Weekly Message from the County Executive Marc Elrich

by Patrick Herron

Per Montgomery County:

Dear Friends,

Today I met with our newest Montgomery County Police Department officers as we graduated our 74th class and welcomed 11 new officers to the department and 4 new deputies to the Sheriff’s Office.

I thanked them, and their families, for their willingness to serve and congratulated them on passing the rigorous standards and training it takes to become a sworn officer. I reminded them of the importance of their role and the new measures we’re taking as a County to make sure we address the pressures and strains facing police officers today. It’s one reason why we’ve devoted more money in this year’s MCPD budget supporting programs like Crisis Intervention Training and making sure things like post-traumatic stress sometimes experienced by our officers are addressed by mental health professionals.

And for too long, our police officers were among the lowest paid in the state. I tried two years ago to raise their salaries but was unable to get approval from the Council at that time due to the onset of the pandemic. I am very pleased that we were able to increase police pay in this year’s budget. providing a bump of approximately 10% in salaries. This not only shows them how much they are appreciated but also will help us be more competitive in recruiting new officers.

We are experiencing a situation similar to many places across the nation with major challenges when it comes to hiring and retaining well qualified employees for some critical jobs. With less than a month before the start of school, Montgomery County Public Schools leaders are still struggling to fill hundreds of positions that remain vacant. Just this week, Dr. McKnight announced that MCPS currently has 500 vacancies to fill before the beginning of the school year, including more than 150 positions for teachers.

As a former teacher, I can tell you that it is a tremendously rewarding job. Even though I’ve been out of the classroom for a long time, there are students I still keep in touch with. If you’re in need of work and are qualified, I encourage you to apply and see if working in our schools is the right path for you. Please share this link if you know of someone who can help fill one of these critical roles in our schools.

Another critical need is in the field of nursing.As with police and teaching jobs, a special kind of devotion is needed to truly excel as a nurse, but the pandemic seems to have taken a toll as we’ve reached a point where 1 in 4 positions across Maryland are vacant. A new report by the Maryland Hospital Association found that 5,000 full-time registered nurses and 4,000 licensed practical nurses are needed. These shortages will certainly add an additional strain on handling future community health threats in the future. We will continue to work with Montgomery College, Universities at Shady Grove, Worksource Montgomery and other organizations to help address these needs.

Feds delay Governor Hogan’s plans for 270/495 toll project

The I-270/I-495 project is back in the news this week. Last Friday, Governor Hogan announced the Federal Highway Administration’s intent to delay a decision on the 270/495 toll plan to allow for a deeper review of the project.

Last month I sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg asking him to allow more time for review of this overly complicated and expensive proposal. Twenty-four members of the county’s state delegation also asked for the additional time.

An editorial published this week by the The Baltimore Sun agrees that a short delay now will likely get us a better product in the long-term. When Governor Hogan first proposed his plan, I credited him for trying to address the problem. However, I also pointed out – and continue to point out the need to improve the plan. Early on, I said that the plan needed to begin at the choke point of the American Legion bridge, with a complete solution all the way to Frederick. Unfortunately, the current plan does not do that. I have also continued to call for reversible lanes so that we have the lane capacity we need without overbuilding. This op-ed I published in The Washington Post last year details my thoughts on this project.

It also makes sense to delay this major decision until we have a new Governor in office. This project is too important to our infrastructure, our economy, and our future – we must get this right.

Urban Heat Mapping Begins in Montgomery County

Recently the U.S. Senate passed the largest and most comprehensive bill in our nation’s history to combat climate change as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. We are still waiting to find out what this means in terms of funding for Montgomery County projects and efforts, but this is progress.

The bill includes tax credits to support electric vehicles, solar panels, and weatherizing homes. As someone who drives an electric car and recently installed solar panels on my house, I can confirm that the tax credits were a useful incentive. I hope the tax credits in this bill will help others who would like to move toward cleaner energy as well.

While we’re thrilled that the federal government is acting, we have not been waiting for them to do so. Montgomery County has one of the most aggressive climate action plans in the nation. Our goal is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 100 percent by 2035 – 10 years ahead of the state’s goals.

Last Sunday, I joined volunteer “street scientists” to collect temperature data from their neighborhoods. As part of our Urban Heat Mapping Campaign, 115 volunteers from across Montgomery County collected temperature, humidity, time, and location data using heat sensors mounted onto their cars. The street scientists covered an area of about 200 square miles in Montgomery Countyin densely populated areas like Gaithersburg, Germantown, Rockville, Silver Spring, Fairland, and Olney.

Our effort is one of 15 campaigns taking place in communities across the United States this year. When it’s complete, the information collected will produce maps and information that we can use to build resilience to extreme heat. Low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by extreme heat; these local maps will help the County identify where we can take action to protect vulnerable neighborhoods both now and in the future.

Final maps and data will be made available when completed on Montgomery County’s climate website and on Heat.gov.

COVID-19 community level remains “High:”




Case rates and the rising number of hospitalizations in our area linked to Covid continue to be a concern. Case rates continue to be above 200 per 100,000 people and there are now more than 150 area hospitalizations. We remain in the “High” level of community transmission.

Earlier I mentioned nursing shortages at Maryland hospitals. As our hospitals work to increase their staffing, we must do whatever we can to prevent individuals from being hospitalized with COVID. We continue to recommend the use of masks in congregate settings as well as inside public areas like grocery stores and shopping centers.

Nearly 90 percent of our total population in Montgomery County is fully vaccinated, but our booster rates continue to hover below 60 percent. We need everyone to get boosted if eligible.

Routine testing is also important, and the proliferation of rapid tests has been very helpful to our efforts. This week we saw an increase in the number of free rapid tests distributed at Montgomery County libraries. Over 35,000 tests per week are being taken home. That is a significant increase over recent weeks and likely reflects many families going on or coming home from vacations as well as stocking up for the return to school. If you picked up rapid tests months ago and are worried about the expiration date on them, the federal government recently extended the initial expiration date by six months.

Most jurisdictions stopped handing out free rapid tests months ago – we never stopped and do not plan to until we finally get this virus under control. I want to continue to thank our library employees, a emergency management, HHS, and procurement teams for their work in making rapid tests available.

NOVAVAX vaccines arrive at County HHS Department:

Gaithersburg’s own Novavax Covid vaccines are now available. The Novavax vaccine is a traditional, protein-based vaccine which differs from the other Covid vaccines. This is an important distinction because it was produced using the technology used for vaccines to prevent shingles, heptatitis B and flu. We hope this will encourage those unvaccinated in our county to give the Novavax vaccine a shot.

Anyone 18 or older who has not yet been vaccinated for COVID-19 can get the Novavax vaccine. It’s a two-dose series, with the second shot given three weeks after the first.

DHHS is offering Novavax by appointment only. To preregister for an appointment, please follow this link or contact 240-777-2982. We will also be setting up clinics once we have a better sense of the demand.

MPX (Monkeypox) Update

 



Last week, the Biden administration declared Monkeypox (MPX) a national health emergency. Here in Maryland, there are now more than 200 cases recorded and more than 300 in DC. Nationally over 9,000 people have been diagnosed.

At this time, federal health leaders in charge of our strategic national stockpile are determining how many vaccines are available in each state and area. We have more than 1,300 people preregistered for a vaccine and by the end of the week around 300 will have received a shot.

Residents who believe they have been exposed to monkeypox should contact their health care provider or a community provider such as an urgent care center. Those without a health care provider can also call the Disease Control Program at 240-777-1755.

We are in the planning stages of a virtual town hall on monkeypox, scheduled for Monday, August 22nd, and will have more details available soon. I encourage any residents who have concerns or questions about monkeypox to join us at this important meeting.

Antisemitic Graffiti Found Along Bethesda Trolley Trail

Hateful messages, including swastikas and the phrase “White Power” were spray painted on a fence along the Bethesda Trolley Trail this past weekend.

Disgusted by the report, I went out to trail to see this vandalism myself on Sunday. By the time I arrived, County crews had already painted over the markings. And before our County crews could even arrive to clean it up a good Samaritan started painting over these horrible images. I want to thank this person as well as our County Department of Transportation employees for their quick work in removing these hateful images. Police are currently investigating, and we will prosecute those responsible. I encourage anyone with any knowledge of or information about this vandalism to contact the Montgomery County Police Department as soon as possible.

The fact that this sort of behavior is still occurring is a travesty. We must continue to be vigilant and deliberate in our efforts to educate and engage those who harbor these feelings before they lead to violent behaviors.

As we have in the past, we will organize, unite, and fight back against xenophobic behavior. We will continue to support all efforts to bring peace, inclusion, and respect to all our ethnic, racial, and faith communities. Hate has no home in Montgomery County.

East County Welcomes Giant Super Store

Great news for residents of East County! Last weekend grocery shoppers got their first chance to see the new Giant Super Store at the Cherry Hill Orchard Shopping Center.

The store will create more than 100 new union jobs and has already produced two donations for area aid organizations. I want to thank Giant Food for donating $6,000 to the Manna Food Center and Impact Silver Spring as part of this grand opening celebration.

‘Right From the Start’

Black women experienced almost half of all infant deaths and fetal losses in Montgomery County last year – this is a statistic we must address and correct. Toward that effort, Montgomery County’s African American Health Program and other DHHS maternal and early child health programs will host their inaugural ‘Right from the Start’ event this Saturday, August 13 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the White Oak Community Recreation Center in Silver Spring .

Attendees at the event will learn about:

  • Healthy habits prior to becoming pregnant.
  • Racial disparities that can impact a healthy pregnancy.
  • Speaking up for yourself with healthcare professionals.
  • The importance of maintaining your health and the health of your child through those early school years.
  • Developmental milestones in early childhood.
  • And Mental health help that’s available.

I hope you will consider joining us at this important event. The event is free, but registration is recommended. You can do that through this link.

Montgomery County Agricultural Fair Begins August 12

Finally, this week marks the start of the Montgomery County Fair— dubbed the 9 best days of Summer. Running from August 12th to the 20th, our annual agriculture festival features something for everyone.

The fairgrounds are in Gaithersburg and the Fair is hosted by the Montgomery County Agricultural Center, which has been in operation for almost 75 years. It takes more than 2,000 volunteers to put on the largest County fair in the state of Maryland every year. I encourage all Montgomery County residents and families to check out the website ahead of time to plan your trip and enjoy the fair.

As always, my appreciation for all you do,

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