Weekly Message from the County Executive: By Using Less Salt on Roads and Sidewalks, We Stay Safe and Also Protect the Environment


Per Montgomery County:

  

“Dear Friends,

This week, and the new year, began with a jolt for some people in Rockville. For many others, the big surprise came when they learned that an earthquake had occurred early Tuesday morning.

Lakewood Country Club was at the epicenter of the 2.3-magnitude quake. At a depth of nearly 50,000 feet, this was the deepest earthquake recorded in Maryland going back more than 25 years and the largest in our area since a 3.4-magnitude earthquake that hit our entire region in the summer of 2010.

Thankfully, no damage or injuries were reported. Some people said it woke them from their sleep and others reported that it shook their entire house.

Since earthquakes almost always come without warning, knowing what to do when one does hit is important. That is why I am sharing these tips put out by our Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. The steps include 1) dropping to the ground, covering your head and neck with your arm or getting under something sturdy like a table to protect yourself; 2) Then staying put until the shaking is over. For those in a wheelchair or using a walker, the first step is to lock those devices before taking cover and holding on. If you are in bed during an earthquake, stay there, but cover your head and neck. Moving in the dark during an earthquake may be more dangerous than simply protecting yourself.

It is better to be prepared for an emergency than simply react to it. Sign up for Alert Montgomery to keep up with road closures, power outages and more directly through your cell phone.

Snow Preparations

The first potential winter storm of the season had crews preparing this week for the possibility of several inches of snow. We rely on official observation stations at the major airports to track snow and are approaching two years since recording even one inch of snow at Reagan National or Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Even if the snow does not materialize, it is important to be prepared for events that could leave you at home for days at a time. That can include preparing an emergency kit for your home or car. A three-day supply of food, water and medication is recommended, along with supplies to keep you self-sufficient if needed. With all storms, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s (MCDOT) prioritizes access to public health facilities on major roadways. Maryland DOT takes care of State roads, which include I-270, Route 29, Route 355 and others. The County is responsible for more than 200 plow routes across 5,200 miles.

During any storm, we ask that everyone avoid driving unless it is absolutely necessary. Crews on the road need room to lay salt or clear snow so please give them plenty of room to operate and be patient. This storm could bring some of us snow and others just rain, but gusty winds are expected across Montgomery County.

You can get up to date on our response by following the Winter Storm Informational Portal where you can find links to learn how the storm impacts all of our departments, programs and activities. Anyone signed up for Alert Montgomery will get update on delays and closures tied to bad weather sent directly to them. You can sign up here. 

Salt Wise Awareness  

With plenty of winter ahead, now is a good time to familiarize yourself with Salt Wise practices. While we encourage families to use salt to help quickly melt ice on sidewalks around your home to prevent slips and injuries, we also urge you to use the correct amount of salt. Excessive salt is bad for the environment and does not help with safety. The law requires homeowners and property owners to the clear those walkways within a few hours or days, depending on how heavy the snowfall.

The County recommends a three-step process to be Salt Wise. First, shovel snow right away before it thaws, freezes and hardens. Next, measure your salt and follow the guideline that a normal-sized coffee cup holding 12 ounces can melt 10 sidewalk squares. Finally, after the snow has stopped fallen, sweep up the excess salt on the ground and save it for next time.

Our environment benefits when we keep excess salt out of stormwater runoff and out of our waterways. Salt cannot be removed once it is streams and creeks. It can have devastating impacts on the natural habitat and creatures that depend on the tributaries. Salt is also a danger to pets and can damage plants and lawns. The salt can be a problem for drinking water. The Potomac and Patuxent rivers are a source for nearly two million people.

Remember to shovel, sprinkle and sweep to keep the impact from winter salt to a minimum. Visit mygreenmontgomery.org to learn about other ways to go green through the winter.

Community Health Report 

The seasonal impact of COVID-19 and all respiratory illnesses like flu and RSV is prompting new recommendations for staying healthy. Last week, the Maryland Department of Health issued new recommendations for all health care facilities after seeing elevated hospitalization rates over the last month.

Here in Montgomery County, we are seeing a rise in flu and COVID-19 and more COVID-19 cases in our hospitals.  

The new State recommendations direct staff and visitors to use facemasks in clinical settings like hospitals and medical offices. The Maryland Department of Health is not mandating the use of facemasks, but strongly recommends them. We are asking staff and clients visiting County clinics to wear masks as well.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, nursing homes were among the first to feel the impact in Montgomery County. Long before we had a vaccine, a disproportionate number of outbreaks and deaths came from congregate settings.

This population was our priority focus at the beginning of the pandemic and continues to be to this day.

Nearly 20 percent of COVID deaths in Montgomery County were in assisted living facilities. That is nearly 500 of our neighbors. In the County, there are more than 200 long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities. We worked closely with them to provide critically needed personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves and other items.

From the beginning of the pandemic through the initial vaccination process, we had a team of nurses detailed to work directly with facilities. We dedicated vaccine doses to these high-risk individuals and those who care for them.

On the County level, we have been working with our long-term care facilities to make sure they are prepared.  We continue to track vaccine rates, especially in places where many people live.

A few weeks ago, we started emphasizing how important 100 percent compliance was for these facilities and we have 14 facilities that now have at least 75 percent of staff and patients current on their vaccines. Four facilities have reached 100 percent compliance. I would like to see more of our facilities join this list and help keep the virus from spreading. If you do not think it is happening at long-term care facilities you visit regularly, then ask about it.

Serious complications from COVID-19 are often preventable, but we are seeing the highest transmission levels in nearly a year. This is not unexpected because we typically see a rise in cases through the winter. Remember to keep the most vulnerable people in mind and get your vaccinations. Also, practice good hygiene like washing your hands regularly and covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze and cough. If you do get sick, stay home, even if a COVID-19 test comes back negative.

Summer Camp Fairs to be Held Ahead of Opening of Registration

For some Montgomery County families, planning for the summer could begin over the next two weekends. Montgomery County Recreation will host two Summer Camp Fairs to give parents and children an idea of what to expect from some of the hundreds of programs available. The fairs will allow you to experience some of the games, activities, arts and crafts that make up the summer camp agenda.

The first Summer Camp Fair will take place Sunday, Jan. 7, at the Nancy H. Dacek North Potomac Community Recreation Center, located at 13850 Travilah Road in Rockville. Another one will be held Sunday, Jan. 14, at the East County Community Recreation Center at 3310 Gateshead Manor Way in Silver Spring. Both fairs will take place between 1-4 p.m.

The timing of the fairs will allow families to be ready for the start of summer camp registration, which begins at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16, for County residents. Make sure you have an Active Montgomery account so you can register online. Payments can be made in installments with 25 percent due at registration. Attending either fair will also give you the opportunity to register for Rec Assist, the department’s financial aid program, on site. This year, those who qualify for Rec Assist will have up to $400 per eligible applicant to spend on activities that require fees.

Washington Wizards Winter Reading Challenge 

I want to thank the Washington Wizards for once again leading a reading challenge for children and teens in Montgomery County, which began this week. The team has partnered with Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) and other area libraries to promote literacy. Last year, we had more than 850 participants through MCPL and are hoping to surpass that total in 2024.

The program is free to anyone who wants to register online and participate. It encourages young readers from 3 years old and up to meet reading goals to collect prizes. Children or parents can register online to earn badges and qualify for a raffle for two tickets to a Wizards home game on Friday, April 12, against the Chicago Bulls. Game boards for the challenge can be picked up at your nearest library or printed at home.

As a former teacher, I have seen the importance of making reading attractive and enticing for children. It is equally important for a teenager to continue reading. I have seen what happens when kids cannot, or struggle, to read. It is the foundation for our entire education system. Encouraging kids to read throughout the year helps them become better students. This program gives young readers even more reasons to visit and use our libraries.

‘Dry January’ Promotions

Now that all the revelry of the New Year’s and holiday celebrations are behind us, some people need a break. Montgomery County Alcohol Beverage Services (ABS) is helping those celebrating a “Dry January.”

Through the first month of the year, discounts will be available on many non-alcoholic beverages. There also will be tastings featuring alcohol-free drinks in stores across Montgomery County throughout January and recipes will be shared for mocktails to promote responsibility and moderation.

I am glad to see ABS offering 23 non-alcoholic products in its stores for those who prefer a different type of “adult” beverage. The list of options includes a just-released Mionetto zero-proof sparkling wine that has caught the attention of prosecco enthusiasts. Follow this link for a list of alcohol-free options available at the County’s retail stores.

Have a great week.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive

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AC Milan Soccer Camp at Maryland Soccerplex

AC Milan Academy is hosting a soccer camp at Maryland Soccerplex from March 1st through March 3rd for girls and boys aged 5 to 16 from any club who want to develop their soccer skills and learn the unique methodology of AC Milan directly from AC Milan coaches.

March 1st (Friday) 6pm-7:30pm

March 2nd (Saturday) 6pm-7:30pm

March 3rd (Sunday) 10:30am -12pm and 3:30pm-5pm

Location:18031 Central Park Cir, Boyds, MD 20841

Price: $349 + AC Milan Junior Camp Kit

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