Per Montgomery County:
I am very thankful to live in Montgomery County and I hope you are too.
Thanksgiving is traditionally a day when we gather with family and close friends. For the last two years, many of our Thanksgiving gatherings have been smaller and closer to home. AAA is predicting that travel this holiday will be close to pre-pandemic levels with nearly 55 million Americans on the move.
We are grateful that we are in a better place than where were, but we must not be complacent. We cannot forget that COVID-19 is still a threat, and we are currently in middle of tri-demic as we see COVID rates predicted to increase, RSV is impacting our emergency rooms and we are seeing one of the worst beginnings of the flu season in over a decade. Please read this article in The Washington Post that details how our hospitals are filling up and are still facing staffing shortages.
As we gather again for holiday memories, continue to focus on your health and the health of your loved ones—especially the elderly, children and those with pre-existing conditions. Get your flu shot and the new bivalent booster. Remember to test yourself for COVID before getting together with others. If you are feeling ill, stay home and away from getting others ill.
By considering the health of others first and foremost, you will be providing others plenty of reasons to be thankful for your thoughtfulness.
Providing Thanksgiving Meals to Those in Need
Nourishing Bethesda was started during the pandemic when organizers realized too many families were dealing food insecurity because of hard economic times. Nutritious food options were sacrificed for the cheaper options so that families to meet other financial obligations. Nourishing Bethesda stepped in to assist and began collecting healthy meals weekly for those in need. It estimates that around 1,000 people were receiving meals at the height of the pandemic. Today, it still has around 500 clients.
There are many organizations like Nourishing Bethesda helping those with needs throughout Montgomery County. Every organization is always in need of donations and volunteers. If you would like to give your time or money, please visit the County’s Volunteer Center by clicking here.
I also want to thank our Ddepartment of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for its efforts to provide food baskets for Thanksgiving to nearly 12,000 families who have been referred by case workers, school counselors, churches, and community-based nonprofits. This department’s continued successful outreach, engagement, and partnerships to provide resources to those most in need is greatly appreciated.
More Than $100,000 Raised for Impacted Residents of Gaithersburg Condo Complex
I continue to keep the families in Gaithersburg displaced by last week’s fire and building collapse in my thoughts and I hope you do the same. Approximately 50 people have either lost their home or cannot return home due to the explosion, including 10 children. I can only imagine how difficult it is for these families to deal with losing everything. That is why your help is so important.
I want to thank all who have donated to support these families through the Montgomery Housing Partnership. These donations are going directly to the displaced and impacted families. So far, around $100,000 has been collected and these residents need every dollar to help them get back on their feet. The website is https://mhpartners.org/gaithersburgfire/. There also is a QR code that can get you there directly. I urge you to donate if you can. It will mean so much to these families.
I am also very appreciative of the response of our Fire and Rescue Service, Police Department, Emergency Management and Health and Human service departments, as well as the Red Cross and the City of Gaithersburg. The police investigation determined that this disaster was a result of a suicide. Police investigators report that there is no indication that the individual who killed himself meant to harm others.
This tragedy is a reminder of how important it is to look for signs of mental health distress. I encourage anyone who is thinking about suicide or aware of someone who needs help, to call 9-8-8, the new national suicide prevention hotline. Montgomery County also runs a 24-hour crisis center you can reach by contacting 240-777-4000. The holiday season is often a difficult time for those who are isolated, alone, or depressed. It is imperative that we reach out and attempt to get help to those who are in need.
Final Audit Report of Montgomery County Police Department Released
I was joined by Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones last week to release the final results of an audit of the Montgomery County Police Department conducted by Effective Law Enforcement for All. Here is a link to that announcement.
The audit was done to help identify and address crucial issues to public safety, accountability, transparency, public trust and equitable law enforcement. We began working to reimagine public safety well before we saw a summer of protests and calls for action in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
I called for the audit because I wanted us to address important issues that we have hearing about for a long time—like training—so officers are better able to deal with situations such as de-escalating situations.
This report, which took an extensive look at the department from body camera footage to interviews up and down the chain of command, does not sugarcoat anything. The report makes a number of important recommendations, and I want to mention some of those especially related to mental health.
More than one-third of the people in our jail suffer from mental health issues making the jail the County’s No. 1 mental health facility. Jails were not meant or designed to be places for the mentally ill. It really concerns me that far too many people who need help end up with a criminal record before we try to help them. This is something that we must change.
Tying up police officers with mental health and addiction calls is not the best use of resources. New cadets and existing officers will be exposed to new training methods meant to help temper violent encounters. We also want to use the data we collect to identify patterns in officer behavior that can be used like red flags to prevent bias, hostility or anger issues from impacting our community.
I want to thank MCPD, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force and Effective Law Enforcement for All that took part in this audit to identify where the police department has strengths and where it can improve. To watch video of these recommendations, click here. To read the full report, click here.
Tri-Demic Threat Met with Trifecta of Responses
Whether it is COVID-19, Monkeypox, RSV or the flu, Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services continue to utilize a three-pronged approach of education, prevention and awareness to respond to these ongoing health threats.
Montgomery County continues to be in “Low” community level this week, according to the CDC. Our case rates per 100,000 residents are hovering in the 80’s, with our hospitalization rate from COVID at 7.02 per 100,000 residents. Despite this good news, we are still concerned about our holiday gatherings and a winter surge of cases as we have witnessed over the last two years. Our best defense against that surge is making sure you receive the bivalent booster.
Recent media reports, such as this CNN article about the Moderna bivalent booster and this New England Journal of Medicine article, have chronicled the success of the new bivalent boosters being “significantly higher” than the original vaccine and boosters citing “a 15-fold increase in Omicron BA.4/BA.5 antibody levels from pre-booster levels.” These new bivalent boosters have a 93 percent efficacy rate as compared to 85 percent efficacy rate of the original vaccine and boosters.
So far only 23.1 percent of our eligible population has received a bivalent booster. We need to increase this number. If you have already received the new booster, encourage your family and friends to do so well.
This flu season is heading to be one of the most severe we have seen in more than a decade. The CDC estimates that, so far this season, there have been at least 4.4 million illnesses, 38,000 hospitalizations and 2,100 deaths from flu already nationally. The cumulative hospitalization rate currently sits at 8.1 per 100,000, which is the highest at this point in the season since the 2010-11 season.
As you can see from this graphic of flu associated hospitalizations in the State, we are at a level 200 times higher at this time of the year as comparted to the last three years. Getting the flu shot is the best way to protect from severe illness and death, but vaccine uptake has been sluggish in comparison with previous flu seasons during the COVID-19 pandemic. CDC data shows that flu vaccinations among pregnant women are much lower compared to previous seasons. Receiving a flu shot can lower a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized from flu by around 40 percent, according to the CDC. There are also prescription flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu illness; those need to be started as early as possible.
RSV continues to be a concern as well. During the past week, we have had 150 pediatric and 42 adult cases hospitalized with RSV in the State. That is more than three times higher than this time last year. An overwhelming majority of these cases are among most vulnerable populations—those under 2 and over 65.
Those at greatest risk for severe illness from RSV include
- Premature infants
- Very young infants, especially those 6 months and younger
- Children younger than 2 years old with chronic lung disease or congenital (present from birth) heart disease
- Children with weakened immune systems
- Children who have neuromuscular disorders, including those who have difficulty swallowing or clearing mucus secretions
- Older adults, especially those 65 years and older
- Adults with chronic heart or lung disease
- Adults with weakened immune systems
For more information about preventing Covid, Flu, RSV and monkeypox, visit our Department of Health and Human Services webpage.
Montgomery County’s Human Rights Hall of Fame Inducts Six New Nominees
We welcomed six new inductees last weekend into the Montgomery County Human Rights Hall of Fame: Daryl Davis, Rev. Dr. Philip Davis Sr., Dr. Jeremiah Floyd, Janice Freeman, Willie Pearl Mackey King and Chuck Short.
The Human Rights Hall of Fame honors individuals who have made great personal sacrifices in contributing to human and civil rights in Montgomery County, either as trailblazers of the past or as current light bearers in the struggle. These six people dedicated their lives to doing just that, while also carving out paths that make our County more equitable and fairer.
The newest inductees epitomize why the County’s Human Rights Hall of Fame was created and were recognized for their visionary leadership and outstanding achievements.
- Darryl Davis dedicated his life to ending the existence of the KKK. His efforts lead to chapters of the Klan dissolving and convinced more than 200 KKK members to turn in their robes.
- Rev. Dr. Phillip W. Davis Sr., who sadly passed away this past July shortly after his 100th birthday, was a World War II veteran, entrepreneur and the Senior Pastor for the Inter-denominational Church of God for nearly 40 years.
- Dr. Jeremiah Floyd is currently the first vice president for the Montgomery County branch of the NAACP and a member of the Human Rights Commission. Dr. Floyd has worked for the academic success of minority students. He was the third-ever African American on the Board of Education and also served as the associate executive director of the National School Boards Association.
- Janice Freeman is the co-founder and current president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Montgomery County. She is also a County Office of Human Rights Commissioner and was also the co-founder and organizer of the annual Minority Legislative Breakfast.
- Willie Pearl Mackey King was a former secretary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She transcribed smuggled notes from Dr. King, who was jailed, that led to publication of a “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” She has been instrumental as an activist in Montgomery County’s pursuit for social justice.
- Charles L. “Chuck” Short has 50 years of experience leading and administering local government, private nonprofit and faith-based programs, including 13 years of experience as senior advisor to two Montgomery County Executives.
JI hope you join me in congratulating these six new inductees. To learn more about the Office of Human Rights and all of our Human Rights Hall of Fame inductees, click here.
Apartments to Condos: Takoma Park Tenants Buy Their Own Apartment Building
The Leeland Tenants Association in Takoma Park recently signed an exciting agreement that will allow them to keep their homes rather than risk losing them due to escalating rent prices, as noted in this Greater Greater Washington blog from September.
Part of the financing comes from the County via the County’s new Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund. Other community partners were critical in this arrangement including Mi Casa. I also want to thank Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart and Delegate Lorig Charkoudian for their important efforts.
The agreement allows the tenant association to convert their apartment complex into a limited equity co-op structure. The Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund is designed to provide critical, readily available funding to acquire properties to preserve affordability and protect renters from displacement. In this case, the tenants bought their own building to convert it into a co-op structure. I am very pleased because expanding homeownership—which is the key to creating wealth—is an important goal of my administration and important part of a successful affordable housing strategy.
I am proud of this and many other projects we have in the works to protect, preserve and produce more affordable housing in our community. I believe we will be able to expand those efforts in the new year with the help of a new County Council.
Holiday Shopping: Gifting Outside the Box and Supporting Small Businesses
By Friday of this week, we will all be turning our attention toward the holiday gift giving season. That is why the County’s Department of Environmental Protection has launched its sixth annual “Gift Outside the Box” campaign. The idea is to provide recommendations and strategies for gifts that while also remaining environmentally conscious. This week, we launched the campaign at the County recycling center in Derwood to promote more sustainability gift giving. Check out this WUSA9 report about our efforts.
We are encouraging you to think of gifts that do not need to be wrapped. These could be experiences, including classes, music lessons and event tickets. Don’t forget that some of the most appreciated gifts are donations to local charities in the name of a family member or friend. And remember to reduce, reuse and recycle. Consider gifts made from recycled or reused materials, regift items not used from last year and reuse or recycle the paper. Try to use reusable gift bags and cloth instead of wrapping paper.
So, let’s all try to lessen the impact on landfills this holiday season.
Another great way to help our environment, as well as boost our local economy, is to buy local. On Saturday, small businesses around the nation will get a boost from the annual “Small Business Saturday” campaign.
Did you know that 1.6 times more capital stays in the local community than when spent at a chain business, and six times more capital stays in the community than went spent online, like on Amazon?
Visit Montgomery has put together its list of best local shops for holiday shopping.
I will be stopping at several shops around Montgomery County on Saturday. Please include small businesses in your holiday plans and help one of the biggest drivers of our local economy—our small business owners.
Inauguration Day Festivities
On Monday, Dec. 5, at 11 a.m., the inauguration ceremony for my second term and our 20th County Council will take place at Strathmore in North Bethesda. Tickets are free to the public, but you must register on-line at Strathmore.org and may be required to show proof of on-line registration when you arrive.
Later that evening, we will be hosting our In-ALL-gural Party at the Fillmore in Silver Spring from 7:30-11 p.m. This party will feature an after-dinner reception, live music and lots of fun. Tickets are $75 and proceeds after costs will benefit The Collaboration Council in its efforts to improve the well-being of children, youth and families in Montgomery County.
As always, my appreciation for all of you,