This has been a good week! More than 50 percent of our residents have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or the single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. We reached that milestone last Friday. We had previously set metrics for reopening that were tied to our vaccination rates, and the final metric stipulated that two weeks after reaching that 50 percent mark, we would align with the State’s guidance. We used two weeks because a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the final (or single) dose.
I also know that there has been confusion around the guidance for face coverings. You can read about reopening and face coverings here.
I will also try to explain it. Everyone must continue to wear face coverings on public transportation, in schools and in childcare and health care settings. People who are not fully vaccinated must still wear face coverings indoors in public areas and where interaction with others is likely or where food is prepared. Face coverings are no longer required outdoors, but the Maryland Department of Health strongly recommends that all non-vaccinated individuals over the age of 2 years continue to wear face coverings in all indoor settings and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
· Private establishments and workplaces may put in place their own policies or guidance. I want to encourage people to respect those choices. It is critical to remember that any establishment can require masks.
· I ask that we respect everyone’s comfort level with masking. Some people may prefer to wear face coverings even if they are no longer required, and that is a valid choice. So please keep your mask with you—do not leave it at home.
While we are making tremendous progress, I do not want people to forget that this virus is still out there, and that about 50 percent of our residents are not yet vaccinated. In addition, 13 percent of our population is under 12 so they are not eligible for the vaccine—at least not right now. Our case and positivity rates are down significantly and we are finally at the point of a low risk of transmission. This also is great news. However, people are still getting sick and dying from this disease and we remain committed to focusing on the health and safety of our residents.
Toward that end, we are trying to get as many people vaccinated as possible. We are providing clinics throughout the County, including mobile clinics that take the vaccines to our vulnerable populations who have been hard hit by this virus and who may not have the time or information to get vaccinated. Last Saturday, I went to one of these clinics at St. Camillius church where they had many more people walking up for a vaccine than they had expected. (They had enough vaccines for them all.)
As many of you know, we have also started vaccinating children as young as 12. Since the Pfizer vaccine was approved for 12- to 15-year-olds, we have vaccinated more than 10,000 adolescents at our clinics. We also hosted a vaccine clinic at Argyle Middle School yesterday, trying to reach adolescents (the clinic was open to all). Our vaccine website www.GoVAXMoCo.com has the information on how to make an appointment at vaccination clinics.
This week, I joined in the celebration of Taste the World in Fenton Village in Silver Spring. I was happy to be able to support the restaurants and to talk with restaurant owners about the newest round of the MoCo Restaurant Relief Fund, which began yesterday. Our restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit during this pandemic, and I am glad we are able to help them some and hope that they are able to recoup their losses and resume normal operations.
Many renters have been hit hard by this pandemic, and with great support from our Federal and State leaders, we are providing more than $100 million to help our most vulnerable residents avoid losing their homes. Together with elected leaders around the State and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, we continue to urge Governor Hogan to extend the eviction moratorium for 90-120 days to give us time to get these funds to tenants and their landlords. It does not make sense to allow these evictions now when help is on the way. We also are working with nonprofit partners to provide legal help to tenants before and at eviction proceedings. When the tenants get legal assistance, the overwhelming majority get some relief from the courts.
On a different subject, tomorrow is Bike to Work Day in the Washington Region. The County is sponsoring 15 pit stops around the County. Many of us are still not returning to offices, but we can still hop on our bikes. I will be heading to the stop in Takoma Park and there are stops around the County. More information is available here.
I want to again thank all of you for your patience and understanding throughout this pandemic. You have understood the need to follow the science to protect the health of all of us. And now, thanks to you, we are re-emerging into life around us.
Speaking of emerging, some of my staff, friends and neighbors have been enjoying the phenomena of the emerging cicadas after their 17-year sojourn underground. This year all of us are slowly emerging from this very long, difficult time.