March 4, 2021
A Message from County Executive Marc Elirch
Tomorrow, Friday, March 5, marks one year since the first cases of Covid-19 were identified in Montgomery County (and those were also the first in the State). Since then, we have lost almost 1,400 County residents to this virus; we deeply mourn those losses. I also want to acknowledge the deep pain that so many of us have felt in this past year. We will not forget our loved ones and the loss.
I don’t think any of us could have imagined the events of this past year—I know it has been extraordinarily difficult and we are all ready to move past it. The light at the end of the tunnel is visible. We have now offered vaccine appointments to everyone 75 or older who has preregistered on our website. More than 70 percent of our 75 and older population has received at least one dose. We will continue to vaccinate this group (some people have not preregistered; others may not have received the email or a phone call) while we also move to vaccinate other eligible people.
We have now begun offering appointments to people who are 65-74. More than 35 percent of residents in this category have already been vaccinated (likely because they went to a non-county site or because of their type of employment, including in health care and education).
Additionally, many of our teachers—both at Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and private schools—have already been vaccinated. We have been working with our hospital partners and very much appreciate their cooperation in this effort. As you may know, MCPS has begun returning to some in-person learning. While I am not involved in that decision process, our staff, especially our public health officer, Travis Gayles, and our director of the Office of Emergency Management, Earl Stoddard, have been working with the school administration to advise them on their preparations and activities. The school system has posted its reopening information at https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/reopening/.
The other good news this week was that the FDA has approved a third vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson. The County health department is receiving 1,600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, in addition to the 4,500 weekly first doses of Moderna vaccines we receive (the County health department does not receive Pfizer vaccines—those go to some of the private providers). At our Wednesday press briefing, Dr. Gayles discussed the new vaccine. You can hear his thoughts at https://youtu.be/kQwjMAhw0wQ?t=877.
Dr. Gayles was also featured this past Sunday in a segment on the CBS show “60 Minutes.” I continue to appreciate his dedication and work to helping all of us.
We are hopeful that in the coming weeks and months, the Federal government will be sending states more vaccines, and in turn, Maryland will distribute more to us. We are preparing to dramatically increase our capacity so that when the doses arrive, I am confident we will be ready. We will continue to get vaccines into arms as quickly as they arrive.
To help us move that process efficiently, please be sure to preregister with the County if you are in any of the eligible groups. Everyone will get a vaccine, but it may take some time. Please be patient. We are as organized as is possible, given the generally chaotic distribution of the vaccines from the State and Federal governments. I am hopeful that our Federal and State partners are working on a better distribution system.
While our case rate of transmission continues to be high, it is much, much better than it has been. The chart below shows the progress.
Essential to keeping that line in the graph headed down is maintaining physical distance, frequent hand washing and mask wearing—even if you have been vaccinated. Also, please refrain from travelling and large gatherings during spring break, Easter and Passover. It is tempting, I know, but we are making true progress. Let’s not reverse it.
I continue to be grateful for your continued understanding and work to get us through this. We will get through this—together.
P.S. Please tune in tomorrow when I discuss the “State of the County” at 11 am. In addition to remembering the one year anniversary of the first Covid cases, I also will tell you about some of what we have worked on and what we are continuing to work on to make Montgomery County an even better place to live and work.