The first people in Montgomery County, the State and the country have received COVID-19 vaccines. It has been quite moving to see the photos and reports of the vaccinations in progress, and it is a reminder of the incredible work that our frontline workers have been doing.
We are all excited about the advent of the vaccines, and here in the County, we are in active conversations about our role in the distribution of the vaccines. As was announced earlier this week, the State is setting the priorities based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.
As pleased as all of us are to see a vaccine, I do want to remind people that it will still be some time—perhaps four to six months—before the vaccine is widely available. And even after it is available, it is highly likely that many of the guidelines will remain relevant and appropriate, including mask wearing.
And for now, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of our own actions. Please—avoid gatherings throughout this holiday season. I regretfully had to reimpose a prohibition on indoor dining and extend the 10-person limit on indoor gatherings to indoor sports events through my Executive Order, which the Council approved earlier this week.
Climate Action Plan
On a brighter note, I want to be sure you are aware of some major environmental milestones this week. We all know that we have to address climate change. I was proud to sponsor a resolution in 2017 pushing the County to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 (and to eliminate 80 percent of them by 2027). Now we are doing the work to get there.
Earlier this week, we released our Draft Climate Action Plan for public review. This plan gives us a roadmap of real actions to get the County to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also goes beyond greenhouse gas emission reductions, covering climate adaptation and carbon sequestration strategies. We are already feeling the impacts of climate change—hotter summers, increased flooding events and more extreme storms.
The strategies outlined in this plan prioritize those in our community who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and identify opportunities and co-benefits to enhance racial equity while reducing emissions.
Many Montgomery County residents have tremendous expertise in climate and energy issues and have provided enormous help. Hundreds of ideas generated by our residents, businesses and other organizations are reflected throughout the plan. I am grateful to everyone who participated in its development.
The Climate Action Plan was developed in the midst of the COVID-19 health crisis. The pandemic has highlighted the existing inequities in our own community, as well as exacerbating the County’s fiscal constraints.
We must—and we should—address COVID-19, climate change, economic disruption and racial inequity simultaneously. These issues are fundamentally intertwined and require integrated strategies that cut across sectors. We cannot address climate change without recognizing its disproportionate impacts on certain segments of our population. We cannot mobilize community members to reduce emissions if they are overwhelmed by COVID-19, and we cannot rebuild our economy without considering both racial equity and climate change.
The recommendations outlined in the plan reflect a future reimagined, one in which our buildings, transportation system, government processes, consumption patterns and community engagement efforts are all realigned to meet this enormous challenge.
Although the path ahead will not be easy, it will be a path of opportunity—a path to improve our quality of life while reducing emissions. It will address racial and public health disparities while implementing climate solutions and will strengthen the bonds of community as we collaboratively forge a brighter future.
We need to do everything we can, and we need all-hands-on-deck. Please take the time to review this plan and offer your thoughts before the plan is finalized.
As part of our work to eliminate greenhouse gases, earlier this week I announced an innovative partnership to put solar panels on the site of a former landfill. The clean energy generated will be for low-to-moderate income households and County Government. We are using what should be priority solar siting areas—brownfields—to produce new clean energy for residents who cannot install solar on their own property. You can read more here.
Winter Bright Spots
You have one more day to submit photos of your favorite holiday decorations. You can do that here.
Also, check out the photos that have already been submitted. They offer a bit of respite from the challenges we are all facing. You can find all of these great photos here.
As you prepare for the holidays, I hope you are able to find alternate ways to celebrate and connect to families, friends and neighbors.