Montgomery Update: COVID-19: Where We Are Now—and Looking Ahead

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Montgomery Update: COVID-19: Where We Are Now—and Looking Ahead

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A message from County Executive Marc Elrich:

Dear Friends:

Yes, we are still thinking about vaccines a lot, and there’s some room for cautious optimism. While many of us do not yet have appointments to get vaccinated, we are making significant progress in the most vulnerable categories – as of today, more than 60 percent of our residents 75 and older have received at least one dose.

As of today, more than 137,000 Montgomery County residents have received at least their first dose of the vaccine.

That represents more than 13 percent of the County population. You can see more information on the County Vaccine Dashboard.

The vaccine distribution continues to be scattered with the county health department only receiving about one-third of the total doses that come to the county each week. (We get about 4,500 and the rest of the approximately 15,000 doses go to health care systems and pharmacies.) However, we were just told by the state that the County Health Department will continue to receive 4,500 doses each week for the next three weeks. This is far less than the need, but at least we can schedule in advance with knowledge.

We are still distributing vaccines according to the State tier system of priority groups. We are getting close to completing vaccinating frontline safety and health care workers and residents 75 and older. Within the next few weeks, we hope to begin reaching out to the next group of eligible residents, especially people 65 to 74. You can find the complete list of priority groups here. As a reminder, if you are in one of the current eligibility groups, you can preregister for a vaccine at a County clinic at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/vaccine/. And if you know someone who needs help preregistering, you/they can call 240-777-2982.

There’s also cause for optimism because the two current vaccine producers announced that they will be significantly increasing production, and approval for a new single-shot vaccine looks promising. We are hopeful these will bring more vaccines to the state and county and open the doors for more people to get vaccines quicker.

There are also encouraging signs that the efforts we have made to stay safe, are proving effective. Over the past 14 days, the positivity rate of residents tested has been 3.3 percent. That is about one-fourth of our peak rate. Over the past seven days, the number of new cases has averaged 10.8 per 100,000 residents. That is about one-fifth of our peak rate.

But we still have many more people awaiting a vaccine. We all need to be patient. We are going to get there.

As we make progress, we also starting to experience better weather. People are going to see the reduced rate of positive cases and will be ready to get out of their houses. Our businesses are going to be ready to welcome customers.

We are looking ahead—but we will be moving cautiously. Last summer the rate of positive cases decreased and then we reopened many things all at once. It did not take long before cases skyrocketed. This time, taking the guidance of our health officers, we likely will be opening fewer activities from the start.

Our next steps will be leaning toward outdoor activities and only indoor activities where there is better air circulation. These factors will influence our possible increases in the number of people who can attend certain events or be part of gatherings. We now know for sure that if an activity is indoors, and people are unmasked, the potential rate of transmission is higher.

We need to learn from our prior experiences, and unfortunately in some cases, some of those lessons were relearned. More than anything, our reopening moves will be guided by the state of the virus.

Things are getting better. There is room for optimism. If we all move cautiously, and do not forget our lessons of safety, spring and summer will be much better this year than they were in 2020. And that is a very good thing.

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