Today is Nurse Appreciation Day, which is a great opportunity to thank all of our nurses. As a nation, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the nurses, and all frontline health providers who tended to the sick and dying, comforted families and worked tirelessly. They have faced shortages of supplies and medical equipment, and situations where there was little knowledge about effective COVID-19 treatments. They have been met with emotions and tensions that combined to make their jobs more challenging than ever. We owe them our thanks and appreciation for all that they did and that they still are doing.
I am happy to report good news on the COVID-19 front. Our County positivity and case rates are going down and I am proud to say that among the largest jurisdictions in the nation, Montgomery County has the lowest COVID rates east of the Mississippi.
Almost 55 percent of our population has received at least the first dose of vaccine. When we hit 60 percent of our population having received at least one dose of vaccine, we will move into Phase 2 of our reopening. Our careful and deliberate approach is definitely moving us in the right direction.
Also this week, we began direct vaccination registration and some walk-up vaccinations. Learn more about how you can get a vaccine.
However, I am concerned that we are seeing a decline in vaccination rates.
This is consistent with a national trend of people who do not want to be vaccinated. We are trying to understand the different barriers to vaccination and are working hard to encourage people to be vaccinated. To help with that, we are opening more County-operated clinics and offering hours on different days and evenings to make it easier for people to get their vaccines.
Now that vaccines are more easily available, please help convince friends, family and neighbors to get vaccinated. The concept is simple: the more people who get vaccinated, the faster we can safely reopen.
As part of honoring May as “Older Americans Month,” I volunteered this week at our Holiday Park Senior Center and helped prepare and deliver food. It was really great to have a chance to talk directly with some of our seniors. I very much appreciated our Recreation Department for including me in this event.
Since the pandemic started, we have delivered more than 183,000 meals to the homes of seniors unable to shop or cook their own meals. Our partner organizations have delivered an additional 580,000 meals to County seniors. The pandemic has forced us to improve our delivery and food access programs. This work will continue beyond the pandemic.
Our older adults have been among the most impacted by the COVID health crisis. It is good news that almost 85 percent of our 65-and-older population has received one shot and 73 percent of these residents are fully vaccinated.
Older Americans Month is a good reminder to check in on family members, friends and neighbors who are older and to make sure they are doing okay.
This month also is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. It is a great opportunity to highlight the contributions to our history and culture from our AAPI community. We kicked off the celebration this past weekend at Cabin John Park. I especially appreciated the comments from students who shared thoughtful and personal comments about the community’s struggles against anti-Asian hate crimes during this very difficult year. We remain committed to being a County where all people are welcomed and valued.
Earlier this week, we celebrated Teacher Appreciation Day. Over this past year we have asked our teachers to educate in ways few had done before and every teacher had to make changes immediately. They have done an incredible job caring for, teaching and educating our children despite tough circumstances. As a former elementary school teacher, I can all too well imagine the challenges of teaching elementary school remotely—or trying to simultaneously address students in the classroom and on Zoom. I am so thankful for the creativity, ingenuity, patience and perseverance all of our teachers have shown during this school year.
Tomorrow, we will observe Provider Appreciation Day to celebrate the work of our local child care providers and other educators of young children. Like our teachers and so many others, this has been a year of tremendous challenge. Child care providers were “essential” long before the pandemic, and the past year has highlighted the lengths to which they are willing to go to keep their doors open. About 40,000 children in Montgomery County are in child care and our child care providers work every day to keep our children safe and nurtured. They support and engage families, and they play a critical role in our community.
Each of us in some way is working hard to overcome the incredible challenges of the past year and get COVID behind us. We can do this, and we are doing this, together.