you that our Montgomery County Animal Services & Adoption Center needs help to find loving homes for pets in need. All adoption fees will be waived for all animals through Aug. 31 during the annual “Clear the Shelters” adoption event.

Interested adopters can start the process by filling out a questionnaire online or in person. They will then be asked to email some items required for adoption or submit them in person. All adopters are required to provide a photo ID and rabies certificates for any currently owned cats, dogs, or ferrets (or County pet licenses, if applicable). For more information on how to adopt, visit https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/…/howtoadopt.html

Applications are processed in the order they are received. Once reviewed, interested adopters will be sent a link to schedule an appointment to meet potential new family members or, if completing the process in person, an appointment will be made. Walk-ins are accepted based on adoption counselor availability. If no counselors are available to meet with an interested adopter during the event, a voucher will be provided that will be valid through Sept. 8.

I want to thank NBC4/Telemundo 44 for its partnership with our shelter and its efforts to help these pets find families to care for them.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich

County Executive

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17th Annual Kensington Day of the Book Festival

Now in its 17th year, the Kensington Day of the Book Festival is a family-friendly street festival featuring 150+ renowned authors, poets, and literary organizations. Enjoy live music on five stages, special guest speakers, military veteran writers and comedians, poetry readings, cookbook demos, children's program, and much more.

Admission is free, and attendees will also be able to explore a marketplace of books and food offerings from local vendors.

Not your average book festival! This festival offers something for everyone!

17th Annual Kensington Day of the Book Festival

Sunday, April 21, 2024, 11am-4pm (held rain or shine!)

Howard Avenue, Kensington, MD 20895

www.dayofthebook.com

Instagram: @kensingtonbookfestival

Contact: Elisenda Sola-Sole, Festival Director

[email protected]

301-949-9416 (text preferred)

FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival

Get ready to experience the vibrant colors, tantalizing flavors, and infectious rhythms of the Caribbean at the FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival! Hosted by RHU LLC, this exciting festival is set to take place on May 18, 2024, at the picturesque 16700 Barnesville Rd in Boyds, MD.

Step into a world where the Caribbean spirit comes alive! From 12:00 PM onwards, immerse yourself in a sensory journey that celebrates the unique culture, cuisine, and music of the Caribbean. Whether you're an African American, a Reggae or Soca music enthusiast, a wine lover, or part of the vibrant Caribbean diaspora, this festival promises to delight and captivate you in every way.

Let the enticing aromas of mouthwatering Caribbean dishes tantalize your taste buds. Feast on traditional delicacies prepared by expert chefs, showcasing the rich and diverse culinary heritage of the Caribbean. Indulge in flavorful jerk chicken, succulent seafood, and delectable plantain dishes that will transport you straight to the islands.

Accompanying the culinary extravaganza is a carefully curated selection of premium wines, ensuring the perfect pairing for your palate. Sip on fine wines from renowned vineyards, each sip a reflection of the Caribbean's vibrant spirit. Discover new flavors, expand your wine knowledge, and savor unforgettable moments with every glass.

As the sun sets, get ready to groove to the infectious rhythms of Caribbean music. Feel the pulsating beats of reggae, soca, dancehall, and calypso, moving your body to the lively melodies. Live performances by talented musicians and performers will keep the energy high, ensuring a night of unforgettable entertainment.

Don't miss this opportunity to embrace the Caribbean spirit and celebrate the arrival of spring in style! Tickets are available on AllEvents, so secure your spot today. Join us at the FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival, where cultures collide and unforgettable memories are made.

LIVE PERFORMANCES By: CULTURE Feat. Kenyatta Hill, EXCO LEVI, IMAGE BAND, RAS LIDJ REGG'GO with Special Guest SUGAR BEAR FROM E.U. & MORE! & MORE!

MUSIC By: DJ ABLAZE, DJ SMALLY & NAJ SUPREME

2 NIGHT Camping packages available: RV/CAMPER $200 | TENTS $150 Starting on Friday May 17 @ 5pm | 30 RV SPACES | 30+ TENT SPACES

KIDS 12 & UNDER FREE!!!

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