April 28, 2023

Department of Permitting Services to Provide Free Deck Inspections During Building Safety Month in May

The Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services (DPS) will provide free residential deck maintenance inspections during the month of May as part of its annual Building Safety Month campaign. The program is limited to 300 appointments.

“Building Safety Starts with You,” is the theme for the 2023 campaign, which is designed to raise awareness about building safety and the importance of adopting modern and regularly updated building codes to ensure safe and sustainable structures where people live, work, play and learn.  The campaign also emphasizes the impact of building safety on personal, local and global levels. The theme for the first week of the campaign is “Building Safety Starts at Home.”

“It is important to keep up with preventative maintenance at home to ensure you are in a safe environment,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “As part of the County’s commitment to safety, DPS is offering free residential deck maintenance inspections to the first 300 homeowners who sign up during the month of May. We encourage you to take advantage of this free service to learn firsthand from an inspector about how to assess the condition and safety of your deck for you and your visitors.” 

To request a deck maintenance inspection by telephone, homeowners should contact the County’s central call system at MC311 or 240-777-0311 beginning Monday, May 1. Homeowners may also schedule an inspection online by visiting the DPS website at montgomerycountymd.gov/dps and submitting a service request.  The form is in the online services queue on the front page of the website. On the description section of the online form, residents should note they are requesting a deck maintenance inspection and include the property address and contact information at the top of the form. These requests cannot be anonymous, and must be requested by the homeowner.

“Building safety is important 365 days a year,” said DPS Director Rabbiah Sabbakhan. “Our code officials are working every day to keep the public safe. These free deck maintenance inspections take less than 15 minutes. Once on site, an inspector will check the support structure of the deck, fastener conditions, ledger attachment, and overall condition of the deck. Because of our inspectors’ workload at this busy time of year, the program is limited to 300 appointments. Customers will find additional resources about decks and the permitting process on the DPS website.”

One resource titled Guidelines for Residential Decks will interest homeowners building a new deck or checking the condition of their current deck. It contains information about the permitting and inspection process.

DPS’ free deck inspection program does not extend to the city limits of Gaithersburg and Rockville because these municipalities have their own permitting departments and protocols.

The weekly themes for this year’s Building Safety Month campaign include: (May 1-7) “Building Safety Starts at Home;” (May 8-14) “Building Safety Professionals and You;” (May 15-21) “Prepare Your Community;” (May 22-28) “Advocate for Your Community;” and (May 29-31) “Solving Challenges Together.”

County Executive Elrich and the County Council are scheduled to issue a joint Building Safety Month proclamation on Tuesday, May 2.

Learn more about Building Safety Month at buildingsafetymonth.org and join the conversation on social media using #MoCoDPS, #BuildingSafetyMonth2023 and #BuildingSafety365.

The Department of Permitting Services is located at 2425 Reedie Drive, 7th Floor in Wheaton. The customer service lobby is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday, and customers do not need an appointment to get assistance.

Message from the County Executive


Dear Friends,

I’d like to begin this newsletter with an economic development update.

On Tuesday I helped celebrate one of the latest stars in our 'Satellite Valley.' Don't know what I mean? Hughes Network Systems and a number of companies supporting satellite R&D and manufacturing are located in Montgomery County. Now Intellian, a leader in satellite communications, has joined them with the opening of a new $100 million Advanced Development Center (ADC) in Rockville. The company’s proprietary industry-leading phased array chipset has made it a leader in global satellite communications. They already employ more than forty employees in the new ADC R&D center and expect to hire at least 30 more jobs during the coming year.

Company leaders are highly confident that expanding the new facility here in Maryland will allow them to remain at the forefront of technological innovation in the industry.

I thank the company for choosing Montgomery County and wish them out of this world success.

On Wednesday I joined the Montgomery County-based Facility Logix on a tour they hosted for local economic development officials of several biotech businesses for which they provided design and/or engineering support -- MaxCyte Inc., On Demand Pharma, Sirnaomics and United Therapeutics. It was my first visit to both MaxCyte and On Demand Pharm. All four of these companies are focused on saving lives through biotech innovation. These major employers and biotech industry leaders are in Montgomery County because there is value in being part of one of the largest life sciences clusters in the nation.

The unemployment rate in Montgomery County is down to 2.6 percent. That’s a level we haven’t seen since the pre-pandemic days of 2019. It’s also below the DC metro region, the state of Maryland and the U.S. unemployment rate. And when a commercial property near the Rockville Metro station opens up its something so special that it deserves a story in the Washington Business Journal. That’s doesn’t happen with every available lease.

There are many more reasons to be proud of Montgomery County than just our school system and healthy housing market. We want the world to see Montgomery County and the DC region as one of the most imporant places in the nation for life sciences companies and next-level innovation.

We’re Going Green and Want You to Come Too

Earth Month is winding down but combatting climate change is a top priority for us every day of the year as you can tell by how much we’re doing to achieve our Climate Action Plan goals.

However, more is needed from all of us - we are in a period of great transition for our residents and businesses to change habits, use new technologies, and implement best practices.

According to NOAH, humans are putting an estimated 9.5 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year by burning fossil fuels, and another 1.5 billion through deforestation and other land cover changes Since 1750, humans have increased the abundance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by nearly 50%. You can read more about where that stat comes from by following this link.

Maintaining the status quo is not enough. If we want our kids, grandkids, and great-grandchildren to grow up in a better environment, not a worse environment, we have to address climate challenges now. And I am proud that Montgomery County is leading the way.

Last week in Gaithersburg, Governor Moore joined us in celebrating our Green Bank’s largest rooftop solar project on an affordable housing complex. At this event, the Governor noted…

“This is a time where we see that Montgomery County is going to lead. There are certain places that . . . are right now debating about what progress looks like. They are in the process of figuring out, ‘Well, how do we get there?’ And then there is Montgomery County saying, ‘We will see you at the finish line.”

To help us reach that finish line we have committed to the following solutions over the next four years.
  • Provide funding for buildings to transition from gas to electric
  • Electrifying and retrofitting our County buildings and fleet for energy efficiency
  • Expanding the collection and composting of food waste Countywide
  • Expanding the implementation of solar on roof tops, parking lots and fields.
  • Financially assisting marginalized communities most often impacted by climate change to transition to clean energy,
  • And shutting down the incinerator, which is both a public health and climate threat.
Additionally, we are not just focusing on policy ideas but are investing in our operating and capital budgets. My recommended FY24 budget includes $272.6 million total in boththe operating and capital budgets toward our efforts to combat climate change.

While there are a number of initiatives in the budget, I want to mention funding to help residents and businesses better navigate the options and requirements for electrification and solar power. We need to make it easier for residents and business owners to take advantage of programs already in place to go green. Passing laws or enacting new policies is not enough; we need to help residents navigate the transition, assist those who may need financial assistance, and answer their questions and concerns.

The recommended budget also includes money to advance Community Choice Energy, climate grants for community organizations, and for the management of an electric vehicle purchasing co-op. It also increases funding to plant more shade trees. In March, we planted our 10,000th tree since launching Tree Montgomery.

New positions would also be added to identify and address the illegal discharge of pollutants throughout the County, and to ensure our stormwater management structures are inspected and maintained.

Let me be clear – none of this easy. And we must be deliberate and intentional in how we engage and educate our communities. The good news is that County has an overwhelming majority of residents who care – and that is not something that we do not take for granted in a nation filled with climate deniers and consistent misinformation being propagated by the fossil fuel industry. We are also fortunate to have leadership in the White House and in the Governor’s office in Annapolis who understand the importance of addressing climate change. We now have more resources and support today than just a couple of years ago. The time is right to take advantage of this opportunity to accelerate our sustainability efforts in pursuit of our goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent in 4 years and 100 percent by 2035.

Resource for Auto Repair Complaints

Most people take their complaints about car repair to the next mechanic they use, but when transactions between vehicle owners and car repair businesses in Montgomery County reach serious conflicts, the County’s Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) often can help.

When there is a dispute, it is important for residents to be aware that there are resources available through our outstanding OCP department that can help resolve them. Residents can contact our Office of Consumer Protection if they feel they are being ripped off or scammed by any business – especially when it comes to potentially expensive automotive services.

Here are some things you might not know about auto repairs:
  • Estimates for work of more than $25 must be given upon request. The final bill must be within 10 percent of the estimate—unless the customer is notified.
  • Authorizations either written or oral are required before auto repair companies are allowed to do any work on your vehicle.
  • Used or rebuilt parts must be identified in the estimates repair shops give customers.
  • Labor charges, service charges and charges tied to the release of your vehicle if it is not repaired must be stated by a company before giving you the estimated cost of repair.
It is important that the relationship between consumers and car repair operations be one of excellent service, respect, trust and transparency. To learn more about how the Office of Consumer Protection can help you with automobile repair or other consumer issues please follow this link to their website.

COVID-19 Update

On the COVID-19 front, while the community threat is 'low' and there are fewer patients in the hospital, we’re continuing to monitor and be prepared for a potential next potential wave. Remaining up to date on your shots is part of community preparedness.

Over the next few weeks, there will be a lot of news coverage regarding the end of federal funding for COVID related expenses. This could cause some confusion amongst our residents about what this means about the resources we have been offering for vaccines, tests, as well as food donations and rental relief.

In my FY24 budget recommendations, we have proposed to keep as many of these resources as we could afford.

Free vaccinations and PCR tests will still be offered. We will still have regular appointments Tuesday through Friday at the Dennis Avenue Health Center and the Up County Regional services center as well as other clinics in Rockville, Wheaton and Burtonsville coming up. Our libraries will continue to offer free rapid tests and masks. And we are going to still provide food resources and rental relief to those most in need.

Just because the federal emergency may be ending, the need for these resources remains in our community. Even without the federal funding, we want to make sure we help children who are hungry and help prevent families from eviction.

In other COVID news, we mentioned last week new FDA guidelines approved by the CDC recommend a bivalent booster shot for people who are immunocompromised and if it’s been at least 2 months since their last booster. Boosters are also recommended for people 65 and up if it has been 4 months since their last shot. Sometime this summer these guidelines will be reevaluated by the FDA in time for the start of school.

As we prepare for the latest round of booster shots, a majority of County residents still have not received their bivalent booster. During the initial roll-out of the vaccine, over 95% of our 65+ population – the age cohort most vulnerable to severe illness and death - got their first and second doses. To date, only 58% of 65+ residents received their bivalent booster. Only 27% of our largest cohort of residents – those 18 to 49 – have gotten the bivalent booster.

These numbers are just too low. Earlier this month, the New England Journal of Medicine published the findings of researchers who found that the bivalent boosters were 67 percent more effective in preventing hospitalization and death in those who had been previously vaccinated or boosted. And although Pfizer and Moderna bivalent vaccines were initially designed to target the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of omicron, they also reduced the risk of infection, hospitalization and death against the currently circulating BQ.1/BQ.1.1 and XBB/XBB.1.5 strains.

The facts prove that these vaccines work, we must continue to communicate and engage our public in getting their shots.

Death of Harry Belafonte

Finally, I am saddened by the death of Harry Belafonte, a beloved American icon.I was a fan of his music and artistic career. Beyond that though, he was one of the civil rights leaders who influenced me from a young age to fight for equal rights and freedoms for all Americans throughout my life.

Our nation will forever be indebted to Harry Belafonte and the fellow civil rights leaders of his generation. Their willingness to speak up and speak out was crucial and courageous. We will miss Harry Belafonte but we will continue to appreciate his many contributions.

And I, as always, appreciate all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive

April 25, 2023

Some Montgomery Homeowners May Need to File a One-time State Homestead Application by May 1 So They Will Not Lose $692 County ‘Income Tax Offset Credit’

Some Montgomery Homeowners May Need to File a One-time State Homestead Application by May 1 So They Will Not Lose $692 County ‘Income Tax Offset Credit’

A recent Maryland law requires Montgomery County homeowners to have an application on file with the State for a “Homestead Tax Credit” to continue to receive a $692 County “Income Tax Offset Credit” (ITOC) on their annual property tax bills.

Many homeowners have already filled out the one-time application, but those who have not will lose the ITOC. A homeowner may have filled out a Homestead Tax Credit application in the past and had it approved, and that is sufficient. An approved Homestead application with any date means you do not have to fill out another application.

How can I find out if I need to fill out the one-time application to keep my ITOC?
  • Go to the County webpage that shows the link and what screens to look for (it can be confusing so look at the images on that page). Go to www.Montgomerycountymd.gov/finance/ITOC.
  • The County webpage has a link to the State page that has the information.
  • At the State webpage, there are three steps:
    • A screen where to select your county and the search method (choose “street address”).
    • A second screen to enter your house number and your street address.
    • A third screen with information about your house. Scroll to the bottom and look for “Homestead Application Status.” If it says “Approved” and has a date, you are finished.
What if I go through the above steps and my address does not have “Approved” with a date?
  • Fill out an application at https://sdathtc.dat.maryland.gov/ or print a paper application available at the website and mail it in.
  • Important note: You cannot fill out the application online without an access code. You may have recently received a letter from the State with the access code, but if you did not, you will need to email sdat.homestead@maryland.gov to get an access code. The subject line of your email should be: “Online Homestead Application Access.” You must include your full name, your county (Montgomery) and your full address. Once you have received the access code, you can fill out the application online.
  • A paper application does not need an access code but may take longer to process.

County Executive Elrich to Hold Virtual ‘Community Conversation’ to Talk About Fiscal Year 2025 Capital Improvements Budget on Monday, May 1

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich will hold his final “community conversation” to talk about long-term priorities and how he will address the Fiscal Year 2025 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) budget in a virtual event from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, May 1.

The May 1 conversation will be the sixth in the series. The virtual event will have five online discussions. One is the main discussion on the FY25 Capital Budget. The other four will be specific breakout discussions on education, environment and parks, transportation and recreation/libraries/general services.

Breakout discussions can be accessed here.

A capital budget plan that states how much money is needed for major construction projects and for purchase and maintenance of the assets. It also determines the amount of time that will be used for the planning and design of the project. The CIP refers to items such as land, buildings, equipment and other investments in the County.

The capital budget addresses planning for long-term major projects. It differs from the County operating budget, which funds spending needs for a one-year period.

The community conversation events address how the County Government will make decisions on major projects such as the construction of public schools, building swimming pools, transportation improvements, improvements to sidewalks, improvements to local parks, building parking garages and establishing childcare centers.

‘Community Science Festival’ to be Hosted by Montgomery Parks on Saturday, April 29, at Lake Needwood Will Have ‘In the Field’ Family Fun


A free Community Science Festival focusing on “in the field” family fun will be hosted by Montgomery Parks at Lake Needwood in Rock Creek Regional Park from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, April 29.

Attendees will discover the flora and fauna that live in their neighborhood and will hone observation skills through interactive demonstrations and hands-on activities with Montgomery Parks scientists and naturalists.

The City Nature Challenge will offer the opportunity to become a citizen scientist. Attendees will also be able to learn how to get involved with local groups and projects.

To get to Rock Creek Regional Park, follow Google Maps Location.

The schedule of events will include:
  • Presentation on “Biological Monitoring with Fish in Rock Creek” led by a Parks scientist
  • Presentation on “Rare Habitats of Montgomery Parks” led by a Parks ecologist
  • Aquatic Macroinvertebrates Interactive Demonstration
  • Guided hikes and identification help for wildflowers, trees and birds
    • 10:30 a.m.—Bird Hike with Montgomery Bird Club
    • 11:15 a.m.—Tree Hike with a Maryland master naturalist
    • 1:15 p.m.—Wildflower Hike with Maryland master naturalist
    • 10 a.m.-2 p.m.—Get help entering observations in iNaturalist and eBird at the observation kiosk
Partner organizations on-site will include:
  • DC Audubon Society
  • Montgomery Bird Club
  • Rock Creek Conservancy
  • Washington Mycological Association
Festival activities will be most enjoyable for adults and for children 11-and-over, but all ages are welcome and all activities will be free of charge. Bathroom facilities, including those that are ADA-accessible, will be available.

Commission on Aging to Host Annual Forum on Thursday, May 4, with Theme of ‘Smart Homes—Smarter Care: Technology that Supports Aging in Place’

The Montgomery County Commission on Aging will join in the celebration of May as “Older Americans Month” by hosting its annual free forum on Thursday, May 4, at the Bohrer Park Activity Center in Gaithersburg. This year’s theme is “Smart Homes—Smarter Care: Technology that Supports Aging in Place” and it will be held during the City of Gaithersburg’s Active Aging Expo.
The forum will be held from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at Bohrer Park, which is located at 506 South Frederick Road in Gaithersburg. The event also will be available virtually through Zoom. Although the event is free, registration is encouraged. Register at https://tinyurl.com/CoA2023PublicForum.

Residents, caregivers, advocates, policy analysts and service providers are encouraged to attend. Presenters and panelists will describe technologies that are available and suggest actions that can be taken in Montgomery County to expand their use to support aging in-place. Featured speakers are recognized experts in the field, including Scott Code, vice president of the Center for Aging Services Technologies.

“There is an ever-growing market of new devices that can be used to assist older adults, especially those in need of caregiving, with an array of services including health care monitoring, remote care giving, in-home safety and security, family connection, education, rides and social interaction,” said David Engel, chair of the Commission on Aging. “Advancing knowledge of these new electronic in-home devices and their applications in Montgomery County is the primary goal behind the Commission’s ‘Smart Homes—Smarter Care’ initiatives.”

The event will offer insights into how ‘Smart Homes—Smarter Care’ devices can enable doctors and caregivers to remotely monitor a patient’s vital signs, signal remote alerts, monitor mental and physical states in real time, and provide rapid intervention when the situation is warranted.

Aging in place can mean staying in the same house an individual has lived in for years and it can mean staying in a neighborhood setting for as long as possible—safely and independently. Physical impairments increase as individuals age, and smart homes solutions can help support older adults to maintain their independence as long as they can.

For more information or to request accommodations needed to participate, contact Tremayne Jones with as much advance notice as possible, preferably at least four business days prior to the event, at Tremayne.Jones@montgomerycountymd.gov or at 240-777-1262.

For more information about the Commission on Aging, visit its website.

More Than 70 Centenarians Will Join Montgomery County Recreation First Celebration of Its Most Senior Residents on Friday, May 12, in Gaithersburg

More than 70 residents who are 100 or older will be the centers of attention at 11 a.m. on Friday, May 12, when Montgomery County Recreation honors the County’s most senior citizens at a special event at the Gaithersburg Marriot Washingtonian Canter.

This is the inaugural centenarian celebration organized by Montgomery County Recreation’s senior programs team. The program will include lunch, music and remarks from dignitaries. The special guests and their closest friends and family members will attend. More than 200 people are expected at the event.

Registration for the event has closed. Those who are not able to attend will be able to watch the event through a special livestream. Instructions on how to access the livestream will be announced soon.

‘Paws in the Park’ Dog Walk and Festival Will Return to Bohrer Park in Gaithersburg on Sunday, April 30, with Fun and Games for Dogs (and Their Owners)

Finding the best-dressed dog, the one that looks most like its owner and the canine with the best tail wag will all be part of the fun from noon-4 p.m. on Sunday, April 30, when “Paws in the Park” returns to Bohrer Park at Summit Hall Farm in Gaithersburg. The event is sponsored by the Montgomery County Humane Society in partnership with the City of Gaithersburg.

Among the activities at Paws in the Park will be a one-mile dog walk, K-9 agility course and competition, contests and game for dogs and people, kid’s activities, music and food vendors.

All dogs at the festival must be on leashes. Retractable leashes will not be permitted.

Admission to the festival, via pre-registration online for adults and children over 12 is $18 and for a family of up to four is $30. Dogs and kids 12-and-under are free. On-site entrance fees are $20 per person and $36 for a family up to four.

To register in advance, go to Paws In The Park 2023 (frontstream.com).

Four Special Weeks in May Will Highlight Visit Montgomery’s ‘Discover MoCo Month’

“Discover MoCo Month” in May will be a collection of week-long programs sponsored by Visit Montgomery to celebrate the County’s small businesses and entrepreneurial spirit. Throughout the month, visitors and local residents will be able to access deals, discounts and special events at a selection of the County’s hotels, restaurants, attractions, retail businesses and craft beverage producers.

Discover MoCo Month will be the single largest initiative ever developed by Visit Montgomery for Montgomery County’s hospitality and tourism industry. Visit Montgomery is the official destination marketing organization for Montgomery County.

The four weeks of special deals, packages and experiences during Discover MoCo Month will feature:
  • Shop MoCo Week: April 30-May 6. Will encourage shopping local at boutique shops and small businesses unique to the County.
  • MoCo Hotel Week: May 7-13. Spring and summer visitation to Montgomery County will be encouraged through special hotel packages booked during MoCo Hotel Week, with travel through August 2023.
  • MoCo Eats Week: May 14-20. Visit Montgomery’s Third Annual “MoCo Eats Week,” the County’s only countywide restaurant week, will celebrate the County’s diversity through cuisine.
  • MoCo’s Kick Off to Summer Week: May 21-31. The week will feature unique attractions, experiences, performance venues and museums to encourage visitation to the County all summer.
In addition, craft beverage producers on Visit Montgomery’s Tastemakers Trail will be celebrated throughout all of Discover MoCo Month.

Consumers can enter to win up to $2,000 in giveaways by checking-in at participating locations during Discover MoCo Month using weekly digital passports within the Visit MoCo Adventure Planner app.

For more information on Discover Moco Month and Visit Montgomery activities, go to Explore Montgomery County, Maryland | Visit Mongtomery, MD (visitmontgomery.com).

Intellian to Invest $100 Million to Develop Satellite Communication Technologies in Rockville

Intellian Technologies, a leading global provider of multi-constellation, feature-rich, future-proof satellite user terminals and communications solutions, announced this week that it will invest $100 million into the research and development of satellite communication technologies. The announcement was made at the official opening of its Advanced Development Center (ADC) in Rockville.

Intellian’s role within the satellite communications industry has become increasingly essential in the past 20 years. Its gateways land traffic from communication satellites, with Intellian’s user terminals empowering consumer connectivity to the satellite networks.

ADC is Intellian’s first and only U.S.-based research and development center, hosting a number of top industry talent for the product development of phased array antennas and user terminals. Growing to a team of more than 70 by the end of 2023, the investment will boost economic growth and foster innovation within Maryland and in Montgomery County.

“We are pleased to welcome Intellian to Montgomery County, Maryland” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “The satellite manufacturing industry is valued at over $16.2 billion currently, and is projected to reach $27.3 billion by 2031. Montgomery County is home to NIST, as well as a vast and talented pool of engineers, scientists and experts in this industry. This workforce continues to attract dynamic and innovative companies like Intellian to Montgomery County. Intellian’s Advanced Development Center will further enhance our reputation as ‘Satellite Valley.”

Developments in satellite technology are making satellite networks far more competitive than ever before and are opening the door to truly global, high bandwidth coverage for everyone. This will empower the most remote communities with access to connect online and enjoy broadband speeds without the need of a lengthy infrastructure project to install fiber networks.

“Establishing our Advanced Development Center in Montgomery County, Maryland is a key strategic decision for us,” said Eric Sung, Intellian’s CEO and president. “The ADC is ideally situated in the heart of ‘Satellite Valley,’ with many of our key satellite network partners close by. With an ever-increasing interest from enterprise, government and maritime customers for phased array antennas, the $100 million commitment to the development of this product portfolio is a key point of growth and expansion for Intellian. We look forward to strengthening Maryland’s position as a focal point within the global satellite communications industry.”

Office of Procurement ‘Meet the Primes’ Expo on Tuesday, May 9, in Silver Spring Will Provide Opportunities for Businesses Seeking to Become Subcontractors

Montgomery County local businesses seeking opportunities to become subcontractors for larger entities will be able to meet with more than 50 prime contractors, government agencies and local resources on Tuesday, May 9, when the County Department of Procurement holds a “Meet the Primes” expo from 9 a.m.-noon at the Silver Spring Civic Building.

There is no charge to attend the expo. The Silver Spring Civic Building is located at 1 Veterans Pl. in Downtown Silver Spring.

The expo-style event will not have panels, presentations or speeches. It is primarily a networking event for local businesses to exchange experiences, available skills and needs. The prime contractors will have exhibit tables and the attendees can meet them during the event.

The event will provide opportunities for businesses that participate in Montgomery County’s Minority, Female and Disabled-Owned (MFD) Business Program.

“We are thrilled to host this event,” said Montgomery County Procurement Director Ash Shetty. “It provides an opportunity for subcontractors to meet with prime contractors and local procurement offices. Many attendees will be local small businesses, minority, female and disabled-owned businesses seeking subcontracting opportunities. The prime contractors that will be exhibitors all have a current contract with Montgomery County, making this a great networking opportunity for all participants.”

Although the event is free, those planning to attend are asked to register in advance. Walk-ins will be welcomed. To register, use the form here.

The more than 50 exhibitors will include:
  • Prime contractors who currently have a contract with Montgomery County, such as Clark Construction, AT&T and Montage Marketing Group.
  • Procurement representatives from organizations such as Montgomery College, Baltimore County Public Schools, Montgomery County Public Schools and WSSC Water.
  • Chamber of Commerce and business organizations such as the Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce, the Montgomery County Business Center and the Maryland Women’s Business Center.
For additional information about the event, visit https://meetprimes2023.eventbrite.com or contact Bethany Manimbo of the County’s Department of Procurement at bethany.manimbo@montgomerycountymd.gov.

‘From Corn to Commuters: How the Coming of the Railroad Changed the Way of Life and the Future of Montgomery County’ Will Be Featured Online Presentation on Tuesday, May 2

The opening of the Metropolitan Branch of the B&O Railroad in 1873 was a pivotal event that changed the face of Montgomery County forever. “From Corn to Commuters: How the Coming of the Railroad Changed the Way of Life and the Future of Montgomery County” will be a featured online presentation from Montgomery History at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 2, that will look at the evolution.

Historians Susan Soderburg and Eileen McGuckian will lead the presentation that will include a look at railroad stations designed by Francis Baldwin and extraordinary feats of engineering such as the curving trestle over Little Seneca Creek and the Bollman Truss viaduct over the Monocacy River.

The discussion also will address the suburban and agricultural towns spawned by the new railroad as it catapulted the County into the Industrial Age.

The talk is based on Ms. Soderburg’s book The Met: A History of the Metropolitan Branch of the B&O Railroad, which was published in 1998 for the 125th anniversary of the rail line. It was updated in 2016 by the Germantown Historical Society.

To view the presentation, go to https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_CtDsNIM0Ru-uo-oL2D9f9w#/registration.

County Opens Durable Medical Equipment Collection Site at Shady Grove Transfer Station in Derwood

The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection is now accepting durable medical equipment (DME) at the Shady Grove Transfer Station and Recycling Center. The collection site dedication was led this week by County Executive Marc Elrich as part of the County’s Earth Month celebration.

The County is participating in the statewide Department of Aging’s Maryland Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Re-Use program that promotes the refurbishing and reuse of wheelchairs, canes, shower chairs, and other gently used medical equipment.

The Shady Grove Transfer Station is located at 16101 Frederick Road in Derwood.

In addition to County Executive Elrich, among those attending the dedication ceremonies were Maryland State Senator Ben Kramer, Maryland Department of Aging Durable Medical Equipment Re-Use Director Ian Edwards, County Department of Environmental Protection Acting Director Willie Wainer, County Department of Health and Human Services Area Agency on Aging Director Patrice L. McGhee and Maryland Environmental Service Maryland Environmental Service Director Charles Glass.

“There is an ongoing need for medical equipment in our County,” said County Executive Elrich. “Many of us have medical equipment in our basements, garages or attics that is no longer used, but is too good to throw away. This program helps our County’s efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle, while providing critical assistance to those in need. I encourage everyone to donate if they have any equipment that can still be used. This program isn’t just helping our planet—it is also helping our neighbors.”

The average wheelchair or walker has a usable life span of more than five years. However, this type of equipment is often only used for a few months before being discarded, taking up valuable landfill space while leaving many without resources to obtain the medical equipment they desperately need.

The collection site at the Shady Grove Transfer Station is the eighth satellite collection container put in place by Maryland DME Re-Use. The 20-foot container holds up to 95 pieces of equipment. Technicians with Maryland DME Re-Use will collect the equipment and transport it to a 56,000-square-foot facility located in Cheltenham, where it will be sanitized, repaired and stored for future distribution. Non-functional equipment will be broken down for parts that are saved and later used, further minimizing waste.

“One of the greatest aspects of this program is that all the equipment is redistributed free of charge to anyone with any disability or at any income level,” said Maryland Department of Aging Secretary Carmel Roques. “Maryland DME Re-Use is a valuable resource to those in need in Maryland, and we are excited to add Montgomery County to our program so we can continue to provide DME to those in need.”

Since the Department of Aging started the DME Re-Use program two years ago, more than 17,651 pieces of DME have been processed. This amounts to 545,082 pounds of waste, or 231,880 cubic feet of landfill space—the equivalent of filling 15 two-story homes from floor to ceiling.

To find out more about Maryland DME Re-Use, including collection site locations, acceptable donations or how to apply to receive durable medical equipment, go to dme.maryland.gov, call 240-230-8000 or email dme.mdoa@maryland.gov.

‘Visionary Visual Voices” Will Be Virtual Special Panel Featuring Four Artists in Celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month’ on Thursday, May 4

“Visionary Visual Voices,” a special panel featuring four artists in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, will be presented virtually by Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, May 4. The panel will feature local AAPI artists Mariam Memarsadeghi, Priya Vadhyar, Syahidah Osman, and Sally Tsou, who will share their creative practices in conversation with artist and host Neha Misra.

To register to view the event, go to Meeting Registration - Zoom.

More about the featured artists:

Mariam Memarsadeghi loved to make art as a child in Iran. She relishes walking and driving to take in sights, and has always been a doodler. Her abstract paintings are rooted in the natural world of wildflowers, woods, streams, oceans, big skies and mountains. They can also evoke futuristic space voyages and dreamscapes. Pencil line drawings are a regular feature. Her works are heavily saturated with color and often inspired by childhood whimsy.

Most are a combination of both drawing and brush stroke, with some pieces featuring mixed media and paper collage.

Mariam grew up in Frederick after migrating to the U.S. from Iran when she was 7—during the 1979 revolution.

Syahidah Osman is a self-taught, Southeast Asian artist who uses different mediums to capture the tragically beautiful and profoundly hidden aspects of the human condition. Besides original artworks, she also sells prints and accessories with part of the proceeds going to non-governmental organizations that echo her sentiment. She has exhibited across Asia and now plans to exhibit across Northern America.

Syahidah wants to harness the power of the arts to raise understanding when facts fail. She plans to instigate empathy, instill curiosity and uses her artworks as a catalyst for community engagement.

Sally Tsou was born in Southeast Asia and grew up on the colorful cosmopolitan yet primitive island of Taiwan. That provided a highly stimulating visual environment and upbringing.

She spent part of her adolescence in the Philippines. The greenery of the populated islands lends an unusual mix of the primitive raw energy and the sophistication to her work. She has shown in art exhibitions and art fairs nationally and internationally and has won many awards.

Priya Vadhyar is a visual artist based in Ellicott City. In her current work, Priya explores the manifestation of, what Loren Eiseley calls one’s “interior geography,” and the self’s relationship with the sum of things. Priya spent most of her formative years in Mumbai. In 2010, Priya moved to Tucson, Arizona. There, she studied advanced abstract painting with artist Josh Goldberg, who later became her mentor. Priya's work has been exhibited nationally and internationally.

She is a member of Pell Lucy, an artist collective under the Shim Art Network. Outside of her studio, Priya is a teaching artist. In 2021, she created Studio/ Line of Sight, a platform dedicated to immersive online workshops taught by experienced practicing artists.

Host Neha Misra is a contemporary eco-folk visual artist, poet, and an award winning climate justice advocate. Neha’s Earth stewardship centered multi-disciplinary studio uses the transformative power of art to build bridges. Neha has been recognized as a Regenerative Artivist by Design Science Studio—a partnership between the Buckminster Fuller Institute and habRitual for the world’s leading planet conscious artists.

Host Neha Misra is a contemporary eco-folk visual artist, poet, and an award winning climate justice advocate. Neha’s Earth stewardship centered multi-disciplinary studio uses the transformative power of art to build bridges. Neha has been recognized as a Regenerative Artivist by Design Science Studio—a partnership between the Buckminster Fuller Institute and habRitual for the world’s leading planet conscious artists.

Olney Writer’s Group Will Present Seventh Annual Literary Forum at Olney Library on Sunday, May 7

The Olney Writer’s Group will present its Seventh Annual Literary Forum at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 7, at the Olney branch of Montgomery County Public Libraries. At the forum, which is open to the public, 10 members of the group will read short excerpts of their work, spanning memoirs, fiction, science fiction, fantasy and poetry.

The Olney Library is located at 3500 Olney-Laytonsville Rd. in Olney. Advance registration for this free program is not required to attend, but seating is limited. A question-and-answer session will be part of the workshop. Light refreshments will follow.

Participating writers in the forum will be:
  • Patrick Boyle, excerpt from A Tale of Two Pats
  • Bryan M. Byrd, excerpt from Surviving Paradise: The Perils and Pleasures of the Caribbean
  • Min He, Calling from Shambhala
  • Francene Hill, excerpt from Tiny Tots in Tiaras and Tuxedos
  • Shani Hinton-Miller, an excerpt, “Fair Folly,” from her work-in-progress, Walking Behind the Broken-Down Dog
  • Laura Kahn, excerpt from Thorns: When Earth Refugees Are the Aliens
  • DJ Lee, excerpt from his poem, An Ode to my Grandfathers
  • Linda R. Moore, three poems from her upcoming chapbook, Reaching for Resilience
  • Lindsey OBrien, excerpt from Friendship Through the Darkness
  • Emily Wood, excerpt from her work-in-progress, Binding Enchantments
For the past nine years, the Olney Writer’s Group has been based at the Olney Library. It involves local writers representing a wide range of genres. The group meets twice per month to review and critique members’ writing in an informal, friendly setting.

“According to the Olney Library branch supervisor, the Olney Writer’s Group has been an integral program offering at the branch,” said MCPL Director Anita Vassallo. “The fact the group expanded during the pandemic speaks to the importance of giving local writers a space to create and share with one another and the community.”

To learn more about the upcoming program, including background on the participating writers, visit 7th Annual Literary Forum – In Person – Montgomery County Public Libraries.

Free Financial Health and Wellness Seminars Will Be Offered Virtually by Commission for Women and County Libraries in May

Montgomery County Public Libraries and the Montgomery County Commission for Women will be offering a series of free financial seminars in May on the ins and outs of "all things money.” The seminars, which are open to all, will be led by financial and investment advisors Jamie Lapin and Thiago Glieger and will take place via Zoom, from 7-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday nights.

To register for the seminars, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/spring-2023-financial-health-and-wellness-seminars-tickets-513156684457. The link will be provided after registering.

The seminars that are part of the series:
  • May 2: Financial Planning 101. Learn the basics of financial planning along with terms and tools to equip yourself with the knowledge you need to succeed financially.
  • May 9: Planning for Retirement. Not running out of money before running out of time is most people’s biggest concern. The goal is to maximize your resources and autonomy.
  • May 16: Social Security and Medicare. Learn how to utilize and maximize the government programs you have invested in for your working lifetime.
  • May 23: Divorce and Money. Divorce is a strain on finances as well as nerves. This seminar will address financial health when it is over and what role people must play to make sure of that.
The seminars will be led by two highly qualified and respected financial advisors.

Jamie Lapin, a licensed insurance agent, provides investment advisory services as an investment adviser representative of Risk Management Group LLC d/b/a RMG Advisors, a registered investment advisor.

Thiago Glieger is an investment adviser representative of Risk Management Group LLC d/b/a RMG Advisors, a registered investment advisor.

Montgomery Parks to Celebrate Start of Mental Health Awareness Month ‘With Parks in Mind’ in Germantown

Montgomery Parks will celebrate that start of May as Mental Health Awareness Month “With Parks in Mind,” a free event from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 6, at Germantown Town Center Urban Park. The event will launch the month-long campaign, “Every Mile for Every Mind,” a series of walks to encourage people to spend time outdoors hiking Montgomery Parks trails.

The events are coordinated in partnership with local mental health organization EveryMind.

Germantown Town Center Urban Park is located at 19840 Century Blvd. in Germantown.

Those attending can walk through a mindfulness chalk maze created by Chalk Riot to reflect and refresh. They also can follow inspirational images along the paths to discover local mental health resources and joyful activities for the whole family.

Activities will include demo sessions for yoga, guided meditation, breathwork, vision boarding, journaling, crafting and other mindful activities.

Activities and resources will be provided by:
  • Montgomery Parks
  • EveryMind
  • NAMI Montgomery County
  • Warrior Canine Connection
  • Montgomery County Crisis Center
  • Cornerstone Montgomery
  • Carbone Entertainment
  • Cathy Shaw and Kathy Hankins, yoga and mindfulness mediation instructors
Attendees are asked to bring a picnic meal or purchase food in the neighboring shopping centers. Alcohol will not be permitted at the event.

A sign language interpreter, wheelchairs, walkers and other adaptive equipment will be available.

Several walks will take place at parks around the County throughout the month. Trails with inspirational images celebrating Mental Health Month will be found at Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Park, Sligo Creek Trail and Lake Needwood Trail. There will be designated “selfie spots” to take pictures to share.

View the complete walk schedule.

April 21, 2023

Message from the County Executive

Dear Friends,

“This is a time where we see that Montgomery County is going to lead. There are certain places that . . . are right now debating about what progress looks like. They are in the process of figuring out, ‘Well, how do we get there?’ And then there is Montgomery County saying, ‘We will see you at the finish line.”

- Maryland Governor Wes Moore, speaking at dedication of the Seneca Valley Apartments Largest Rooftop Solar Project. Gaithersburg. April 19, 2023.

Every week, important and great things happen in Montgomery County. Some get a lot of attention, like when we open the largest solar project for multi-family housing in the County and the Governor stops by to acknowledge that we are setting the pace for the rest of the State. Then there are other events that took place this week that may seem small on the surface, but could make a huge difference in the lives of our residents.

In everything we do, progress is not just a goal, it is an expectation.

I attended a graduation earlier this week for the County’s Small Business Accelerator program. This is the third time business leaders in our County have worked with M&T Bank to assist approximately 100 minority business owners with developing business plans, better understanding financial documents and reports and explaining legal needs. The program is designed to help entrepreneurs avoid common mistakes that lead to failure. Participants praised the course saying it helped them learn ways to manage their business, introduced them to other small business owners and helped them improve how they pitch their business. I am glad that the participants found the program to be valuable and worth their investment of several hours per week over 10 weeks.

One of the program organizers shared with me feedback from this graduating class praising the program for connecting her to bankers, mentors and facilitators. This businesswoman encapsulated the importance of the program well by noting our commitment to expanding the footprint of minority-owned and operated businesses. Our County is now 56 percent minority, but the percentage of minority-owned businesses is far lower. I hope efforts like this class help change that.

WalletHub this week published the 2023 list of Most Diverse Cities in the U.S. Gaithersburg, Germantown and Silver Spring ranked first, second and third nationally and Rockville was 13th.

I was able to witness firsthand how important being the most diverse jurisdiction in the most diverse state in the nation when I was recently in Taiwan. By having communities in Montgomery County from nearly every part of the world, we are instantly connected to the global marketplace.

I was amazed by how many people we met in Taipei who had attended school in Maryland or, at one point, had worked in Montgomery County. This is a competitive advantage few other counties have throughout our nation. We need to continue to own this, communicate it, and sell it for our economic benefit and positive growth.

There are many people who deserve praise for running the Small Business Accelerator class, including M&T Bank. They could have stopped after just one, but have continued to devote the time and coordination it takes with other business leaders in our area to help our students. I also want to thank Judy Costello, Daniel Koroma[SD1] and Jim Stowe for their roles in making this a beneficial program for everyone involved.

For more on the variety of programs and certifications to provide support to small, minority, women and veteran-owned businesses, please follow this link. And check out our newly redesigned Business Center website for all your business needs.

Large Solar Project Dedicated in Gaithersburg

As I referenced above, we welcomed Governor Wes Moore to Gaithersburg this week for the ribbon cutting of the largest rooftop solar project tied to an affordable, multi-family housing project in the County. Seneca Village Apartments has 684 units. The project will bring renewable energy options to hundreds of families that may have wanted to do this sooner, but were unable to.

Montgomery County’s Green Bank played a crucial role in helping the property obtain the financing needed to make the conversion to solar energy. Property owners received a $5 million Green Bank investment and then spent another $6.4 million dollars to install rooftop solar panels. The energy savings is estimated to be 2.5 million kilowatts annually.

The Green Bank is an essential tool in helping all kinds of businesses go green. My recommended FY24 budget includes $20 million dollars to accelerate energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean energy investment throughout the County.

In 2022, the Green Bank helped collaborate on nearly 50 unique transactions, helping 27 homeowners and 19 commercial properties begin their conversion to green energy. Those changes will help an estimated 1,540 households and eliminate 5,299 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions yearly.

Projects like the one save energy, create healthy living and working environments, foster a more resilient economy and environment and help the County achieve its environmental goals.

Join Us at Greenfest this Weekend

The County will celebrate Earth Day this weekend with a pair of GreenFest celebrations in Wheaton. GreenFest is the largest annual environmental festival in the County. It is organized each year by a coalition of public, nonprofit and university partners.

On Saturday, April 22, GreenFest in the Gardens will be held at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. On Sunday, April 23, the celebration continues in Downtown Wheaton with GreenFest in the City at Marian Fryer Plaza on Reedie Drive from noon-5 p.m.

Please come out to enjoy the free festivities on Saturday including lessons on land use, food consumption, composting and much more. On Sunday, appliance efficiency, recycling, transportation and green business initiatives will be in the spotlight.

Tackling Fentanyl Issues

For the last few months, the County has been on heightened awareness when it comes to drug use among school age children and young adults. Several forums on the dangers of fentanyl have been hosted for families in the community by MCPS and Montgomery Goes Purple in response to increased drug use and overdoses. We have seen hundreds of families and students attend these events. They are clearly concerned.

A monthly look at drug-related issues by Montgomery County’s Opioid Intervention Team found a 90 percent increase from FY 2022 to FY 2023 in opioid-related emergency department visits by minors. That jump went from 36 cases between the summers of 2021 and 2022 to 69 so far this fiscal year—with two more months left. This increase comes as community health professionals are reporting new patterns of drug use as teens order what they want through social media with little detection—until there is a problem.

In Montgomery County, police show up to every overdose, whether it is fatal or not. We are one of the only jurisdictions in the State that does this. We also have extensive information about substance use and how to help break addiction through our btheone.org website.

Police say they have learned through their investigations that young drug users are now commonly asking for pills laced with fentanyl, a dangerous element that not long ago was only accidently being found in pills leading to a spike in adult overdoses. Now they are being produced to appear similar to popular pills like Adderall, OxyContin and Xanax.

A combination of education and drug prevention programs, led by our Opioids Intervention Team, helped bring down the number of fatal overdoses, mostly among adults, from 2021 to 2022 by close to 29 percent. However, overdose numbers have since rebounded. Some of that can be attributed to the saturation of Narcan as a quick response in more overdose cases.

As we continue to receive money from opioid settlements, more money will be devoted to helping adults and minors fight addiction. Programs such as family education, peer to peer intervention for active drug users, youth ambassadors’ programs and mental health, help treat the root cause of substance use.

The settlement money is great, but it is infuriating that the owners—managers of these drug companies—knew exactly what they were doing in pumping these drugs into the community, along with the doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists who facilitated the distribution. Not a single one of these people, whose actions led to the deaths of thousands of people, are spending a day in jail, so they get to profit personally from all the misery they unleashed, and then go about enjoying their lives as if nothing happened. There is something fundamentally wrong with this equation. It is unjust that they are able to escape accountability.

This Saturday will be National Drug Takeback Day, which is an opportunity for families to safely discard unused and unwanted prescription medications. All six Montgomery County Police substation locations will have prescription drug disposal boxes set up in their lobbies. You can also find safe takeback locations through the Gaithersburg Police Department, Rockville Police Department and Takoma Park Police.

I encourage you to learn more about our programs, the dangers of fentanyl and how to become a guardian for your friends and community. Visit btheone.org for information about the Montgomery County hotline run by EveryMind that anyone going through a crisis can call. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is another resource that allows users to chat or text for help.

MCPS Investment

As the County Council is deliberating my recommended Fiscal Year 2024 operating budget, I want to thank our community advocates, teachers, parents, labor unions and residents who understand the value of a good school system for testifying on behalf of MCPS. We are honoring the request of the school system because of the needs we have in our school system.

As I wrote above about our youth dealing with substance misuse disorders, we have a lot of mental health issues, anxieties and learning loss from the pandemic. As a former teacher, I understand that you cannot “kick the can” down the road when it comes to the education of children and every day in the classroom is crucial.

I would like to remind everyone analyzing the budget or weighing in on it that we are only spending 80 percent of what we used to spend per pupil in 2010 on today’s students. This is happening as other jurisdictions increase their spending on schools. Montgomery County never restored the recession-era cuts to the school system following 2010, and now we find ourselves in a position where we need to dramatically increase the MCPS budget to help elevate teacher and school staff pay. This is important so we can recruit and retain the best employees to help give our students the best chance at success.

I was asked by someone at a forum on the capital improvements program, “How does this school issue impact adults who don’t have children in schools?” This impacts people who don’t have children in school because the more our school system struggles and the more those struggles are reflected in people’s perceptions of MCPS. During the unification process in Takoma Park, I saw firsthand how much people's perceptions of schools had an effect on the value of homes. Everything in the city was the same for all residents—except for where children went to school. Where the children went to school had a real impact on property values. We draw a lot of residents here who come for our schools, and if we undermine confidence in those schools, it will be reflected in our home values. This budget invests in actions that will help our schools, and that should matter to everyone.

When we properly invest in our school system, the schools improve. When the schools improve, businesses move here, residents move here, property values increase, jobs are created and, in return, this brings in more money to the County.

Everyone in this County has a stake in having a good school system, but no one more than our children. If they fail, we fail.

Homeless Aid to Get $5 Million Boost from Federal Grant

Montgomery County has won a very competitive grant that will enable the County to boost its work helping to end homelessness.

This week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUB) announced the latest set of communities to benefit from federal assistance and housing vouchers to address homelessness. Montgomery County was the only municipality in Maryland to receive an award. It will receive close to $5 million dollars and 30 vouchers intended to help individuals in emergency situations find immediate housing. This is very significant.

The grant money and vouchers will go a long way toward helping us attain our goal of ending homelessness in our County. Earlier this month, the County recommitted to this goal by launching a “Zero for All” campaign, with Bethesda Cares as the co-chair of the campaign. The program aims to end homelessness by 2025.

This grant is building off our increased efforts to serve our homeless individuals. When I took office, Montgomery County did not have a shelter open year-round. Only during the winter months did we house our homeless. Now, there is a permanent shelter we opened last year that houses close to 200 individuals every day of the year.

Additionally, we support several programs under the umbrella of our Services to End and Prevent Homelessness in our Health and Human Services Department. These dedicated employees and contractors work toward the common goal of allowing everyone access to affordable housing and opportunities to improve their quality of life.

Recently, the County began partnering with Built for Zero, an international movement of more than 100 communities working to end homelessness in a measurable and equitable way.

And I am pleased to announce that Christine Hong was confirmed by the County Council last week to become Chief of the Services to End and Prevent Homelessness. For more than 17 years, she has worked with Interfaith Works, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency shelter, supportive housing, essential needs and employment programs to more than 35,000 Montgomery County residents each year. I’m happy to welcome her to the Montgomery County Government and her expertise on this important issue.

Those that are homeless are not nameless, not without families, not without hope. They are human beings who need help. I ask you to help by donating your time, money, clothes or goods to these neighbors in need.

Honoring Yom HaShoah

This past Tuesday, the world remembered the 6 million Jewish people killed in the Holocaust. Yom HaShoah also honors those who survived one of the most horrific times of hate our world has ever seen.

I was asked by the Jewish Community Relations Council to read some of the names of the victims for Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is something they ask children in our area and leaders from across the DMV to participate in.

Learning about the Holocaust is essential for our children to learn and understand. For many young people, it is the first time they are faced with the darkness we can find in this world, and how quickly hate can spread like wildfire.

At every vigil and meeting I attend in response to hate, I am proud to see members of the faith community there. It reminds me that there are more people opposed to hate than those perpetuating it.

I believe our community will continue to decry hateful messages whether they are found in school, spray painted along trails and bus stops or left on driveways in the early hours of a weekend morning. We must say loudly that hate has no home here.

Ramadan Ends

I also want to acknowledge that this week is the end of Ramadan with the celebration of Eid.

I have been fortunate to help celebrate Ramadan with several groups over the last 30 days. I enjoyed attending all these celebrations and shared my appreciation for all the Muslim community does throughout our County.

Eid Mubarak to those who are celebrating. Here is wishing you and your family peace, harmony, happiness, good health and prosperity on the occasion of Eid.

COVID-19 Update

This week, the Food and Drug Administration authorized a second bivalent booster for adults 65 and up and people who are immunocompromised. For older adults, a second booster is recommended at least four months after a previous one. Those with weakened immune systems may need a new booster shot every two months.

For healthy, younger people, new boosters are not yet needed said the agency. The FDA promised an updated recommendation for most adults and children early this summer.

If you have been holding out and have not received an initial two-dose vaccine regiment, that is no longer necessary. The FDA has authorized the use of the updated boosters as a starting point for those seeking a vaccine. The changes await approval from the CDC.

Last week, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published the findings of researchers who found that the bivalent boosters were 67 percent effective in preventing hospitalization and death in those who had been previously vaccinated or boosted. And although Pfizer and Moderna bivalent vaccines were initially designed to target the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of omicron, they also reduced the risk of infection, hospitalization and death against the currently circulating BQ.1/BQ.1.1 and XBB/XBB.1.5 strains.

As you can see from this chart, a majority of County residents have still not received their bivalent booster. Bivalent booster rates for young adults, Blacks and Latino are greatly lagging, especially when compared to those who received their initial doses. We must remember that these vaccines have waning efficacy and stay up to date on our shots or we leave ourselves and our loved ones exposed to catching COVID-19.

The good news is that currently our case counts and hospital numbers continue to fall. Our community level status remains “low.” On Tuesday, no ICU beds in any of our seven regional hospitals were being used by COVID-19 patients. Let’s hope we continue to see fewer people visit the hospital with COVID, but we must remember to stay vigilant in protecting ourselves and our families from the virus. Every time we think this virus is going away for good, it always comes back.

Please stay up to date on the latest Covid news and find booster appointments through our County website on Covid.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive