December 9, 2021

Message from the County Executive


Dear Friends,

As we approach the end of another year dealing with the pandemic, we should be proud of our resiliency and efforts to keep each other safe. This week, in an article titled “The Most-Vaccinated Big Counties in America Are Beating the Worst of the Coronavirus,The Washington Post reported: “Perhaps the most highly vaccinated large County in America, according to New York Times data, is Montgomery County, Md., just outside the District of Columbia. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 93 percent of those 12 and older there are fully vaccinated, compared to around 70 percent nationally. The number of those dying daily over the past week is eight times as high nationally—3.4 per 1 million—as it is in Montgomery County—0.4 per 1 million—even as Montgomery County is near some virus hotspots.”

For the last 22 months, Montgomery County’s executive and legislative branches have faced unprecedented challenges, and we have instituted legislation and policies designed to protect our residents, businesses and employees. Together, we took steps to ensure that our government operations did not stop during the pandemic, and we closely monitored our budget and spending. We also followed the science and data to guide us during the pandemic, and we have the highest vaccination rate among large jurisdictions throughout this nation. All of our work has been guided by an equity lens.

We have provided food and fiscal relief to tens of thousands of families, provided year-round shelter to the homeless and made our government to be more efficient, effective and innovative. We have done this while continuing to make progress on economic development, affordable housing and combatting climate change. We have been successful because we have put the people of this County first.

This week, the County Council selected new leadership and I want to extend my congratulations to new Council President Gabe Albornoz and new Vice President Evan Glass. I have worked with both of them on numerous issues over the last three years and look forward to working even more collaboratively over the next year. Gabe and Evan have been helpful partners and leaders who are dedicated to serving this County.

We have a lot to be proud of, but there is still more to do, and I am confident that we will build on our past success working with Council President Albornoz and Vice President Glass.

COVID-19 update and missing data

Our testing was up 40 percent last week, which was expected following Thanksgiving holiday gatherings. Sadly, our hospitalizations have increased as well. Due to the State’s health department website outages this week, our typical reporting data was off over the past few days. We do not have up-to-date vaccination and case rate numbers. We are still awaiting answers and updates from the State as we wait for data to come back online.

This week will mark the second anniversary of when COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan, China. In just two years, it is responsible for more than 5.2 million deaths worldwide including nearly 800,000 deaths in the United States. There have been 1,737 deaths in Montgomery County. These numbers are sobering, and frustrating, as every time we believe the end of the pandemic is nearing, there is a new setback. The nation is currently seeing more than 100,000 new cases per day (the vast majority are the Delta variant) and now 50 countries and 19 states, including Maryland, have the new Omicron Variant.

We are beginning to get some preliminary data about Omicron from a report out of South Africa. Last weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that this data was “encouraging,” but cautioned that more information was needed to fully understand the variant. The bottom line is to make sure you and your family are vaccinated and that you get a booster if you are eligible. But to every person who thinks COVID is over, and life should be back to normal, that just is not the reality we are facing. Wishing it away and ignoring it did not, and will not, work. This is why getting vaccines and boosters is so important.

The percent of our total population vaccinated is continuing to increase. According to the CDC, 81 percent of our residents are FULLY vaccinated, and 94 percent have received at least one dose. The newest eligible group—children aged 5-11—are continuing to get vaccinated, but the rate is slowing down. Over one-third of our 5- to 11-year-olds have received at least one shot, which means almost two-thirds of our children are not yet vaccinated. Protecting them from the virus is very important. If you, your neighbors and friends have not gotten your child vaccinated, please do so as soon as possible.

Get your booster!

I also want to continue to encourage all eligible adults to get their booster shot. We are up to more than 230,000 booster shots provided. This represents more than 20 percent of all boosters given throughout the State, which is good news. However, this is only about half of the residents that are currently eligible for boosters. If it has been at least six months since your Pfizer or Moderna shots, or if has been two months since you got the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, you are eligible.

As a reminder, a booster shot does not have to be the same vaccine as the original one. I got my booster, and it was quick and easy. My first dose was J&J and my second dose was Pfizer.

To find out where to get your booster shot or make a reservation, go to The best gift you can give your loved ones or yourself is to get a booster shot.

Temporary pause of Rent Relief Program

This week we announced that our Emergency Rental Assistance application portal will be temporarily closing at 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 31. Applications submitted before the deadline will be reviewed and processed, but no additional applications will be received after that date. A new round of rent-relief funding, with an updated application process and eligibility criteria, will be announced in early 2022. Last month, I sent a supplemental budget request to the County Council for an additional $34 million in emergency assistance funds, and I am glad that the Council approved it this week.

I want to be clear that the current rental assistance program is closing temporarily because of changes in the Federal guidelines, but it will return and will hopefully be more user-friendly. In the meantime, we want to get the word out to renters that they can get their applications in before Dec. 31.

Individuals who need assistance completing an application can call 311, and they will be matched with a nonprofit partner or staff member who can help. For more information, go to our rent relief portal on our County website at

Library hours are extended

We have some good news about our libraries. The hours of operation at all our branches, except the Maggie Nightingale (Poolesville) and Noyes Library for Young Children (Kensington) branches, will be expanded on Jan. 2 to 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and to 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The hours and schedule for Maggie Nightingale, which is currently closed for renovations, and Noyes will remain as they currently stand.

I want to thank our staff, residents and patrons of the libraries for their patience as we worked to ensure that the facilities are COVID safe and accessible for visitors and employees. So many residents rely on our libraries as gathering places, as well for access to books and the internet. For more information on what is going on at our libraries, go to

We Will Lead on Global Pandemic Prevention

One of the top scientists in the world who helped create the COVID-19 vaccine, Sarah Gilbert, warned this week, "This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods. The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both."

This warning is exactly why our nation and the world need an institution that will specifically focus on pandemic research and protection.

It was announced this week that the new Global Pandemic Prevention and Biodefense Center will be headquartered in Montgomery County. The center’s goal is to help prevent future outbreaks from becoming pandemics. Montgomery County is uniquely positioned to be the host location for the Center, which aims to harness the rich talent and critical health research, biotech, defense and government assets required to deliver a full-scale response. In 2019, I joined the steering committee of connected DMV, which is the impetus behind this center because I understood the importance of this effort and the relevance to this County. To read more about this center, visit

No one deserves to live hungry

Food Insecurity has been called the “disaster within the disaster” during the past 22 months. The pandemic has brought our food security needs into greater focus, but the problem was with us before COVID arrived. I want to thank Congressman Jamie Raskin for convening a “Food Resiliency Roundtable” at the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church on Monday. Joining Congressman Raskin was House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern from Massachusetts, food resources providers and advocates. I was honored to be a part of this important discussion on the challenges regarding recipients in need of food, the organizations distributing the food and the political and logistical obstacles on Capitol Hill.

To tackle this enormous increase in demand, we created the Food Security Task Force last year to respond to the crisis facing our community. We believe that it is critical that the County preserve the progress made during the pandemic response, and build on lessons learned, instead of simply returning to a pre-COVID-19 food system state. To read more about these efforts, visit

Consider the environment when salting pavement!

We saw our first snowflakes in the County recently, and we know more is coming. I encourage everyone to be prepared for winter weather, keep alert of incoming storms and make sure your home is prepared in case you lose power. If you have not already signed up for emergency alerts, please do. Just go to the County website and sign-up at

This week, I participated in an effort urging homeowners to be “Salt Wise” and use less salt on sidewalks and driveways during winter storms. Salt runs off into storm drains, local streams, and eventually, to the Potomac and Patuxent rivers, which are drinking water sources for 1.8 million people in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Salt can corrode concrete and masonry, harm pets, damage surrounding plants and lawns and adversely impact the water supply. We want homeowners to understand that over-salting does not make sidewalks and driveways safer, it just puts our water eco-system at greater long-term risk of damage.

The Salt Wise campaign is a simple three-step method for residents to keep sidewalks and driveways safe while also reducing harm to the environment.
  • Shovel ice and snow early and often.
  • Use one 12-ounce cup of salt (not more) for 10 sidewalk squares or for a 20-foot driveway.
  • After storm events, sweep up excess salt for reuse. This one is probably the least known and especially important.
Your actions can really make a difference in this area. For more information, go to

Holiday happenings

Finally, you may want to visit the “Garden of Lights” exhibit that is returning to for its 23rd year at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton. And click on Visit Montgomery’s Holiday Experience Hub at, for more information about events, activities, shopping and eating this holiday season throughout the County.

As always, with my appreciation for your support.

Marc Elrich
County Executive