As County Executive I am interviewed quite often. In many of these interviews only a few seconds or few sentences from an involved conversation are aired or published. It was very refreshing to sit down for two thoughtful interviews with our MCPS RISE participants, Sophia Stein from Montgomery Blair High School, and Timaya Pulliam from Sherwood High School, who spent a month working in my office. I hope that you will watch both of their interviews. I enjoyed our conversation about my life, why I decided to be a public servant, dealing with the pandemic, and hopes for the County’s future.
I want to thank Sophia and Timaya along with two other MCPS RISE Participants based out of my office, Gisselle Berrios from Montgomery Blair and Michael Tsegaye from Poolesville High School, for their engagement and assistance. These four students were among over 700 MCPS’s Summer RISE participants throughout the County.
RISE is a great program for our students, and I appreciate all the work by MCPS staff and the organizations and businesses that host these students. This video made by MCPS encapsulates the experiences of this year’s RISE students. I encourage all MCPS families to participate in this program next year if they’re able to and hope that more companies will volunteer to host these students. For more information on RISE, please click here.
Protecting the rights and health of women:
Reproductive rights and women’s health related issues continue to generate headlines nationwide following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June. Most of the news is troubling, including a court decision in Texas that will allow trigger laws to go into effect that could hold medical professionals criminally liable for performing abortions. Additionally, an appellate court in Kentucky upheld trigger laws in that state which ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. 10 states so far have pushed forward with bans on procedures that had been allowed for decades. This Associated Press summary of the status of reproductive rights in every state is both a helpful resource and at times quite alarming.
We did have some good news when voters in Kansas protected abortion rights for women there. This is a great victory and hopefully, there will be other successes around the country. It is reassuring to live in a State and County that believes in woman’s health and reproductive rights. Our leadership in the Maryland General Assembly, including Delegate Ariana Kelly and House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke, and our entire county state delegation saw the writing on the wall earlier in the year and worked to help protect rights months before the Supreme Court’s decision.
We are also doing our own part in the County government. In May after the leak of this decision, I worked with the County Council to allocate $1 million dollars from the County budget to help abortion providers with added costs that they would incur because of the ruling. We are finalizing how that money can be used in the form of grants. Our non-profit providers of women’s health and abortion services can expect that application process to open soon.
After the decision was formally announced, I also put in place new rules for County employees that effectively end official county travel to states with abortion restrictions. And I’ve begun an effort for our County to proactively reach out to businesses in those states that restrict abortion, to ask them to consider relocating to Montgomery County where women’s rights and all people’s rights are respected in our community.
My office, along with Delegates Eric Luedtke and Ariana Kelly, sent letters to key companies such as Tesla, Humana, AT&T and others headquartered in cities like Austin, Dallas, Louisville and Kansas City to consider moving to Montgomery County. Whether it is technology, healthcare, life science companies, or just small socially conscious businesses, there are going to be many owners, members of boards, and employees who are going to demand to work in states that respect their rights.
If there’s a chance that company leaders are exploring a move out of states that don’t value a woman’s right to choose, then we want to help them find their way to Montgomery County. If you know of a company, organization, or business owner that is currently located in a state that restricts rights and is considering moving, please let us know and the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation would be happy to reach out.
MPX, or Monkeypox, cases continue to increase in state and region:
Montgomery County has been paying close attention to MPX – also known as Monkeypox - since the outbreak began in May of this year. Two weeks ago, the World Health Organization declared MPX a public health emergency. I encourage everyone to visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov/mpx for more information about this public health threat.
MPX is a rare infection that is showing up more and more across the U.S. According to the CDC, there are currently 157 cases in Maryland, and the District of Columbia has 257 reported cases. At this point, the Maryland Department of Health is not reporting how many cases originate or are being treated in Montgomery County.
County COVID rates are currently four times higher than this time last year:
In COVID-19 news this week, our case counts and hospitalization rates remain a concern. We were only at approximately 50 cases per 100,000 people during this week last year. Today, we remain above 200 cases per 100,000 people and we've been at that level for nearly a month. With many folks utilizing rapid tests and not reporting positive results, our transmission rates are likely higher than what is being reported.
Our COVID hospitalization rates are also significantly higher than a year ago. Currently, approximately 10% of our hospital beds are occupied by patients with a COVID diagnosis. Our hospitalization rates are 26.5 per 100,000 for those unvaccinated but only 5.1 per 100,000 for those fully vaccinated . This is a significant difference and a reminder for the few County residents who remain unvaccinated how important these vaccines are.
And we must remember this virus is still deadly. In June and July, 59 residents died from COVID. That is significantly higher than the 34 residents who died in April and May. Our condolences and sympathies are with, and will remain, with all those who lost loved ones from COVID.
We continue to recommend residents wear a facemask voluntarily if they are in a high risk setting like a crowded indoor public place. We are asking f that everyone in congregate settings, like nursing homes, be more vigilant, test more, monitor conditions and take COVID concerns seriously.
Another trend we’re seeing is reinfection. Hospital records show us that even if you had COVID before you can get it again. Natural immunity is not as strong as what people are getting from vaccines and boosters. 89% of the County’s total population is currently vaccinated but only 58% have their boosters. We will continue to remind everyone that as these vaccines wane, we don’t know what to expect in the fall and winter, and it is critical for everyone to be up to date on their boosters.
As we begin August and focus on Back-to-School preparations, we will be launching vaccine clinics that will allow parents to bring their school kids of all ages in for vaccines and boosters. Vaccines and boosters are something that should be a part of any back-to-school checklist that parents are putting together. The first clinics are tentatively planned for August 14th.
Please visit www.govaxmoco.com to make your appointment and get vaxxed and boosted. It is the best way to end the summer.
Effective outreach = successful outcomes (Health Fair “Ama Tu Vida” is this weekend. Health Fair “Right From the Start” is next weekend)
One of the key reasons why Montgomery County has been so successful in preventing and mitigating COVID is that the diverse and equitable outreach efforts are helping our County be healthier and safer. Our efforts are reflected in our outcomes, and I am proud of these efforts and results. We will be utilizing the same outreach and engagement strategies and efforts for MPX awareness.
This weekend and next, Montgomery County will host two important health fairs. On Saturday, we hope you will join us for the “Ama Tu Vida” event at Montgomery College in Rockville starting at 11 a.m. It’s the first time we’ve had this health fair for the Latino community in person since 2019 when around 7,000 people attended. It also coincides with Salvadoran American Festival which also helps brings out a good crowd and will keep the campus busy until 7 p.m.
On the following Saturday, August 13th, Montgomery County’s African American Health Program, along with other DHHS maternal and early child health programs, will host their inaugural ‘Right from the Start’ event. It focuses on family health issues from preconception through early childhood. Black women experienced almost half of all infant deaths and fetal losses in Montgomery County last year. “Right from the Start’ will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the White Oak Community Rec Center in Silver Spring.
I hope you will consider joining us at these upcoming events.
A beautiful National Night Out:
This week, I visited five communities who gathered for our 38th annual National Night Out activities. It was wonderful to see our public safety officers gather with the communities they serve to renew friendships they've made over the years and speak with people about community safety issues.
Please look at our Flickr album of our visits on Tuesday night. It was a great evening. Thanks go to Chief Jones and the Montgomery County Police Department, the Fire Department, the Sheriff’s Office, our municipal police departments, as well as many other county staff and community partners for organizing these events.
New home for TESS:
This week, I attended the brand-new Takoma East Silver Spring Community Action Center, also known as “TESS.” TESS helps bring needed services into the community and has been doing so for more than 50 years.
This new center is part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Community Action Agency, one of several dozen federally mandated groups working to end poverty. The center will now be able to continue its mission of helping the Long Branch Community and others with food, housing, early education, and tax preparation. Thousands of residents receive assistance each year for this effort.
I have worked with TESS for decades and understand firsthand how valuable they are to Montgomery County. I congratulate them on this new building and location. I’m proud of their outreach and thank them for the crucial role they play in improving the County’s health and equity outcomes while enriching the lives of those they serve.
Arcellx: County incubator company grows to $115 million success
Another 60,000 square feet of lab space development is now added to a banner year for the development of life sciences business in Montgomery County. This one comes from a wonderful success story out of our business incubators – Arcellx.
Arcellx has just signed a deal to expand operations in Rockville which comes after successful stints for the business at the Germantown and Gaithersburg Incubators . A cell therapies company that started in 2014, they had their first big expansionsin 2016 and 2017 along with the first prototypes for the company. In 2020, patients first started using treatments developed by Arcellx.
The company is now traded on the NASDAQ and has raised over $125 million dollars to fund its next expansion in the advancement of adaptive and controllable cell therapies for cancer and autoimmune disease patients.
Congratulations to everyone at Arcellx on their success.
“FareShare” offering up to $280 in reimbursements for public transportation commuters
Did you know that commuters working in Montgomery County can get reimbursed up to $280 a month for using public transit, or vanpooling, by asking their employers to set up a transportation benefits program?
Our “FareShare” program offers reimbursements to local businesses for their employees’ costs for commuting to work by public transit—and the money is tax-free. We’re hoping more businesses take the same route as Ellumen, Inc., a healthcare IT company based in Silver Spring. Ellumenh has reduced employee vehicle miles traveled by more than half a million miles already and saved an estimated 23,000 gallons of gas yearly by encouraging employees to adopt these policies.
More information about “FareShare” can be found on the Montgomery County Department of Transportation website.
“Reducing food waste begins with you”
The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has launched an educational awareness campaign to help residents, businesses and organizations with food waste. The goal is to reduce the estimated 124,000 tons of food scraps that are thrown away every year in the County.
Check out our new “Reducing Food Waste Begins With You” public service announcement and share this message on your social media networks. The bottom line is that food that’s thrown out is extra waste in our landfills but with a little planning you can save money and help us all with good environmental stewardship.
As always, my appreciation for all you do,