Message From County Executive Marc Elrich

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Message From County Executive Marc Elrich

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Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich is encouraged that the County is making good progress in lowering the rate of COVID-19 infections and that it is gradually getting vaccines to residents.

However, he thinks safety precautions must continue to be followed and is concerned by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s surprising announcement that he will end most State restrictions starting Friday. 

Below is his message, released earlier today:

Dear Friends,

Governor Hogan on Tuesday made a surprise announcement that on Friday, he would end most of the restrictions that are in place to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It almost felt as though spring fever clouded some good judgement. Yes, more people are getting vaccinated, and yes, our case counts are down. However, only about 20 percent of our population is vaccinated, and our case count is still significantly higher than it was this past summer, as you can see on the County COVID dashboard. Maryland is one of only two states (as of yesterday) where all three new variants of the Covid-19 virus have been found.

Clearly, continued careful balance is in the best public interest—this is not a time to throw caution to the wind. I support increased re-opening, but it needs to be done deliberatively and carefully. At least part of the reason our County has reduced infection and hospitalization rates is because of our efforts—guidelines and restrictions that keep interactions minimized—and because of our residents, who understand why it is important to follow these rules and regulations.

Here in Montgomery County, our situation is improving, but our situation is still precarious and we should not jeopardize it. I am not inclined to follow the guidance of the Governor’s newly appointed health adviser, who was an integral part of the Trump Administration’s COVID response team. We have been patient for the past 12 months, and we have managed to have some of the lowest rates of infection. This is not the time for reckless behavior.

Additionally the three new variants—all of which have been seen in Maryland—are very concerning. They seem to spread faster and more easily, which could lead to more COVID-19 cases, according to the Federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC also said, “An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially, more deaths.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/transmission/variant.html

Recent guidance from the CDC is very clear that restrictions on indoor dining help reduce the spread of covid. So do mask requirements.

“Mask mandates and restricting any on-premises dining at restaurants can help limit community transmission of COVID-19 and reduce case and death growth rates.” You can read more about its guidance at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7010e3.htm?s_cid=mm7010e3_w

Even some of our restaurant owners who are struggling to keep their businesses successful understand the risk to reopening too quickly. This article from WTOP explains the concern of one local owner. https://wtop.com/montgomery-county/2021/03/md-restaurant-owner-criticizes-states-reopening-plan-reflects-on-past-year/

On a promising note, the County health department has begun vaccinating people 65 and older. We have been able to move to this category because most people 75 and older have either been vaccinated or have received an invitation to schedule an appointment. We also will soon be vaccinating frontline and essential workers. We continue to ask the State to locate a mass vaccination site here in the most populous County in the State—we are ready to host it and get people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Even for those who have been vaccinated, the CDC is still uncertain about how well the vaccine prevents the spread of COVID-19 if you do not have symptoms. It is still determining how long the vaccine is effective. For these reasons, everyone in public places should continue to follow the guidelines of physical distancing, hand washing and wearing a mask, as is detailed at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/keythingstoknow.html.

I know that trying to get a vaccine appointment continues to be time consuming and frustrating. As you may know, the County health department receives a very limited amount of doses from the State—only about 4,500 each week for the more than 100,000 people in our County who are not yet vaccinated, but are eligible for a dose. The State has sent doses to a variety of other sites, and each one requires separate registration. We continue to ask for a more streamlined process, but we do not have one yet. Please do not let the frustration overtake you. We will all be vaccinated—it just will take some time. I am hopeful that, by summer, we will all be vaccinated. It is only a few more months—we will get there.

I hope all of you are able to get outside a little in this beautiful weather. It helps lift the spirits and maintain a sense of balance.

Again, thank you for your continued support and understanding.

Marc Elrich

County Executive

P.S. Despite it all, our County government continues to operate and innovate. Here is a link to my State of the County message from last week, in case you missed it. And Monday, I will send my recommended Fiscal Year 2022 Operating Budget to the County Council for its consideration. It will be available on the County website on Monday and under review by the Council for the next two months.

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