April 14, 2022

Message from the County Executive

To view my entire State of the County address, click here.

Dear Friends,

You will notice in lieu of my weekly video this week, I am sharing with you the State of the County address that I delivered today at the Silver Spring Civic Center. I was happy to deliver a lot of good news—especially with the best budget we have seen in many years. The state of Montgomery County is strong and robust, as well as resilient, innovative and equitable.

In this speech, I addressed some of our most pressing challenges, the health and economic hardships from the pandemic, learning loss of our students and concerns about public safety. I also provided updates on our progress on combatting climate change, creating more affordable housing opportunities and on growing our economy.

I was pleased to announce at the State of the County two new exciting affordable housing developments—one in Bethesda and another in the historically black community of Emory Grove. I also announced our efforts to create a biomanufacturing training facility in Silver Spring as another important part of our work to build on our life sciences strengths in the County.

I hope that you are able to take some time to listen to this year’s State of the County speech. We have had an incredible year of successes, even as we continue to address and overcome multiple challenges. It has been my great honor, and the best job I have ever had, to be your County Executive—especially at this critical time in our history. I am proud of what we have accomplished over the last three years as an administration, as a government and as a community.

As I said during the State of the County address, I have been to many places around the country and there is nowhere I would rather be than right here in Montgomery County.

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all of you—our County employees, residents, businesses and communities—for your vigilance, dedication, and perseverance.

Maryland General Assembly Concludes 2022 Session as County Delegation Achieves $287 Million in Investments for County

I was in Annapolis on Monday for the last day of the 2022 Maryland General Assembly session and was pleased to extend my thanks and gratitude to all the Montgomery County Senate and House delegation members for their extraordinary work. Under the leadership of delegation chairs Senator Ben Kramer and Delegate Marc Korman, and the efforts of the 32-member delegation resulted in $287 million dollars of new State investments that will be directed to projects located within the County. This is in addition to the $1.2 billion in State aid to support Montgomery County Public Schools, our libraries and our public safety efforts.

John F. Kennedy was quoted as saying, ‘The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.’ This is exactly what the Maryland General Assembly did this year with its historic State budget surpluses.

This year, the General Assembly moved important legislation on combatting climate change, banning ghost guns, protecting reproductive rights, increasing access to paid Family and Medical Leave, expanding the right to collective bargaining and adding protections for prevailing wage.

I also was pleased to see that there was finally progress on cannabis legislation. Passage of this legislation will enable voters to ratify the choice to legalize cannabis. The war on cannabis has been a failure for generations and there is a need to do better in all aspects of policy—from business development to criminal justice. This legislation will create a more equitable and fair system.

I am also glad that the Maryland Makerspace Initiative Program passed. Makerspace programs allow for a new generation to discover a new passion, industry and career. The legislation provides studio space to entrepreneurs, small businesses, nonprofits and artists.

Congratulations to our State Senate and House delegation for a successful session and our appreciation for their hard work and advocacy.

County COVID Cases Three Times Higher Than a Month Ago

The County’s current COVID-19 case rate continues to increase and is approximately three times higher than one month ago. The current rate is as high as the County peak rate during Delta surge last August. Currently, 85 percent of the cases we are seeing derive from the BA.2 subvariant. The County’s case rate has risen faster than the rest of the State.

Our schools are out on spring break this week, and many of our residents are travelling and gathering with friends for Ramadan, Passover and the Easter holidays. Our projections are showing that we are going to see these case trends likely worsen for the next couple of weeks before they get potentially get better.

The good news is that our hospitalization rates remain low, but we must monitor them closely over the upcoming weeks as we weather this increase in transmissions. Due to our low hospitalization rates, we remain in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Low” community level. However, our neighbors in Arlington County just increased to the CDC’s “Medium” community level, so we must remain vigilant.

Montgomery County Is Nearing 90 Percent “Fully Vaccinated,” But Only 54 Percent Boosted

We are fortunate to have a highly vaccinated population. Currently, 88 percent of our total population is fully vaccinated. However, only 54 percent of our total population is currently boosted. We must continue to address this discrepancy. There is a 94 percent better chance of not having severe COVID and being hospitalized when someone is vaccinated and boosted as compared to being unvaccinated. If there is anything we have learned over the last year since the vaccines became available, it is that they work!

We are also making progress in getting vaccinations for our ages 5-11 group. Our current vaccination status for this age cohort is 62 percent fully vaccinated. This compares favorably to a recent CNN review of U.S. vaccination rates that reported less than 28 percent of this age range are vaccinated nationwide. Even though our County is doing much better than the national average, we still have 38 percent of our 5–11-year olds not fully vaccinated. We must do better. A study published last week by the New England Journal of Medicine found that vaccination reduced the risk of hospitalization for 5- to 11-year-olds by 68 percent during the Omicron wave.

Have COVID Questions or Concerns? Talk to DHHS

Our Department of Health and Human Services continues its efforts to get our community vaccinated and boosted. Over the upcoming weeks, DHHS will be having virtual community conversations with our five regional service centers. This week, it started this series in East County and will continue to the four other service areas over the upcoming weeks.

I encourage residents to attend these conversations. Our experts will be happy to address all COVID-related questions or any other health or social services DHHS provides. Over the last two years, DHHS has been the lead department in dealing with the pandemic, but it also has continued to work and focus on all areas of health and wellness. I appreciate their consistent and persistent efforts to engage our community.

‘Test to Treat’ Launched Providing Easier Access to COVID Treatments

This week, we launched the “Test to Treat Initiative” in Montgomery County. COVID treatments are another tool to help combat COVID and reduce severe cases and increased hospitalizations. But these treatments must start early to work.

COVID-19 medications are now available through doctors and local pharmacies. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, do not wait to get treated. You must start oral medication within five days of your first COVID-19 symptoms.

Test to Treat locations provide faster, easier access to medicine. Please visit this website to find the nearest location to access these treatments.

Seeking Applicants for New Police Accountability Board and Administrative Charging Committee

We launched the application portal for our newly formed Police Accountability Board (PAB) and Administrative Charging Committee (ACC) last week.

Even though we are waiting for the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission to publish its regulations on these important boards, we knew we needed to move forward to meet the July 1 timeline established by State law.

We encourage members of the public to apply for these important boards.

Providing Affordable Housing for Seniors

Last week, I visited the Silver Creek Senior Living Apartments in Kensington. Silver Creek is affordable housing for seniors with resident engagement services, a community room, amenities and several transit options. It is well-located near stores, restaurants and the Kensington Park Library.

To support construction of the affordable housing for seniors at Silver Creek, the County provided an $8.9 million Housing Initiative Fund loan to create 94 affordable housing units for residents ages 62 and over. The new building at Silver Creek will have 10 units available at 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), 69 units at 60 percent of the AMI and 15 units at 80 percent of the AMI.

Too many of our over-62 residents are having to make unthinkable decisions between affording to pay their rent, their medications and their food. Providing affordable housing options to our seniors is an urgent priority.

We welcome a project like Silver Creek Senior Living Apartments and I appreciate the work of our Department of Housing and Community Affairs to help provide financing for this project.

Trapping Trash to Protect Our Waterways

As we continue to celebrate Earth Month, I was pleased to announce the installation of the County’s first “litter trap” that will catch trash flowing down a stream or river.

The trap will float in the Lockridge Drive Tributary and capture litter. Using the stream current, it will guide debris into the trap and prevent it from flowing downstream to the Anacostia River and into the Chesapeake Bay.

Plastic bottles make up 60 percent of all the trash that is found floating on the Anacostia River. The best way to reduce trash in our waterways is not to litter at all, but this litter trap is another way to make sure that we are not leaving environmentally harmful trash behind. I want to thank the Department of Environmental Protection, as well as the Chesapeake Bay Trust and Anacostia Riverkeeper—our partners in finding innovative ways to clean up our streams and creeks.

We are proud to support funding for projects such as the Litter Trap and to work with these local groups committed to cleaning their communities. These programs provide jobs, create awareness and build community support for protecting our environment.

As always, my appreciation for all you do.

Marc Elrich
County Executive