June 23, 2022

Message from the County Executive

Dear Friends,

It is hard to believe it has already been a year and a half since we began to distribute vaccines to help combat the COVID-19 virus. This week, we hit a major milestone as our last age group – babies from 6 months to young children 5 years old – are now eligible for their vaccine.


The County is offering clinics specifically for this age group. However, the vast majority of the vaccine doses are being distributed to private providers, which is why we’re asking families to make appointments with their health care providers if they are available. There will be limited appointments (no walk-ins) at the county clinics, and we will get everyone vaccinated, but it may require some patience. There are online tools from the Federal government and on the County website (https://montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/vaccine/) to help guide you to the nearest available vaccines.

We have also set up a Frequently Asked Questions page to help. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for changes to our plan or updates to our vaccine scheduling.

This is an exciting time and potentially a great boost for our community safety. With this latest wave of COVID-19 infections, we have seen that even though many of our neighbors are vaccinated and boosted these variants can still break through and lead to outbreaks. We have been hearing from parents of daycare and school-aged children who only in the last month or so have had to deal with quarantines to control outbreaks in classrooms.

Remember that while these shots are not a shield that blocks all infection, they are important to shield you from severe impacts. 

Montgomery is most vaccinated, but we must do better with boosting

We want to stress that getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from a serious illness from COVID-19. It’s also helped keep our mortality rates low. This graph shows how vaccinations can reduce the chances of hospitalization as compared to the unvaccinated.

Throughout this pandemic, the unvaccinated have been hit much harder. Even recently unvaccinated people were three times more likely to be hospitalized than the fully vaccinated. During the winter Omicron surge, the rate of hospitalization for unvaccinated patients eight times higher than for fully vaccinated patients. Montgomery County’s COVID-19 community level determined by the CDC remains Medium.

Montgomery County residents have done an incredible job of showing up for vaccines. According to the CDC, 88 percent of our total population is fully vaccinated. That is 21.2 percentage points higher than the national average of 66.8 percent. This is one of the main reasons why our County has two-thirds of the national death rate from COVID-19.

Last December, The Washington Post wrote, “Perhaps the most highly vaccinated large county in America, according to New York Times data, is Montgomery County, Md.” Last week, stacker.com ranked all the counties in each state by the percentage of fully vaccinated people. Not only are we the most vaccinated county in Maryland, but the report also found that our vaccination rate was 15 percent higher than the state average and that our death rate was close to 20 percent lower than the state’s death rate per 100,000 people.

However, despite this incredible performance in being fully vaccinated, only 56.1 percent of our residents have received their booster and this number has remained stagnant for weeks. Although this rate is 8.9 percentage points higher than the national average at 47.2 percent, we should be doing better, and we need your help. If you are already boosted, remind your family and friends to do so and please share our website GoVaxMoCo.com with your social media networks.

Vaccinations and boosters are critical and are saving lives. Let’s continue to take our shots!

Food, fun, and festivities with our seniors at 55+BBQ

Earlier this week I got a chance to celebrate our seniors with the 55+ BBQ Bonanza. Our Recreation Department hosted more than 400 people at Smokey Glen Farm in Gaithersburg for a fun-filled day of great food and activities like games, crafts, nature walks, softball, and line dancing.

One reason I wanted to be there was to thank everyone for their vigilance, patience, and the sacrifices they have made since March of 2020. Until we had vaccines available, many seniors went months without visits from their loved ones during the pandemic. When the County needed to be shut down, our Recreation Department and Health and Human Service departments found new ways to get meals delivered to hundreds of seniors who depend on the Senior Nutrition Program. When the senior centers were closed and there were no dances--dancing went on via Zoom meetings. When it was safe to go outside, but not gather inside buildings, parking lots became the dance floors.

We prioritized our senior population during this pandemic, and our seniors did what they needed to do to keep themselves safe. Since the vaccinations arrived last year, we have consistently held the highest vaccination rates in the nation for our 65+, and these efforts have helped us have two-thirds of the nation’s death rate when it comes to COVID-19.

The pandemic made things very challenging for our older residents – but it is wonderful that we can be back together and participate in events like this one.

New report moves DMV to  No. 2 in nation for life sciences research talent

Not only are we topping the nation in getting COVID vaccines into the arms of residents, we also boast some of the top talent in the life sciences businesses--whose employees are working to keep us safe. I'm excited to share news from a study published this month that ranks our region as one of the top talent clusters for Life Sciences Research Talent in the nation.

CBRE is an international company that looks at commercial business trends. It has determined that the Washington, D.C. Baltimore Region is the second-best area in the nation for life sciences research business behind Boston at No. 1 and San Francisco, New York and San Diego just behind us. During my weekly media briefing this week, Ian Anderson, senior research director with CBRE, explained some of the many factors we have working in our favor.

We are close to many government organizations, including the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which are headquartered in Montgomery County. We also have the advantage of being close to several higher education institutions that are putting many life sciences graduates into the workforce, including the University of Maryland, Howard University and Johns Hopkins University. These graduates are becoming medical scientists, data scientists and biologists.

The reason this is important for Montgomery County is because of our successful efforts to reap the benefits of this booming industry which has seen 131 percent growth over the last 20 years. And we are committed to growing this life sciences talent pool.

Last year, we signed an important MOU between the County, Montgomery College, the Universities at Shady, the University System of Maryland, and our life science companies that will help connect our students to this industry – providing them incredible education experiences while ensuring we are providing well-trained and well-educated potential workers for this industry.

Just this month, we have welcomed the expansion of Regenxbio biohealth company, which specializes in gene therapy, and Montgomery County-based Novavax had its COVID-19 vaccine approved by Federal regulators for Emergency Use Authorization. Additionally, Montgomery County currently has a record 3 million square feet of lab space in development, is home to the developing Global Pandemic and Biodefense Center. It is also growing our artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and biotech sectors that are also critical to the life sciences. Please take a read of this interview I did last year with BioBuzz that highlights many of these efforts.

Last week to apply for COVID rental relief funds

The deadline for emergency rental relief meant to help people who have fallen behind because of COVID-19 is June 30. Applicants must complete their applications by this upcoming Thursday in order to receive the help. We know hundreds of people have started the application for emergency rental assistance, but did not finish. So far, we have received more than 2,400 applications for the COVID-19 Rent Relief Program with 95 percent coming from the tenants themselves, and 5 percent being submitted directly by landlords.

To apply for these funds, households must meet the following minimum eligibility requirements:
  • Have experienced COVID-19 financial hardship.
  • Have a household gross income from either their 2020 or 2021 tax return or the previous 30 days that is at or below 50 percent of area median income, which is around $110,000.
  • Have resided in Montgomery County since at least August 2021.
  • Have an obligation to pay rent, formally or informally.
  • Be behind on their rental obligation by at least two months.
Besides immediate rent relief, we also need to move on the temporary rent stabilization bill that would limit annual rental increases to 4.4 percent for residential landlords countywide. We are hearing of extremely high rent increases that renters cannot afford especially with the higher grocery prices, gas prices, and inflation. While this is a national problem, we can do something locally.

We have heard from some people who have told us they have been given notice that their rent will soon jump by 20 percent if we do not put these protections in place. We must pass this legislation quickly to protect renters in Montgomery County from being priced out of their homes.

'A sad time in American history'

The Supreme Court is currently ruling on many important issues this month ranging from reproductive rights to gun control to immigration and affirmative action.

This week’s Supreme Court ruling in NYSRPA v. Bruen is a blow to our nation’s efforts to keep us safe from gun violence. It is not a surprise that a Supreme Court packed with dangerous, right-wing idealogues would rule this way.

As Justice Breyer noted in his dissent, “Since the start of this year, there have been 277 reported mass shootings – an average of more than one per day. Gun violence has now surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death among children and adolescents.”

In Montgomery County, we will continue to use all our legal authority and every policy proposal and innovative approach possible to keep our residents safe from gun violence. We will also continue to advocate for needed changes at the state and federal levels.

When we recently experienced the scourge of “ghost guns,” I, and other elected leaders in this County joined our Attorney General and General Assembly to ban them. The Supreme Court ruling today has undermined our ability to keep people safe.

This Supreme Court is clearly politically motivated on the most important issues facing our society. They are not doing the right thing. It is a sad time in American history.

RIP Reggie Felton: First Black president of the County Board of Education

This week, we lost a true champion for education and a well-respected community leader. Reginald “Reggie” Felton served on the MCPS Board of Education for 10 years between 1994 and 2004 and was the first Black person to serve as president of the Montgomery County Board of Education. In 2007, Reggie took his leadership skills and expertise to higher education when the Governor appointed him to serve on the Board of Trustees for Montgomery College.

Reggie was a passionate fighter for Montgomery County students and families, always prioritizing equity and dedicated to ensuring all children received a quality education. Our sympathies are with his wife of 52 years, Dianne, and the entire family.

Show your Pride this Sunday in Silver Spring

Pride Month is celebrated again with one of the most anticipated weekends of the year for some in Montgomery County. Pride in the Plaza returns to downtown Silver Spring on Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. This is an all-day festival celebrating LGBTQ+ artists, businesses, and supportive nonprofits.

The celebration also includes several Saturday events at the newly renamed Brigadier General Charles E. McGee Library and Woodside Urban Park in Silver Spring, as well as youth events leading up to the weekend. Festival tickets are free and help you plan for the weekend, so you can get an idea of what is in store. I look forward to attending and seeing this County show its pride.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive