Each week continues to be filled with news and changes. In my letter this week, I address the ongoing issues with COVID-19, the elections, economic development, transportation policy and a recent report from the County’s Office of the Inspector General.
As you likely know, the COVID-19 numbers are climbing in our County, across the country and around the world. Today, the number of positive cases per 100,000 (seven-day average) in Maryland was the highest it has been during the entire pandemic, as is documented here. Here in Montgomery County, the number of positive cases was higher than it has been since June 4, as our data show.
In an attempt to stem the increase, I issued, and the County Council approved, an Executive Order re-imposing certain restrictions, including limiting gatherings to 25 or fewer and limiting dining, religious institutions and other establishments to 25 percent of capacity. After I announced our Executive Order, Governor Larry Hogan also re-imposed restrictions for the entire State, as did our neighbors in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties.
I know these renewed restrictions are really difficult on businesses, but the public health experts looking at the data and science have advised us that we need to take these steps. What we really need is action from the Federal government that would allow us to control the spread of the virus and would allow our businesses to survive. It is not the fault of the businesses that we are in this situation. We look forward to working with our new President to address these issues. And we are proud that the President’s newly named chief of staff, Ron Klain, is a resident of Montgomery County.
Earlier today, the County’s Economic Advisory Group (EAG) that I convened released its recommendations for a roadmap for economic recovery and long-term success. An impressive and diverse group of business leaders contributed their time and wisdom to develop this report. I appreciate their work, which was led so ably by the EAG Chair Doug Firstenberg. The report included some clear and helpful recommendations, including a recommendation to replace impact taxes with development districts and creating a postgraduate research center at White Flint, which we have already started to work on. The report also acknowledged that the greatest housing needs are for people earning below the median income. I appreciated the report’s short-term, upcoming action of a four-week “Bio Boot Camp” to help retrain out-of-work residents and provide businesses with the workforce they need. You can read the EAG report here.
I also wanted to provide a link to my statement regarding the recently released report from the Office of the Inspector General. I hope that it provides some context for this matter. You can read my statement here.
Earlier this week, the Council and I submitted a joint letter with our comments on Governor Hogan’s managed lane proposal for I-270 and I-495. We all agree that congestion issues on I-495, I-270 and nearby roadways need attention and improvement. However, we have serious and widespread concerns with the plan proposed by the Governor. In our letter, we explain the concerns and offer some effective solutions that should be considered and ultimately adopted, including an emphasis on transit, reversible lanes, working within the existing footprint and listening to the people who will be directly affected by this project. I also have concerns about a possible public-private partnership (“P3”). This is an enormous project with so many unknowns.
Thanksgiving is only two weeks ago. In my video this week, I discuss precautions as we head into the holiday season. If you have college students returning home, please follow physical distancing and frequent testing before they leave the college campus and after they arrive home.
P.S. The CDC has recently updated its guidance and made clear that wearing masks is even more important than previously understood. You can read more about that here.