Weekly Message from County Executive Marc Elrich
We continue to head in the right direction in terms of the number of cases, positivity rates and vaccination rates. We are the second lowest in terms of positivity rates in Maryland (and the lowest among the big counties) and the fourth lowest case rate in the nation amongst jurisdictions over 800,000.
And almost 50 percent of our residents have received both doses of Pfizer/Moderna or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, according to CDC data. Two weeks after we hit that 50 percent mark, we will follow the state of Maryland’s guidelines. (A person is considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after the second dose of Pfizer/Moderna or the single dose of J&J.)
I know that the Governor has announced an almost immediate end to virtually all restrictions other than indoor masking; but, here in Montgomery County, we have based reopening on vaccination rates, which are key to controlling the spread of the virus. We are very close to having half of our population fully vaccinated.
In the meantime, we are continuing to vaccinate as many people as possible. It is great news that 12- to 15-year-olds can now receive the Pfizer vaccine, and we have begun vaccinating them. In fact, earlier this week, as we waited for the final approval, we administered more Moderna in anticipation of a rush on Pfizer at the end of the week.
We remain concerned about people who are not getting vaccinated. We are reviewing the reasons that people may not be vaccinated. Some people are hesitant, and others need easier access. A recent Maryland Department of Health tracking poll outlines the most hesitant groups in the state.
Our libraries have been providing books via “Holds to Go” for quite a while already during this pandemic as well as eBooks, streaming movies and more. We’ve also provided free outdoor WiFi outside 10 libraries.
Along with libraries – our first two senior centers are also opening back up in mid-June for in-person activities while also expanding virtual programs. We will continue to reopen more libraries and recreation centers as quickly as we are able. We also announced a new program to help more low-income households access broadband service – more information is available here.
This pandemic has created and exacerbated the rent payment problems for many tenants. Fortunately, Governor Hogan’s Executive Order suspending evictions for tenants who have COVID-19-related income loss is still in effect and helps protect renters. It remains in effect until he lifts the state of emergency.
I joined with other leaders in the state urging the Governor to extend the protection beyond the end of the state of emergency because it will take people some time to get back on their feet even as we come out of this pandemic. More than 100 community and advocacy groups sent a similar request to the Governor – you can read their letter here. I am hopeful that the federal government will act to protect tenants but until then we need the state’s moratorium to be extended.
I also have some non-COVID-related issues I wanted to share with you. We have just announced a steering committee to develop the plans to provide better social and mental health support for our students in our schools.
This committee will work in the short-term to move new solutions forward as quickly as possible and within the next couple of months.
And I’m thrilled to report a public-private partnership that is an important step to help address climate change. We are creating an integrated microgrid and electric bus charging infrastructure at the Brookville Bus Depot in Silver Spring. This project will enable at least 44 Ride On buses to transition from diesel to electric, reducing lifetime emissions by over 155,000 tons. This is a major initiative in our effort to get to zero emissions by 2035.
Yesterday, the state announced changes to their proposal for managed lanes on I-495 and I-270. These changes are important and positive, and I want to thank Governor Hogan and the Maryland DOT for these changes. I remain concerned about other parts of the plan, which I explain in my statement.
In closing, I want to acknowledge that we are at the end of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting and prayer. Here is my full statement for this important moment.
I want to thank the Muslim members of our community for all their work and for helping make Montgomery County a wonderfully diverse County.
As always, thank you for your understanding and support.