February 10, 2022

Message from the County Executive


Dear Friends,

As we continue to celebrate and honor Black History Month, I want to comment on a hate incident that Councilmember Will Jawando experienced. He was attacked with hate-filled verbal assaults during an online forum about police reform policies. This attack follows threats made last week to historically black colleges and universities around the country; this is not where this society should be in 2022. I know this isn’t the first time Councilmember Jawando has dealt with attacks of this nature, and it is a testament to his character and strength to continue fighting for what he believes is best for Montgomery County in the face of this vile opposition. People making these attacks are cowards and should put their name on any statements and own it. It’s disgusting. I offer my unwavering support to Councilmember Jawando, his family and staff. 

I also want to thank Councilmember Jawando for sending a request to my office to honor the late Brig. Gen. Charles McGee by renaming the Silver Spring Library after him. Gen. McGee was a member of the 332nd Fighter Group, famously known as the Tuskegee Airmen, who lived in this County for 30 years and died last month at the age of 102. I support this action and will work to make it happen as quickly as possible. Learning the history of trailblazing African Americans like General McGee is vitally important, and another opportunity to learn will be an oral history discussion about Lyttonsville, one of the oldest one of the oldest African American neighborhoods in Montgomery County. Patricia Tyson is hosting the discussion with other residents on Tuesday, Feb. 15 – you can register for that discussion here.


I want to congratulate Dr. Monifa B. McKnight on being selected by the Board of Education as Montgomery County Public School’s (MCPS) new superintendent. I have worked closely with Dr. McKnight during her time as acting superintendent - she has had to deal with the tremendous challenges that COVID-19 has created, and that is not an easy task – there was no off-the-shelf playbook to guide any of us.

She is fortunate to work with teachers, principals, and support staff who, like Dr. McKnight, have demonstrated a great sense of compassion for our children’s education and well-being. This is a historic moment as the first woman, and second person of color, steps up to lead Maryland’s largest school district where 73 percent of the students and families are people of color. I look forward to working with her as we recover from this pandemic and address the myriad challenges that COVID-19 has amplified. Addressing these challenges will require continued investment in our school system, which is why I recently recommended a record level of capital investment to provide resources for response and recovery efforts. These investments are important to ensure that the school system she leads has the resources they need.

Dr. McKnight brings a wealth of experience to the position, and I look forward to supporting her work to ensure that all our children are college- and career-ready and have equitable access and opportunity to learn. 


The good news is that our COVID-19 rates continue to decline. Our test-positivity rate has dropped to around 3.5 percent and our case rate has also dropped to 17.82 per 100,000 residents – the lowest rates we have seen in the last two months but still multiples of rates we had last summer during that brief period when we thought COVID was done. Just a month ago our case rate was 305.25 per 100,000 residents. However, it is important to note that we are still in “high transmission” even though our rates are below the State average.

This week, Governor Hogan asked the State Board of Education to rescind the mask mandate in our schools. I wish the Governor would be more patient – our trends are good, but we’ve not yet returned to a level of moderate transmission. I hope the State Board of Education waits to rescind the mask mandate until the rates of jurisdictions around the State are in the moderate transmission category. We have seen far too many times during this pandemic, that when the numbers go down, our guard goes down, and that makes the numbers go right back up. We need to use what we learned over the last 23 months in order to get out of these negative patterns.


This week, our nation marked another grim milestone – we have lost 900,000 Americans to COVID. It took our nation only 50 days to register 100,000 deaths, after 75 days to go from 700,000 to 800,000 due to the Omicron variant and strains on our health systems. These are sobering numbers and unnecessarily large. From the onset, the country did not respond the way it should have to this virus, and we continue to have a significant portion of our population not believing in the science and facts leading to bad health practices. Stunningly, after a year of having the vaccine available, 35 percent of our nation remains unvaccinated. Some of these deaths could have been prevented if more people had been vaccinated.

Montgomery County has lost 1,945 residents to this pandemic; but if our death rate matched the rest of the nation, we would have seen 2,709 deaths at this point – that is 40 percent more deaths if we had been like the rest of the nation. Additionally, for our County 80 percent of the deaths occurred before vaccines were widely available. That lower number is due to this County’s government, health care, school system, businesses, and, most importantly, our residents, doing what was right for ourselves, our families, and our communities. I continue to be appreciative of our residents understanding, patience, and vigilance to keep our County as safe and healthy as possible.


As we turn the page from this surge, I am very proud of and pleased with our ability to be flexible and adaptable in our government and throughout our community. One such success over the last month has been the distribution of our take-home rapid tests. We have distributed about 1.5 million rapid test kits. About half of those we have distributed through our libraries along with nearly 700,000 face masks. And we continue to provide rapid tests to our schools – both public and private, childcare providers, senior facilities, and many of our community partners. This volume of rapid test distribution is more than all the other counties in Maryland combined.


Our vaccination and booster numbers continue to slow down. Just two weeks ago, 22,000 individuals received boosters. Last week it was only 10,000. Our 18- to 64-year-old Black and Latino residents are only 44 percent and 39 percent boosted respectively. And 25 percent of our 65+ group still need their booster. This age cohort is more likely to have pre-existing conditions and weaker immune systems leading to serious and severe symptoms if they catch COVID – even if originally vaccinated. The bottom line is everyone needs to understand the importance of getting boosted.

The Governor announced that the State is going to do another lottery to help promote boosters and I hope this effort helps increase turn out. We are also focusing our County efforts to get more people boosted. We are hosting our second “Boosterama” on Saturday, Feb. 19 – Presidents Day weekend - at Westfield Wheaton Mall from 1 to 4 p.m. Our first Boosterama in December vaccinated 420 people in just three hours and was a great success. We are hoping that we can do even better this time.


This week, I testified in support of House Bill 425 and Senate Bill 387 in the General Assembly that would ban “ghost guns.” Ghost guns are guns that are unregistered and untraceable firearms. In fact, the recent shooting of a student at Magruder High School was done with a ghost gun. The suspect in that case allegedly ordered the ghost gun from the internet and had it delivered to his house in three packages. He simply put this gun together himself, and it ended up being the first known weapon discharged in a Montgomery County public school.

These weapons are specifically designed, manufactured, and sold to avoid sensible gun-ownership laws. I applaud Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh for his leadership on this issue and want to recognize Maryland Delegate Lesley Lopez for her tireless commitment to stop the supply of these guns that are increasingly making their way onto our streets and into our communities and schools. I encourage you to lend your voice to this issue, and please encourage our State legislators to pass this bill and for Governor Larry Hogan to sign this legislation.


I want to wish everyone a wonderful Valentine’s Day and Super Bowl Weekend. We have three Montgomery County high school alums playing in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday – Damascus High School’s Jake Funk is a running back for the Rams while former Quince Orchard student Zach Kerr and Good Counsel’s Keandre Jones will be suited up for the Bengals.

As you make both “the big game” and Valentine’s plans and gift purchases - please remember to keep your money in Montgomery by shopping local, dining local, and celebrating local. This week, I read this beautiful but sad article in The Washington Post Magazine about the Yu family, owners of the Hollywood East Cafe in Wheaton; I have known Janet Yu for a long time. This article explains the obstacles and challenges, and perseverance of this Montgomery County family and business owners in face of the pandemic. This article demonstrates the commitment this family has to each other and their customers. The Yu’s demonstration of love is the type that needs to be focused on during a Valentine’s Day weekend. I hope you take the time to read this article and that it inspires you to support the many wonderful locally owned restaurants and businesses in our county. Our County businesses were hit hard once again by the Omicron surge, and we need to help them as we can. Please check out VisitMontgomery.com for great places, events, and locations to spend this time with your loved ones throughout Montgomery County.

Our County’s Department of Transportation is having a “Love Flash” photo contest on Twitter where residents can win a prize this month by sharing what they love about the County’s first rapid transit service— the Flash bus. It did not take very long for Montgomery County residents to ‘Love Flash,’ and we hope that they share their thoughts and photos with us through this creative contest.

This Sunday, Feb. 13, the Wheaton Urban District and Montgomery County Recreation will celebrate Valentine’s Day with “I Love Wheaton” – an afternoon filled with free, outdoor fun and activities from noon - 4 p.m. at Marian Fryer Town Plaza. Please join us for ice skating, art, crafts, along with food and fun for everyone. There will also be outdoor heat lamps, a fire pit, and a DJ.

And if you love poetry and history, please tune in this Saturday at 3 p.m. for the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological & Scientific Olympics (or ACT-SO) of NAACP Montgomery County’s 7th Annual Poetry Read-In celebrating Black History Month. I am honored to participate and read a powerful poem by Langston Hughes. Please click here to register for this event.


Finally, this Wednesday was National Pizza Day, and an unfortunate reminder of a meal that I miss so much due to my diet. Montgomery County is home to some of the best pizza places around. There are a lot of best-of lists on the internet; but the MoCo Show’s Alex Tsironis has listed his favorites here, though you may have your own.

As always, my appreciation for all of you.

Marc Elrich
County Executive