The weekly message from Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich can be seen, heard, and read below.
Message from the County Executive
We are continuing to see increases in the spread of the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus in the County and around the country. We are also seeing an increase in case and positivity rates. It is important to note that 77 percent of our newly confirmed COVID cases are unvaccinated individuals. And our local data indicates that people 20 to 40 years old who are unvaccinated are driving our new cases. To break that down, 36 percent of the cases are among people aged 20 to 39 and 12 percent of the cases are aged 10-19, meaning that 48 percent—or almost half—of the cases are among people aged 10 to 39.
Vaccinations are clearly protective, and Montgomery County continues to be in a good place with vaccination rates. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, 70.5 percent of our entire population is fully vaccinated and 83 percent of our eligible population (12 and older) is fully vaccinated. More than 90 percent of people 12 and older have had at least one dose of vaccine.
This is all good news, but it highlights the fact that the worrisome numbers are concentrated among the unvaccinated who are at great risk and are putting others at risk. The spread of the delta variant puts not only the adults who do not want to get vaccinated at risk, but it puts children under 12 and vaccinated adults with compromised immune systems in harm’s way. So, we will continue our efforts to increase vaccination rates.
This week, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) decided to mandate masks for students, faculty, staff and visitors in all schools. I support this decision. It is the best approach to minimize transmission of the virus and to keep our students, their families and MCPS staff safe. This school decision follows guidance from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Earlier this week the CDC recommended universal masking in indoor public spaces in jurisdictions that are experiencing “substantial” transmission rates. At this point, our transmission rate is “moderate,” not substantial. However, some nearby jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia and City of Alexandria, have hit “substantial” transmission rates. Today, the District renewed its indoor mask mandate. That is why our public health officer, Dr. Travis Gayles, and I will recommend to the County Council that we reinstate an indoor mask requirement if transmission rates hit a “substantial” level here in Montgomery County.
We could see these rates growing worse before they plateau and decline. Our high vaccination rates are not going to fully protect us. So, masking in schools and ensuring that all our friends, family, co-workers and neighbors are vaccinated, are important for everyone’s safety. Do it for you, but more importantly, do it for the people you care about.
Providing Rental Relief
We are making good progress getting much needed funding out to residents who need assistance. We have distributed almost $29 million since May 2020 to residents in need. Now we are actively working with the County’s Sheriff’s Department, which is providing a weekly list of those facing imminent evictions so that we can prioritize assistance to these most at-risk households.
Police Release Video From Tragic Police Shooting Of Ryan LeRoux
As you may know, earlier this week the Police Department released video footage of the police-involved shooting of Ryan LeRoux. Like many residents, I have questions about this incident. I am trying to understand how an incident that began calmly suddenly turned violent. I also want to determine whether there are tactical approaches that would minimize the creation of situations where officers find themselves at-risk and have to make split-second life or death decisions. We need a careful review of how this outcome might have been averted. My concern is that even if an event is deemed justifiable in that moment, it may not have been inevitable.
As County Executive, I have the responsibility of doing everything I can to prevent this from happening again. I have asked our partner, Effective Law Enforcement for All, Inc., an organization that is working with us on the Reimagining Public Safety Initiative, to work with the County as we conduct an “after-action” review of this and other incidents. These reviews will provide additional recommendations for policy and procedures, as well as any training needed to avoid similar situations.
This will not be a separate investigation into this incident, but a set of “case studies” in how we respond to situations and whether our tactics and procedures before, during and after incidents can and should be improved.
I continue to express our condolences to Mr. LeRoux’s family and friends. I also want to make it clear that we will continue to be transparent by communicating and engaging with the community about this incident throughout the legal process. It is important for every resident to have confidence that the police and other public safety professionals are committed to protecting them. Transparency builds trust, and trust is essential in our efforts to reimagine public safety.
The County Council earlier this week approved Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 19-07 to revise the procedures for the installation of telecommunications towers and antennas that can accommodate 5G technology. While I understand that some revisions to those procedures may be necessary, this ZTA does not provide the right balance, nor did the process address multiple community concerns. I had proposed, and continue to believe, that a workgroup of residents, industry and other representatives is needed to allow an opportunity to understand the complexities of the issue and to provide for meaningful community participation. You can read my entire statement here.
This week we also formally launched our new public safety radio system, which will improve public safety communications across the County and with neighboring jurisdictions. This system will increase reliability and connectivity. You can read more about it here.
Helping Businesses in Silver Spring and Valuing Our Diversity
In a 7-1 vote on Tuesday, the County Council passed legislation to allow the creation of a Business Improvement District (BID) in the downtown area of Silver Spring. Despite the positive sounding name, the proposal was strongly opposed by many small business owners in downtown Silver Spring. The BID, which would be financed by a mandatory tax on all businesses, is structured to give the power to property owners with the largest and most expensive property. That is why many small business owners have expressed great alarm about it. The Racial Equity and Social Justice Impact statement from the Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight explained it this way:
“The exclusion of residents from the SS BID Board, and the concentration of voting power for board members with the largest assets, shifts the power of public district decision-making from a stakeholder group representing diverse culture and income backgrounds to a stakeholder group that predominantly represents the interests of medium and large businesses. Granting greater voting power to board members with larger businesses also shifts decision-making power from People of Color-owned businesses to White-owned businesses as the later on average are larger than the former.”
You can read more about that here.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Councilmember Hans Riemer, when trying to make the case for the bill, said, “Who would want to join into an association where the people who are paying the most expense don’t have greater control?” I don’t believe that wealthier people or businesses should have greater control. I believe we can have an organization that represents and values the diversity of Silver Spring and that we can work together to address the issues in the area. This week, I joined Councilmember Will Jawando at a press conference to express our opposition to this bill and to announce that I will veto it. You can listen to the event here.
The Olympic Stars
We congratulate Montgomery County’s own Katie Ledecky on her multiple medals at the Tokyo Summer Olympics. We will continue to cheer for her and the other Montgomery County athletes competing in this year’s Olympics.