February 25, 2021

Message from County Executive Marc Elrich

Dear Friends:

Yes, we are still thinking about vaccines a lot, and there’s some room for cautious optimism. While many of us do not yet have appointments to get vaccinated, we are making significant progress in the most vulnerable categories – as of today, more than 60 percent of our residents 75 and older have received at least one dose.

As of today, more than 137,000 Montgomery County residents have received at least their first dose of the vaccine.

That represents more than 13 percent of the County population. You can see more information on the County Vaccine Dashboard.

The vaccine distribution continues to be scattered with the county health department only receiving about one-third of the total doses that come to the county each week. (We get about 4,500 and the rest of the approximately 15,000 doses go to health care systems and pharmacies.) However, we were just told by the state that the County Health Department will continue to receive 4,500 doses each week for the next three weeks. This is far less than the need, but at least we can schedule in advance with knowledge.

We are still distributing vaccines according to the State tier system of priority groups. We are getting close to completing vaccinating frontline safety and health care workers and residents 75 and older. Within the next few weeks, we hope to begin reaching out to the next group of eligible residents, especially people 65 to 74. You can find the complete list of priority groups here. As a reminder, if you are in one of the current eligibility groups, you can preregister for a vaccine at a County clinic at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/vaccine/. And if you know someone who needs help preregistering, you/they can call 240-777-2982.

There’s also cause for optimism because the two current vaccine producers announced that they will be significantly increasing production, and approval for a new single-shot vaccine looks promising. We are hopeful these will bring more vaccines to the state and county and open the doors for more people to get vaccines quicker.

There are also encouraging signs that the efforts we have made to stay safe, are proving effective. Over the past 14 days, the positivity rate of residents tested has been 3.3 percent. That is about one-fourth of our peak rate. Over the past seven days, the number of new cases has averaged 10.8 per 100,000 residents. That is about one-fifth of our peak rate.

But we still have many more people awaiting a vaccine. We all need to be patient. We are going to get there.

As we make progress, we also starting to experience better weather. People are going to see the reduced rate of positive cases and will be ready to get out of their houses. Our businesses are going to be ready to welcome customers.

We are looking ahead—but we will be moving cautiously. Last summer the rate of positive cases decreased and then we reopened many things all at once. It did not take long before cases skyrocketed. This time, taking the guidance of our health officers, we likely will be opening fewer activities from the start.

Our next steps will be leaning toward outdoor activities and only indoor activities where there is better air circulation. These factors will influence our possible increases in the number of people who can attend certain events or be part of gatherings. We now know for sure that if an activity is indoors, and people are unmasked, the potential rate of transmission is higher.

We need to learn from our prior experiences, and unfortunately in some cases, some of those lessons were relearned. More than anything, our reopening moves will be guided by the state of the virus.

Things are getting better. There is room for optimism. If we all move cautiously, and do not forget our lessons of safety, spring and summer will be much better this year than they were in 2020. And that is a very good thing.

County Executive Elrich’s Thoughts on Zoning Code Changes Regarding Solar Collection Systems in the Agricultural Reserve

Dear Friends:

The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday voted to adopt changes to the County zoning code that will provide opportunities for locating solar collection systems in the Agricultural Reserve. I extend my thanks to the seven Councilmembers who found common ground that allows for community solar projects while protecting our agricultural resources.

Zoning Text Amendment 20-01 strikes the right balance between the need for renewable energy and the equally important need to protect the Agricultural Reserve’s unique and vital contributions to local food production, clean water and carbon sequestration.

The new standards allow solar collection systems generating up to two megawatts of power as a conditional use on the lesser productive soils in the Ag Reserve. Other provisions protect streams, wetlands, steep slopes greater than 15 percent and forests.

In addition, the areas under the arrays must be used for farming or agricultural purposes. Examples include pollinator-friendly designation, agrivoltaic plantings or crops suitable for grazing farm animals. Another significant change affects property owners who install smaller solar systems to serve their individual energy needs, increasing the amount of on-site energy they can produce from 120 to 200 percent.

The County Council also mandated a formal review process to assess the outcomes of these changes in two years. This will give us the opportunity to observe whether and how this experiment will work, especially regarding the emerging field of agrivoltaics, which focuses on the co-development of land for both solar power and agriculture.

In the meantime, my administration continues to prioritize increased solar energy production in innovative ways. For example, we are currently planning the installation of a six-megawatt array on the County-owned site of an old landfill. We also are looking at ways to incentivize solar projects on existing parking lots and buildings elsewhere throughout the County. These types of projects are essential to our efforts to address climate change through clean energy solutions.

I deeply appreciate the work of all those involved in this year-long review, most especially members of, and advocates for, the farming community and Executive Department staff members. The Ag Reserve, established by prescient County leaders more than 40 years ago, is recognized as a national model of farmland and open space preservation. Its importance and significance grow with each passing year as we witness the effects of climate change on our food and water supplies. The legislation adopted by County Council embodies the need for protecting this resource while allowing us to see whether agriculture and solar systems can co-exist in a mutually beneficial way in Montgomery County.


Marc Elrich
County Executive

February 24, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccine Update:  More Than 137,000 County Residents Have Received First Dose; Daily COVID Case Rate Drops, But Testing is Still Important 

More than 137,000 Montgomery County residents have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine through all venues, which is about 13.1 percent of the County population, according to Maryland State statistics through Thursday. More than 61,000 residents (5.8 percent of the population) have received their second dose and are fully vaccinated. 

A new Vaccine Distribution Dashboard includes information and more data on COVID-19 vaccination rates. 

While the number of residents being vaccinated is increasing daily, the number of new COVID cases is going down. This week, the average daily rate of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 dropped to 10.8 per 100,000 residents. The average rate of new daily cases peaked on Jan. 12 at 49.8 per 100,000 residents. 

With this good news, the County has also seen a decline in COVID-19 testing rates—this is a trend that reflects similar trends in Maryland and nationally. County health officials continue to urge residents who believe they have been exposed to COVID or are having COVID-19 symptoms to get tested. The testing data provides important information about where active cases are located within the County.  

The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) vaccination clinics are prioritizing residents who are 75 and older (Priority Group 1B) and the remainder of frontline health care workers, public safety employees and first responders (Group 1A).  

The County has been informed that DHHS will be receiving approximately 4,500 vaccine doses weekly over the next few weeks. This number is far below the number of people eligible for vaccines and the number of people wanting appointments. However, this is the first time the County has received information beyond weekly allotments. This will help in planning appointments. 

The DHHS vaccination clinics are by appointment only. There are no walk-in vaccination sites. Even if someone is in an eligible priority group, they must have an appointment to get a vaccine. 

Residents must not forward appointment scheduling links to friends and family. The links are intended only for the direct recipient. 

To Get Vaccinated at a County Clinic: 
  • Everyone must preregister for a vaccine. People in Priority Groups 1B and 1C can now preregister. Check the County vaccine webpage for information. 
Preregistration information: 
  • Preregistration is not a vaccination appointment—it places a person in the queue to eventually get an appointment by priority group. When vaccine doses arrive, DHHS contacts residents from the preregistration list and invites them to make an appointment. 
Once preregistered, individuals will receive an invitation to make an appointment by email directly from DHHS.  The invitation will come from c19vaccination@montgomerycountymd.gov . Residents are advised to monitor their email junk and/or spam folder, just in case information ends up there rather than in their inbox. 

Individuals who have received a first dose from a DHHS-sponsored clinic will receive an email approximately four to seven days before their second dose is due and will be invited to make an appointment for a second vaccine. Those invitations will include more than one scheduling options. The Moderna vaccine (which are used by DHHS clinics) recommends a second dose be given 28 days after the first dose. The Centers for Disease Control advises that there is no maximum interval between the first and second dose, but DHHS wants to provide second doses as close to the 28 days as possible. 

In addition to the clinics operated by DHHS, hospitals, some healthcare clinics and several community partners have COVID-19 vaccines available to the public. These clinics follow the State priority guidelines, and not the rules issued by the County, so they may be vaccinating other priority groups in addition to Groups 1A and 1B (that includes residents 75 and over). 

Preregistration on Montgomery County’s vaccine page does not mean a person is registered with other locations, such as hospitals and retail pharmacies. Vaccine supply continues to be limited at all venues in Montgomery County. 

Hospitals that may have vaccines available this week include: 
Retail pharmacies that may have vaccines available this week include: 
Maryland also has multiple mass vaccination sites, although the State has not placed any in Montgomery County.  Information and registration for those venues is available on Maryland’s GoVax website. 

If individuals do not have the ability to preregister for a future vaccine appointment via the Internet, they can preregister via telephone. 

Residents are encouraged to assist their neighbors, family members and friends to preregister if they need help.  

Those who are 75 years and older without Internet access can call the Preregistration Helpline at 240-777-2982 for assistance in preregistering. The helpline is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and bilingual staff members (English/Spanish) are available. Call takers also can access a translation line to help callers with many other languages. 

The line is for preregistration only. 

Answers to general questions about vaccinations and COVID-19 can be obtained by calling 240-777-1755 seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Town Hall with Public Health Leaders Focused on COVID-19 Vaccinations to be Broadcast Starting at 7 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday, Feb. 25 

The Montgomery County Council will be joined by County Executive Marc Elrich, County Health Officer Travis Gayles, Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director Earl Stoddard and other public health representatives in a virtual community town hall meeting focused on COVID-19 vaccinations that will be broadcast beginning TONIGHT at 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 25. 

The town hall will provide the latest information about the ongoing vaccination efforts in the County and will describe the latest priority order for vaccinations provided by the State government based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The town hall also will give residents a forum to get their specific questions answered directly by public health representatives. 

The virtual town hall meeting will be televised on County Cable Montgomery on Xfinity (HD Channel 996), RCN (HD Channel 1056) and Fios (Channel 30). The meeting will be streamed on Facebook (MontgomeryCountyMdCouncil) and YouTube (MoCoCouncilMd). Residents also can listen to the virtual town hall meeting by calling 240-777-3333. 

COVID-19 Information Portal Has Statistics on How the Virus Has Impacted the County, Including Infections by Zip Codes 

Montgomery County’s COVID-19 Information Portal provides a variety of breakdowns on how the virus has impacted the County. The statistics are regularly updated to reflect the most recent reports during the health crisis. 

Among the information available is how many positive cases have been reported in each zip code in the County. That information can be found at https://montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/data/case-counts.html#cases-zip. 

Other breakdowns on the COVID-19 Information Portal include: 

Where to Get Tested for COVID-19 

There are numerous ways to get tested for COVID-19 in Montgomery County. The County operates dozens of clinics most weeks and rotates the locations to make testing easily accessible for residents in all parts of the County. In addition, there are many privately operated testing programs. 

Testing at County-operated clinics is free, does not require a doctor’s referral and is available by making advance appointments or on a walk-up basis.  

There may be a fee at privately operated sites. Residents should check in advance on any possible cost and available times at privately operated sites. 

To view the schedule of upcoming County-operated test clinics, and to make an appointment, go to www.MoCoCOVIDtesting.org. 

Montgomery Commission on Veterans Affairs Honoring Vietnam War and Vietnam Era Veterans with Virtual Tributes as Vietnam Veterans Day Approaches on March 29 

The Montgomery County Commission on Veterans Affairs is honoring dozens of Montgomery County Vietnam War and Vietnam Era veterans with detailed tributes displayed on a special website created by the commission.  

The tribute honors the veterans leading up to National Vietnam War Veterans Day, which is observed every year on March 29. The special day recognizes U.S. Armed Forces and Uniformed Services personnel with active duty service between Nov. 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975, regardless of location of service. 

The Montgomery Commission on Veterans Affairs website includes photos, military histories and later personal updates of Vietnam veterans who are either originally from the County or who lived in Montgomery after their service. The site can be viewed at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/vietnamvetday. 

“A special day has been created to honor the veterans who served in Vietnam and during the Vietnam era,” said Wayne Miller, a Vietnam veteran who now chairs the County Commission on Veterans Affairs. “However, the people who served in that difficult period of our nation’s history should be honored every day. This website enables people of our current generation to learn more about the Americans who served during the Vietnam War. The website provides details on how the war influenced the rest of their lives. It also pays tribute to those who gave their lives when asked to serve their country.” 

According to the latest available U.S. Census Bureau estimates, there are 36,264 County residents who are veterans. Of that number, 10,467 are Vietnam War or Era veterans.  

Records show that 130 County residents were killed in Vietnam and their names are on the County's Vietnam Memorial Wall, which was dedicated in 2018 on Memorial Plaza adjacent to the Executive Office Building in Rockville. A video summary of the memorial dedication can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6QwL-Z81Uk. 

The Vietnam Veterans site also provides access the County’s tribute to “Fallen Heroes.” That site pays tribute to the County’s fallen service members who died in service to the country since World War I. The records show the men and women honored as enlisting, being originally from or having at one time lived in Montgomery County. That site can be accessed directly at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/HHS-Program/ADS/VETERANS/FallenHeroes.html. 

Anyone who would like to share their story or the story of a friend or family member for the website tribute can e-mail Carly.Clem@montgomerycountymd.gov and provide the following information:  
  • Servicemember or veteran's name. 
  • Your name (if submitting on behalf of a service member or veteran) and your relationship to the individual. 
  • Branch of service and rank. 
  • Years of service. 
  • Brief narrative of their service. 
  • Live in or once lived in Montgomery County. If you attended high school here, name school from where you graduated. 
  • Photo(s) (preferably one during service time and one present day). 
By sending an e-mail with this information, the sender agrees to have the information shared on the County's website and on the Commission on Veterans Affairs social media.  Submissions may be edited to conform to Montgomery County Government standards. 

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s thoughts on helping veterans can be found at https://tinyurl.com/rayyavu. 

To learn more about the Montgomery Commission on Veterans Affairs, go to https://tinyurl.com/yxyfdcoc. 

Maryland Residents and Businesses Warned About Cyber Criminals Sending Messages Impersonating State Government Agencies

The Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center (MCAC) is warning residents and businesses that cyber criminals may be sending them messages impersonating Maryland government agencies. The “phishing” attempts, which are used to gain personal and/or corporate information, may involve messages impersonating agencies including the Maryland Department of Labor, the Department of Transportation and the Office of the Secretary of State.

MCAC is warning that the information cyber criminals are seeking likely would be used in other forms of cyber crimes.

The methods that the cyber criminals are using in these phishing attempts include sending fraudulent text messages, presenting fake government websites and sending phishing email messages.

Although the cyber criminal attempts can look similar to actual sites, closely examining the messages could show grammatical or spelling errors. The fake messages often will be stating responses need immediate replies and that the recipient must pay “urgent” attention. There also may be references to legal complications if the communications are not answered.

One way to detect possible fraudulent messages is to check the URL address of the agency, which often will not resemble an official government agency. The return address of the sender also may not resemble an official government address. The return address also may contain an incorrect domain (such as a message allegedly from the Department of Transportation may have a return address in which the sender’s domain reads .edu--which would actually represent an educational institution).

The fraudulent attempts ask questions which, if answered, would give the cyber criminals significant insight into an individual’s, or a company’s, information.

If someone suspects that they may have received a fraudulent message, they should not respond to the attempt in any manner. They should first find an actual address or phone number for the agency that allegedly is represented and contact that agency directly to see if a message has been sent to them.

Recipients of fake and fraudulent messages should report those attempts to the Maryland Department of Information Technology service desk at 410-697-9700 or at service.desk@maryland.gov.

More details on the warning from MCAC can be obtained here. 


Wheaton Revitalization Project 14-Story Office Building is First Montgomery County Government Facility to Achieve ‘LEED Platinum’ Certification 

The 14-story office building that is the focal point of the Wheaton Revitalization Project built by the Montgomery County Government has received formal “LEED Platinum” certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The platinum certification of the Class “A” building is the highest level in sustainable design that USGBC awards in objectively measuring a building’s sustainability. The 308,000-square-foot building is the first County Government facility to receive a Platinum rating. 

The development and construction of the building, located at 2425 Reedie Drive, was led by the County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT). It was designed to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum standards. However, the designation is not certified until a building is completed and reviewed by the USGBC, a nonprofit, non-governmental, membership-based organization. Other recent LEED certification accomplishments by the County include the LEED Gold certification of the Wheaton Library and Community Recreation Center. 

The Wheaton Revitalization Project, which was dedicated in September, is one of the largest projects of its kind built by the County. Construction took 39 months and cost about $179 million. It was completed on time and within budget. In addition to the office building, the project includes a 397-space below ground parking garage; the new Marian Fryer Town Plaza, which is adjacent to the office building; and ground level retail space.  

“I am very proud that MCDOT has played a pivotal role in creating this smart-growth, transit-oriented development that has set a new design standard for public facilities in Montgomery County,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. 
The Wheaton office building’s environmental features include: 
  • An energy system assisted by a geothermal field of about 150 wells. 
  • Solar roofs​ (second floor rooftop and tower rooftop)​. 
  • Green roofs ​(second floor and tower rooftop)​. 
  • Green/living wall (main lobby)​. 
  • Onsite management of storm water and treatment of runoff. 
  • Silva-cells to promote large tree growth. 
  • Biofiltration pits to capture and degrade pollutants. 
  • High-efficiency water fixtures to reduce typical usage by nearly 40 percent. 
  • Higher efficiency building insulation using exterior shading. 
  • Punched windows to provide more interior light. 
  • A high-performance rain-screen to increase building wall durability. 
  • High-efficiency LED lighting. 
  • Electric vehicle charging stations in the garage. 
  • Destination elevators. 
USGBC rating criteria encourage innovation and are based on a building’s:  
  • Impact on site and location. 
  • Water efficiency. 
  • Energy efficiency. 
  • Material selection. 
  • Indoor environmental quality. 
MCDOT brokered the innovative public-private partnership that led to development of the Wheaton Revitalization Project. It included a land swap to create a new Georgia Avenue gateway to Silver Spring comprised of a mixed-use development on the former site of the headquarters of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC). The joint venture created 1.1 million square feet of new development with affiliates StonebridgeCarras, LLC and The Bozzuto Group. 

M-NCPPC is the owner of the new building, which, when the public health situation allows, will be home to approximately 900 government employees. Offices and shared spaces for the Planning and Parks departments are located on the top four levels. The structure also houses the County’s Department of Permitting Services, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Recreation, Department of Health and Human Services and the offices of the Community Use of Public Facilities, the Mid-County Regional Office and the Wheaton Urban District. 

Learn more about the project at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/WheatonDev/index.html. 

County Ride On Bus Schedule Changes Beginning Sunday, Feb. 28, Will Increase Overall Service and Improve Efficiency 

Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) will adjust Ride On bus service schedules starting Sunday, Feb. 28, to increase service in areas with growing passenger demand. The changes reflect the continuing shift of resources toward schedule patterns prior to the COVID-19 health crisis. The revisions will increase Ride On and Ride On extRa service to nearly 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels.  

Flash, the unique service which since October has been operating on Colesville Road/ Columbia Pike (US 29) and Lockwood Drive with destinations including Downtown Silver Spring, Four Corners, White Oak, Fairland and Burtonsville, continues to be fully operational. 

The pilot on-demand Flex service in the Rockville and Wheaton/Glenmont areas remains suspended. 

Ride On planners have monitored ridership data and user feedback to identify routes that could achieve more efficiencies with schedule updates. That information led to the 22 routes that will have schedule changes starting Feb. 28.  

Extra buses continue to be stationed at all Metro stations in the County and are ready to deploy to nearby service routes experiencing levels of demand that cannot be met by buses under the standard schedule. In addition, based on new housing developments and community inputs, there are route design changes on five routes. 

The affected routes are:  
  • Route 58 will end at the Lakeforest Transit Center every trip. See Route 61 for service along Watkins Mill Road/Frederick Road. Riders on Route 58 going to the Kaiser Permanente Center will require transfer to Route 61 at Lakeforest Transit Center. 
  • Route 61 will now serve Watkins Mill Road, including the Kaiser Permanente Center, and will continue to the Lakeforest Transit Center along MD355. Riders going to MARC and the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) office would transfer to Route 78 along Clopper Road. Riders going to locations along Firstfield and Quince Orchard roads would transfer to Route 56 on Clopper Road and Firstfield. 
  • Route 78 will serve the Metropolitan Grove MARC and Maryland MVA with the service change to Route 61 operating along Watkins Mill Road. Mid-day service has been added.  
  • Route 83 will serve the new Black Hill development. The route will serve Crystal Rock Drive and Century Boulevard in a one-way loop travelling to and from the Germantown Transit Center. 
  • Route 36 will no longer serve the stop at the Connelly School of the Holy Child, per the request of the school.  
Routes that will have schedule changes and some improved frequencies include 1, 5, 10, 11, 15, 16, 20, 26, 34, 36, 43, 46, 48, 49, 54, 55, 58, 59, 61, 74, 78 and 83. 

The new schedule webpage with detailed information can be viewed at montgomerycountymd.gov/dot-transit/routesandschedules/rideonroutes.html.  

All Ride On routes are in operation, but ridership capacity remains limited to support safe distancing between riders where possible. Operational changes implemented by MCDOT during the health crisis for riders boarding buses will remain in place. All passengers are required to wear a face covering to board and must continue wearing the covering for the entire time on the bus. All buses have a supply of face coverings for riders who cannot provide their own.  

Riders are asked to maintain maximum physical distance between themselves and other riders who are not from the same household. Passengers generally must board at the rear door of the bus, but can board through the front door if a ramp is needed to accommodate a disability or stroller. Divider partitions are currently being installed to facilitate front door entry and increased passenger capacity. 

Ride On services remain free to all passengers—a temporary change made during the health crisis. 

Bus interiors will continue to be cleaned by the County’s Department of General Services twice daily with hospital-grade disinfectant. Bus filter and ventilation systems are treated each night with a disinfectant. 

New Episode of the ‘What’s Happening MoCo’ Podcast Focuses on County’s Therapy Programs and DEP’s Family Friendly Scavenger Hunt 

The latest episode of the “What’s Happening MoCo “podcast, which highlights people and programs important to the residents of Montgomery County, features conversations with County employees Sara Rose, a supervisory therapist with the Department of Health and Human Services, and Larissa Johnson, the residential energy program manager for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  

The new episode is now available. 

In the podcast, Ms. Rose instructs parents on how to identify and address behavioral health issues in their children. In another segment, Ms. Johnson explains how residents can participate in a fun, family-friendly scavenger hunt sponsored by DEP. 

In past episodes, host Derrick Kenny has talked with guests on a wide variety of subjects. The show’s guests have included elected officials, Montgomery employees who specialize in specific aspects of government, business leaders and entertainers who live in the County. New podcasts are released twice a month. 

The on-demand video of the newest episode can be viewed via the What’s Happening MoCo Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WhatsHappeningMoCoPodcast. 

The podcast also can be heard via several popular podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts  at https://bit.ly/whats-happening-moco, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio and others. 

Residents and others interested in asking a question or suggesting a topic to be addressed in a future episode are encouraged to engage via the Facebook page or via e-mail at derrick.kenny@montgomerycountymd.gov. 

What’s Happening MoCo podcast episode archives can be accessed by visiting the podcast’s webpage at https://montgomerycountymd.gov/CCM/whats-happening-moco-podcast.html

WMATA Announces Pedestrian Bridge from Rockville Metro Station Over Rockville Pike Will Remain Closed for Repairs Through Fall 2021  

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA / Metro) has announced that the bridge enabling pedestrians to connect from the Rockville Metro Station to Downtown Rockville by crossing over Rockville Pike will remain closed for repairs through fall 2021. Due to a safety concern, the pedestrian bridge was closed on June 17.   

The bridge allows people accessing Ride On buses, Metrorail, taxis, public parking facilities and MARC to walk on an elevated connection over the lanes of Rockville Pike between the Metrorail Station and Maryland Avenue.  

WMATA (which operates Metrorail and Metrobus) has advised that construction on the pedestrian bridge is scheduled to begin about March 1 and will last about seven months after the project begins.   

WMATA wants commuters to know that the project may have other impacts, including:  
  • Accessible parking spaces in the station’s west side Kiss & Ride area will be temporarily relocated to the south section of the lot for the duration of construction. Drivers are advised to follow posted signs to ensure their vehicles are not towed.  
  • Evening and weekend work may occur, depending on weather and worksite conditions.  
  • Loud noises and traffic/pedestrian detours may occur throughout construction. Residents are advised to stay clear of the construction zone and follow all posted signs.  
Metro has installed signage to notify customers of the structure's closure and urges all pedestrians who normally use the bridge to use the following alternatives:  
  • Free Shuttle Bus Service is available during Metrorail hours between the Rockville Metrorail Station Bus Bay D (West Bus Loop) and Monroe Street at East Montgomery Avenue. The shuttle service operates every five-to-10 minutes during Metrorail hours.  
  • Pedestrian Walkways: To cross Rockville Pike at Park Road or Church Street, pedestrians should use marked crosswalks and following pedestrian crossing signals.  
Metro will provide updates on the construction project at https://www.wmata.com/service/status/details/rockville-pedestrian-bridge-closure.cfm

County Will Reopen Eight Community Recreation Centers on Monday, March 1  

Montgomery County Recreation will reopen eight community recreation centers on a limited schedule beginning, Monday, March 1. Individuals and households can now schedule times to use fitness rooms, gymnasiums and other rooms without the structure of a class.

The re-openings are the next steps in the recovery from the COVID-19 health crisis following the openings of instructor-led, in-person classes on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

The community recreation centers that will open are Bauer Drive; Damascus; Nancy H. Dacek North Potomac; Jane E. Lawton; Plum Gar; Potomac; Praisner; and White Oak.

A Fit N Play Pass is available for County residents 18 and older. The cost is $55 for six months to enable reservations for fitness rooms and gym activities for those who do not have a current pass membership.

“Getting our residents back in our facilities safely is one our highest priorities,” said Recreation Director Robin Riley. “COVID-19 has been hard for everyone and recreation and physical activity is a great way for people to manage their stress, get healthier and feel better. This next step, in reopening in a safe limited basis, is great for people who are looking for a full workout or a family looking for a class, fun activity or just to let their kids jump rope or run around and play.”

Residents can schedule a workout time and those who live in the same household can make reservations to use the gym or another room. There also is an option of playing sports such as pickleball or badminton against one other person. Currently, there is no team sports or double play. It is recommended that booking a reservation is a better option to get space rather than walking up without a reservation because opportunities will be limited by space and available time slots.

COVID-19 safety precautions will be in place at the facilities, including wearing masks, six-foot social distancing and disinfecting after each user.

For more information about recreation programs, visit the website, or call 240-777-6840 or email rec.customerservice@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Libraries Offer Virtual Programs to Commemorate Black History Month 

Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) is celebrating Black History Month with special virtual programs during February.   

The MCPL Black History Month schedule includes: 
For more information about MCPL programs, visit the website. 

Mirian Fuentes Romero Selected as Winner of 2021 Wheaton Arts Parade and Festival Poster Contest 

The signature poster for the fifth annual Wheaton Arts Parade and Festival will be based on the design submitted by Mirian Fuentes Romero. The Takoma Park resident and student at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) has been named the winner of the yearly contest that selects new designs for the growing September festival that highlights the Wheaton arts community.  

As the winner of poster contest, Romero received a cash prize of $300 and MICA will receive $100 for art supplies. The contest was open to all Montgomery County high school and college students.  

Mirian is a junior at MICA, majoring in graphic design with a concentration in film and video. She started out as a painter and enjoyed making drawings for family members. It was at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring where her interest in graphic design was sparked after being introduced to digital art. She plans to pursue an art direction career. Mirian’s parents are from Guatemala and she is a first-generation American. 

The contest prize was donated by Los Chorros restaurant in Wheaton. Los Chorros is a founding sponsor of the Wheaton Arts Parade and its owner, Omar Lazo, is a new member of the festival’s board of directors. After being selected, Romero worked with designer Josue Martinez to apply her design to the poster and other festival 2021 promotional materials, including the T-shirt. 

The Wheaton Arts Parade and Festival is scheduled to take place on Sunday, Sept. 19, in the Wheaton Triangle and on the new Downtown Wheaton Marian Fryer Plaza. 

In 2020, the COVID-19 health crisis prevented the tradition display of the annual parade and festival. Instead, the organization installed 13 painted pyramids around Downtown Wheaton where they could be viewed safely. The festival also transitioned many of its activities into a virtual event.  

Plans for the 2021 arts parade and festival are still evolving. The current pace of vaccinations offer hope that by September, the celebration of local artists and cultural diversity can return to the streets of Wheaton. 

The Wheaton Arts Parade is a day for residents, artists, businesses and civic organizations to walk together to celebrate art and Wheaton’s diverse community. At the end of the art parade, the community gathers at a festival of performances, art exhibits, and food. The day is inspired by the parade and the closure of roads so that people can pull giant floats and dance, play music and show off their art. The celebration also provides a showcase for the redeveloping downtown area. 

February 18, 2021

Message from County Executive Marc Elrich

Dear Friends:

I know that many questions exist over the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations. And I share your frustrations. Like many of you, I had hoped to have received my vaccinations by now. I have not yet, but I know I will be vaccinated eventually.

This week, there are some real signs for optimism on two fronts: getting better control of the spread of the virus and having an increased number of people receiving at least one vaccine. I share this news with caution: significantly reduced numbers in spreading COVID-19 will not continue if we relax or abandon all of the good behavior that it has taken to power this trend. While the number of people receiving vaccines increases every day, those who have not received vaccines must remain patient. Our time is coming.

On the encouraging front, more than 115,000 Montgomery County residents have received at least one dose of vaccine as of today, one of the numbers you can find on the County Vaccine Dashboard. Overall, that is more than any jurisdiction in the State and represents 11 percent of our population. Second doses have gone to more than 37,000 residents (3.5 percent of the population). It is slower than we want because we are getting fewer vaccines each week than we want, but we are making progress.

We also like the direction we are going in reducing the spread. The number of new positive cases averaged 4.1 percent over the last 14 days. That is the lowest rate we have recorded since November. And our number of new cases, as shown on our dashboard, averaged over the last week is 12.8. That is the lowest it has been since Oct. 29.

The difficult moves we had to take to limit activity—and the efforts by residents to follow the basic steps of wearing masks, keeping safe distances and washing hands often—are proving to be worthwhile. But we cannot ease up. We are far from where we need to be. All strategies to fight COVID-19 must continue.

We are doing better organizing vaccine centers. Television stations that were critical of some County-operated clinics just a week ago produced reports in last night’s newscasts of how our operations have become smooth and efficient this week. And that is how they will remain. A large part of this is that many more people now understand that vaccines are being given at County-operated centers by appointment only and that we are concentrating on giving vaccines to the first priority groups (1A and part of 1B). The people in these priority groups largely are frontline workers, health professionals and residents 75 and over. These are our residents who have been hit hardest by the virus—in the severity and the number of deaths.

One of the outcomes of our adherence to following priority guidelines is that approximately half of our 78,000 residents age 75 and over have received at least a first dose. (You can see the data here.) When we receive vaccines from the State, we are getting them to the people who are most vulnerable.

So what should you do to be in line for vaccines once we receive more—and when will the County start getting an increased number of vaccines each week?

The Biden Administration again has pledged to acquire more vaccines each week and we are hopeful that those will find their way to Maryland, and eventually, to Montgomery County. Governor Larry Hogan has established mass vaccination sites—but the closest one to our County is at Six Flags amusement park in Prince George’s County. We have identified available locations in the County where we could have a mass vaccination site and we have conveyed this to the Governor.

If you are willing to travel, you can preregister for the State mass vaccination sites at https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/vaccine. In fact, a number of our residents have received vaccines at Six Flags. You can also text “MDReady” to 898-211 to get alerts from the State, which should include a notice of when there are available appointments at the mass vaccination sites. Just realize that a lot of people are competing for those limited vaccination appointments. I wish I could tell you that you could preregister for these sites or that there was a consolidated registration site, but one does not exist. I am asking the State to provide an easier, more streamlined, process, but I am unsure whether it will do that.

There also are many people competing for the approximately 4,500 weekly vaccines the Montgomery health department is currently being given. If you are in an eligible priority category, make sure you are preregistered at montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/vaccine. If you know someone who has difficulty preregistering online, we have a phone number to call: 240-777-2982. We will be offering an appointment to everyone on the list, but we may not be able to offer you that appointment for a while. Availability will depend on how many vaccines the State sends us each week.

There also are numerous hospitals, health clinics and private pharmacies receiving vaccines in our County. They receive their doses directly from the State and operate independently of the County health department. You can find more information about these sites at the County COVID-19 website.

With the progress we have made recently, many want to know when will we reopen even more—and how quickly will we do it?

We have learned from some reopening efforts in the past. We reopened after recording good numbers—and then, we had bad numbers again. This time, we are going to do our best to be very cautious before we move ahead with reopenings. We will look at our current state—and we will reevaluate. We will urge everyone to be cautious and careful—and we will reevaluate again. We will do everything safely—and based on data.

We want our sense of optimism to translate to more progress in helping our businesses reopen and our residents gradually return to the lifestyles that now seem so long ago. This has been a pretty good week. We want the weeks ahead to be even better.

Marc Elrich
County Executive

February 17, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccine Update: New County COVID Vaccine Dashboard Established; More Than 100,000 Residents Have Received First Dose

A new Montgomery County Vaccine Distribution dashboard has been launched to provide a more in-depth look about vaccinations, including updated figures on how many residents have been vaccinated. The dashboard includes the information that the County has passed the milestone of having more than 115,000 County residents receive at least one COVID-19 vaccination.

Vaccine supply continues to be limited at all venues in the County and the demand for vaccines continues to be high. Updated information will help residents follow vaccine availability and who has been vaccinated to date. The dashboard also includes information on race/ethnicity, age group and gender of those vaccinated.

Updated COVID-19 statistics and information now includes:
  • More than 115,000 residents in Montgomery County have been vaccinated. The County has vaccinated more residents with a first dose than any other jurisdiction in Maryland.
  • The County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS—or the County health department) is prioritizing residents who are 75 and older (Priority Group 1B, Tier 1) and frontline health care workers, public safety and first responders (Group 1A).
  • The County’s vaccination clinics are by appointment only. There are no walk-in vaccination sites.
  • Residents are asked not to forward appointment scheduling links to friends and family. These links are intended only for the direct recipient.
To get vaccinated at a County-operated clinic, everyone in Priority Groups 1B and 1C (including those 65 and over) can now preregister. Check the County vaccine webpage for information.

Preregistration information:
  • Preregistration is not a vaccination appointment. Preregistration places a person in the queue by priority group. When vaccine doses arrive, the County health department will contact residents from the preregistration list and let them know they can make an appointment.
  • Once preregistered, individuals will receive notice to make an appointment by phone call or email directly from DHHS. Email invitations will come from c19vaccination@montgomerycountymd.gov.
In addition to the clinics operated by DHHS, hospitals, health clinics and several pharmacies operated by private companies have COVID-19 vaccines available to the public. These clinics follow the State guidelines and not the Priority Group vaccination rules issued by the County. In this regard, they may be vaccinating other priority groups, in addition to 1A and 1B.

Hospitals and healthcare agencies that have been vaccinating residents and will be receiving future vaccines include:
Retail pharmacies that will have future vaccines available include:
Preregistering on the County’s vaccine page does not mean a person is registered with other venues. Hospitals, healthcare systems and pharmacies each maintain their own preregistration lists.

Telephone Assistance for Preregistering
  • Residents are encouraged to assist their neighbors, family members and friends to preregister if they need help.
  • Those 75 years and older without Internet access can call the Preregistration Helpline for assistance at 240-777-2892 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. Bilingual staff (English/Spanish) are available and call takers can also access a translation line to help callers with many other languages.
  • This line is for preregistration only.
  • General questions about vaccinations and COVID-19 can be answered by calling 240-777-1755 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.
The basic rules of COVID-19 safety still apply. Everyone should continue to practice social distancing, limit exposure to individuals outside your household, wear masks and often wash hands.

County Executive Elrich, Councilmembers to Hold Conversation on Monday, Feb. 22, With Black Community About Importance of Getting COVID-19 Vaccine

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and County Councilmembers Will Jawando and Craig Rice will host a special virtual event from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22, focused on “The Black Community and the COVID-19 Vaccine: Why Acceptance of the Vaccine is Important.”

The town hall meeting will be joined by Travis Gayles, the County health officer; Raymond Crowell, the director of the County's Department of Health and Human Services; Nicole Verdun of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and Tiffany Ward, the County’s chief equity officer.

The COVID-19 health crisis has impacted a disproportionate number of people in the County, and throughout the nation, in minority communities. Some members of minority communities also have expressed reluctance to get vaccines when they are available. The community conversation will explain the safety of the vaccine and why it is important for all people to get vaccines.

Community members will be able to ask questions during the town hall meeting.

To register in advance to join the seminar via Zoom, go to https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_dkKGmRhtQmCLxmtUi9u6Tg.

After registering, residents will receive a confirmation email containing information about how to join the webinar.

The webinar also will be broadcast live on several County cable channels include County Cable Montgomery (Channel CCM), MCPS, MCM, Takoma Park, MMC, MC and Rockville 11. The meeting also will be streamed at www.ConnectMontgomery.com, on the County's website, on the County’s Facebook page and the County YouTube channel.

Virtual Town Hall for Asian American Community on COVID-19 Vaccine to be Held on Tuesday, Feb. 23

The Montgomery County Office of Community Partnerships and the Asian American Health Initiative of the County’s Department of Health and Human Services will host a virtual town hall meeting for the Asian American community on the importance of getting COVID-19 vaccines. The meeting, via Zoom, will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

The town hall meeting will be joined by County Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz; Raymond Crowel, director of the County's Department of Health and Human Services; community physicians Mahesh Ochaney and Mo-Ping Chow; and Jasmine Vinh, acting program manager for the Asian American Health Initiative. The town hall meeting will be moderated by Hina Mehta, the steering committee vice chair of the Asian American Health Initiative.

The community conversation will provide the latest information on the vaccine rollout plan for County residents. It will provide details on the order currently being implemented regarding priority groups for vaccinations. The meeting also will provide Asian American residents with a forum to have their questions answered directly by public health representatives and community physicians.

The town hall meeting will be conducted in English.

To register in advance to join the seminar via Zoom, go to https://bit.ly/2LOw2kA.

After registering, residents will receive an email a couple days before the event containing information about how to join the meeting.

If you have any questions regarding the event, contact Yi Shen, Asian liaison for Montgomery County, at Yi.Shen@montgomerycountymd.gov.

COVID-19 Information Portal Has Statistics on How the Virus Has Impacted the County, Including Infections by Zip Codes

Montgomery County’s COVID-19 Information Portal provides a variety of breakdowns on how the virus has impacted the County. The statistics are regularly updated to reflect the most recent reports during the health crisis.

Among the information available is how many positive cases have been reported in each zip code in the County. That information can be found at https://montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/data/case-counts.html#cases-zip.

Other breakdowns on the COVID-19 Information Portal include:

Where to Get Tested for COVID-19

There are numerous ways to get tested for COVID-19 in Montgomery County. The County operates dozens of clinics most weeks and rotates the locations to make testing easily accessible for residents in all parts of the County. In addition, there are many privately operated testing programs.

Testing at County-operated clinics is free, does not require a doctor’s referral and is available by making advance appointments or on a walk-up basis.

There may be a fee at privately operated sites. Residents should check in advance on any possible cost and available times at privately operated sites.

To view the schedule of upcoming County-operated test clinics, and to make an appointment, go to www.MoCoCOVIDtesting.org.

COVID-19-Related Scam Targeting County Residents Is Being Exposed by Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection


The COVID-19 health crisis in itself has been quite a hardship, but recently, residents have found themselves as the targets of scams related to the virus threat. Now the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection is providing information on how to identify those scams on the County’s COVID-19 comprehensive website.

Among the scams identified are ones regarding bogus products, fake testing sites and vaccine availability. The scams are being directed toward consumers via email, texting and telephone. In most cases, the attention-getting scams seek to have innocent residents provide the scammers with funds for services or products that do not actually exist. In other cases, fake or stolen vaccines may be offered on the “dark net.”
Numerous new “phishing” scams have been devised by scammers to take advantage of consumers seeking information on how to preregister for vaccines—or how to get around the systems that have been set up by local governments, health care systems or private pharmacies. The deceptive email messages seek to trick consumers into providing their Social Security numbers, credit card information or bank information.
County Executive Marc Elrich and County Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz have identified a need to warn consumers about the increasing number of scams and called upon the County to include financial protection information in conjunction with health information.
“Responding to the numerous health and financial related challenges caused by the current pandemic requires Montgomery County to establish multidisciplinary teams and experts to collaborate and take action,” said County Executive Elrich. “We recognize that scammers seek to exploit news events and cause financial harm to consumers and businesses. Accordingly, in addition to providing information about vaccines and testing, we also need to provide alerts to prevent residents from becoming the targets and victims of COVID-19-related scams that may cause financial harm.”
A new video on COVID-19-related scams was released today and can be viewed at https://youtu.be/XlX6rRxxVN0.
Information about the scams can be found at the County COVID-19 information website at https://montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/.
“In the wake of COVID-19, scammers are finding new ways to cause financial and irreparable harm,” said Council Vice President Albornoz. “During the past several months, we have seen a dramatic increase of fraudulent vaccination sites, robocalls, and phishing scams targeting County residents, especially our most vulnerable. We must continue to do all that we can to end these criminal practices and protect our residents.”
Office of Consumer Protection Director Eric Friedman said: “These scammers are clever and opportunistic. They seek to turn the latest news events into scams that exploit consumer fears and concerns regarding the coronavirus.”
To prevent interaction with scammers, Director Friedman advises residents to rely on information provided by the County’s official website. Among the information available is: