September 16, 2021

Message from the County Executive

Dear Friends:

This was a sad week in Montgomery County. We lost Montgomery County Board of Education Member Patricia O’Neill. She was the longest serving member of the Board and her love of our children and her commitment to the constituents she served was remarkable. My thoughts and sympathies go out to the family and friends of as well everyone in our Montgomery County Public Schools community. We are flying flags at half-staff this week to honor her legacy. To read more community reflections on Pat O’Neill, click on this article in Bethesda Beat.

Covid-19 Rates and Students

Our Covid-19 cases remain at the level of “substantial transmission,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, Maryland has seen an overall a decrease in cases as compared to last week, which is good news. Our COVID-19 testing volumes continue to trend up, which is not a surprise as many families are on increased vigilance now that children are back in school.

Statewide, schools are now tied with nursing homes for total active outbreaks, and schools lead with the number of active cases tied to outbreaks. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, there has been a 230 percent increase nationwide among children. Children now make up 29 percent of all new COVID cases nationwide (27 percent in Maryland and 28 percent in Montgomery County).

MCPS has started rapid testing in schools, which is great news. This will reduce the number of students who will have to quarantine. Additionally, MCPS has reduced the number of “close contacts” required to quarantine while awaiting test results. As I noted last week, this school year is particularly challenging and will require patience, understanding and improvisation. I was an elementary school teacher and understand these challenges with contacts, especially with younger kids. I am very appreciative that the schools have responded initially with an abundance of caution.

Since many kids are being exposed to more germs than they have over the past 18 months, they are also going to be more susceptible to common cold and illnesses. Similar symptoms can be confusing to identify. Identifying close contacts for contact tracing may be difficult at the beginning of the school year, especially as the students are masked and new to teachers.

I appreciate all the work by the school staff—this is an incredible undertaking and I have been impressed by their efforts and adaptations. As County Government, we will continue to work with and support testing and COVID mitigation efforts within MCPS. To view all MCPS COVID-19 information, including its COVID-19 dashboard, go to

Vaccination Progress

Montgomery County continues to have the highest vaccination rate in the country for all jurisdictions with more than 300,000 people. Of the eligible population—those who are 12 or older—88 percent are fully vaccinated and 96.5 percent of the eligible population has at least one dose.

This means we are only 3.5 percentage points of having 100 percent of our entire eligible population with at least one dose of the vaccine. We have come a very long way over a few short months. I am also pleased that our 65-and-over population is now more than 95 percent fully vaccinated. This is a population we prioritized when vaccines first became available and it has paid off. We have also vaccinated 439 immunocompromised residents with third doses.

As a result of our equity, communication and outreach efforts, I am pleased that our Black residents are only 3 percent below the White population in terms of vaccination rate. This gap was once as high as 18 percent.

This week, Maryland Department of Health and Live Chair Health are partnering with the Afrikutz Barber & Beauty Shop in Silver Spring to provide equitable access to vaccines through barbershops and salons. The “Haircuts For Health: Getting Beyond COVID” event is a statewide effort to support equitable and convenient access to COVID-19 vaccines for vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities. The first 30 visitors who received a COVID-19 vaccine also will receive a free haircut. Here is a Washington Post story from earlier this year that describes how important these engagements are:

Hispanic Heritage Month

This week Hispanic Heritage Month begins, I encourage everyone to learn the history and customs of all of our Latino communities, enjoy the cultural events and appreciate the contributions to our County’s past, present and future over the next month. Our Latino brothers and sisters are a critical and vibrant part of every neighborhood, every industry and throughout our County government.

We are proud to be home to multiple generations of immigrants from every Latin American nation. According to the 2020 Census, the Latino population in Montgomery County increased by 31.4 percent since 2010, making Latinos now 20.5 percent of the County’s total population. Montgomery County is the No. 2 destination among all U.S. counties for immigrants from Bolivia and the No. 3 destination immigrants from El Salvador.

I enjoyed kicking off Hispanic Heritage Month this past Sunday at the 16th Annual Festival (Salvadoran Independence Day Festival). I also was a guest on the County’s long-standing Spanish language radio show, “Montgomery al Día.” You can listen to the interview here.

Cesar Chavez once said, "Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures." In Montgomery County, we celebrate all cultures and are inclusionary of all races, religions and ethnicities. Our community’s commitment to equity and diversity exists more than just a celebratory week or month. It exists every day of the year.

Welcoming Week

Although we appreciate our diversity every day, this week, we are celebrating “Welcoming Week.” The annual campaign started in 2012 by Welcoming America showcases efforts by communities across the United States to be welcoming places for all, including newly arriving families and children.

During these unprecedented times due to the COVID health crisis and deep divisions within our nation, we are pleased to be a county and a community of compassion and inclusion. We are welcoming to those seeking temporary refuge or a permanent home. Welcoming Week epitomizes our commitment to all of our residents. We welcome and understand that new residents, along with long-time residents, are a vital part of our community. They bring ideas, start businesses, serve in civic roles, work in critical industries and contribute to the vibrant diversity that we value.

The Montgomery County Welcoming Committee is made up of participating organizations such as Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College, the Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy (MCAEL), the Gilchrist Immigrant Resource Center, Community Reach of Montgomery County, Identity, English Now!, the Washington Center for International Education and Silver Spring-based CHEER (Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research). I thank them for their efforts. Please join this conversation by using the hashtag #MoCoWeWelcome.

Property Tax Credit Program

We are working to make sure low-income homeowners are aware of the Homeowners’ Property Tax Credit program. You can read more about it here. The deadline to apply is Oct. 1. To qualify for the tax credit program, applicants must own their primary residence and have a gross household income of less than $60,000 annually. According to the State website, the credit is based on how much property taxes exceed a percentage of a household’s income.

Weekend Events

Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out one of the largest Electric Vehicle Car Shows in the nation at Poolesville Day and the National Drive Electric Poolesville Day event on Saturday. Television station Fox 5 did a “Field Trip” preview of this exciting event.

On Sunday, swing by the annual Wheaton Arts Parade & Festival. Artists, friends, neighbors and community groups will "Parade the Triangle" through Wheaton's town center to our new town plaza on Reedie Drive. You can even participate. According to the organizers: “Make some art and join the parade. Just push, pull, carry, wear or perform your art! If you have not registered, you still can walk with us if you get to the assembly area with your art by 9 a.m. on Sunday.” For more information about the Wheaton Arts Parade & Festival, go to

I will be at these events this weekend. Please feel free to come up and say hello.

As always thank you for your support.

Marc Elrich