An update on coronavirus and vaccinations in Montgomery County

There’s encouraging news on Covid here in the county.

  • County transmission rates, the lowest since early Nov., featured a 14-day average test positivity rate below 4%; and a sharply declining 7-day average over the past five weeks (below 11 per 100,000 residents, as of Feb. 22).
  • Over 12% of county residents, including nearly half of those age 75+, have received at least one vaccine dose; as have two-thirds of the 9,000 staff who were prioritized by Montgomery County Public Schools.
  • Indoor dining resumed Feb. 14 at 25% capacity, and enforcement patrols
    reported no violations.

This report also includes a comprehensive guide to vaccinations in the county.

And as a bonus, here are the slides from Governor Hogan’s recent press conference.

Covid-19 Vaccine Update

Thanks to Delegate Vaughn Stewart for this information, which I cut and paste from his eblast yesterday.

How and when can I get vaccinated?

As of Monday, the state has moved to Phase 1C, which includes adults age 65-74 and some other essential workers. Last week, the state moved to Phase 1B, which includes residents who are 75 years and older, those in congregate facilities, educators, and child care providers.

Montgomery County has not kept up with the state’s phase progression, and will instead move to Phase 1B this week. However, the county’s progress only applies to the doses it administers through the county health department. Vaccines administered through hospitals and other health care providers are following the statewide timeline.

If you’re in Phase 1A, 1B, or 1C, here’s how you can get a vaccine sooner rather than later:

COUNTY CLINICS: The county had resisted moving from Phase 1A (health care workers, nursing homes, first responders) to Phase 1B. It is now pivoting to Phase 1b. If you’re in Phase 1B, you can pre-register with the county here. Check back on the county’s website this week for a pre-registration form for those in Phase 1C.

HOSPITALS: Hospitals are beginning public clinics. Suburban is prioritizing existing patients within the Hopkins system. If you have a Hopkins “My Chart” account, make sure it is active. If you are with Kaiser Permanente, make sure your kp.org account has the correct contact information. Holy Cross, Adventist, and Medstar have public clinics. Information is available on their websites and at covidvax.maryland.gov.

The Montgomery County hospitals are also working to set up a larger site staffed jointly by the different hospitals, so stay tuned. Hospital clinics generally follow state rules, not county policies. Even if Montgomery County remains behind, these clinics will serve 1B and 1C as well, prioritizing the 75+ population, as the state ordered.

GIANT: Giant is offering vaccines to the public starting today. Appointments can be made on their website: www.giantfood.com/covid-info. The pilot project locations are Georgetown Square, Kentlands, Burtonsville, and East-West Highway in Silver Spring. We expect each location will serve between 30-40 patients a day, so about 1,000 residents a week. They will take appointments for 1A, 1B, and 1C.

Why has the vaccine rollout so slow?

As you may know, Maryland has been one of the slowest states in the country for rolling out the vaccine. Assigning blame can be a fraught and unhelpful exercise, but many of you have reached out to ask where the bottlenecks are.

The truth is that everyone deserves a little blame. First, we suffered from a lack of a national plan. Without a national strategy, each state was left to develop its own system for prioritization and delivery. The state has given each jurisdiction flexibility to determine their own plan for vaccine allotment through the local health department. However, the state is also simultaneously distributing to entities outside of the health department that follow state rules (not the county rules). This bifurcated system has created significant confusion.

Second, the county-run vaccination clinics got off to such a slow start largely because the state over-allocated vaccine to the hospitals. At the beginning of last week, 208,000 leftover doses were sitting in hospital freezers. That’s nearly a third of all the doses received by the state. The state delivered the number of doses hospitals requested based on their staffing, but unfortunately hospitals only had a 30-50% uptake rate among their staff. Likewise, many in the 1A category the County Health Department is vaccinating (health care workers outside the hospital or long term care settings) are not making appointments for vaccination. Fortunately, last week, the state required the hospitals to begin distributing their extra 208,000 doses to the public, starting with people 75 and older.

Third, CVS and Walgreens have received almost 100,000 doses from the state for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Unfortunately, these two companies have worked at a snail’s pace nationwide. Starting this week, Giant Food and Walmart will receive doses from our federal allocation to begin vaccinating the general public. The state is also in talks with Safeway and Rite Aid to do the same.

Untangling Vaccine Confusion

From Seventh State: Untangling Vaccine Confusion by David Lublin

As we roll out the big effort to vaccinate everyone, there has been some confusion. Here’s some information from the Seventh State blog that will hopefully help you sort out what’s going on and why.

State Announcement Jumped the Gun

Governor Larry Hogan announced that people 75 and older in Priority Group 1B would be eligible to receive the vaccine beginning this past Monday. Hogan notified the counties around two hours before the announcement.

The problem, however, is that many counties have not finished vaccinating the people in Priority Group 1A, which includes healthcare providers who could easily become vectors of spreading the virus. As Adam detailed yesterday, Montgomery has received comparatively little vaccine but been vaccinating at a high rate.

Each group is also divided into three tiers. In 1B, Tier 1 includes people 75 and over. Some thought that everyone in Tier 1B would become eligible at once but the county is starting with Tier 1. If you are a Montgomery resident in this tier, you can now preregister for an appointment.

The Governor’s announcement has preceded availability here in Montgomery. This naturally created confusion and unhappiness among some that residents over 75 who thought that they could get the vaccine or even cannot be legally barred from receiving it.

Appointment Software SNAFU

The State has mandated that all county governments use the same appointment software, which was originally designed for the flu vaccine. Flu vaccine is usually plentiful, but we unfortunately have to ration COVID-19 vaccine and have eligibility requirements.

Designed for a situation with plenty of vaccine and the desire to vaccinate as fast as possible, the state-mandated software spits out offers for appointments as soon as they are available and doesn’t take into account eligibility.

This has resulted in people in 1B who thought they were eligible making appointments and then getting turned away because they weren’t. Even though Montgomery is still trying to finish vaccinating 1A, the county began on Thursday to allow anyone who is 75 and over (i.e. Tier 1 of 1B) and showed up for an appointment to get the vaccine.

Councilmember Email Blasts Exacerbated Confusion

Email blasts from some county councilmembers compounded the problem created by the Governor’s announcement by indicating that the county was moving to 1B now and urging people to sign up in all tiers.

Hospitals v. County Vaccination Centers

For whatever reason, 40-50% of people working in hospitals have decided not to get the vaccine. As a result, hospitals have extra. Rather than let it go to waste, they have sensibly been vaccinating people 75 and over, so hospitals have operated differently from county centers.

Ready for More Vaccine

I have heard that vaccination centers have far more people ready to do the vaccinations than people to receive it. While this may seem bizarre, it’s good news because it means that Montgomery may be better prepared for mass vaccinations as more vaccine becomes available.

http://www.theseventhstate.com/?p=14604

David Lublin | January 22, 2021 at 7:00 am |

Another Covid Update for 20852

Below is a compilation of Covid charts for our area. As they used to say on Hill Street Blues (a cop TV show from long ago, for the under 40 crowd), “be careful out there.”

Courtesy of Delegate Marc Korman
From the New York Times
From Montgomery County Coronavirus Dashboard
From the Montgomery County Coronavirus Dashboard

National Capital Region Vaccine Information from the Maryland Vaccine Dashboard (Charles, Frederick, Montgomery, Prince George’s)

Count of Vaccinated: 37,067

Proportion of Population Vaccinated: 1.55%

Future of the office market, Part 2: Which of Montgomery County’s office districts are best positioned to win the region’s post-COVID office space race?

A Third Place blog from the Planning Department offers three possible scenarios for the post-Covid world of office space. It appears the Pike District ought to be rooting for the hub and spoke office model.

Scenario 1: The regional center best withstands an overall drop in office demand while the decline of suburban office parks accelerates. Submarkets in Montgomery County that would benefit: None, but Bethesda is likely the least negatively affected.

Scenario 2: Firms adopt the ‘Hub & Spoke’ office model Submarkets in Montgomery County that would benefit: urban submarkets (Bethesda, Silver Spring and portions of North Bethesda) It is likely that firms pursuing this strategy will want some level of urban amenities for these satellite locations. Within Montgomery County, office submarkets that offer transit access and elements of the urban amenities enjoyed downtown but with closer proximity to suburban workers—such as Bethesda, Silver Spring and the Pike District—might see increased demand. More suburban submarkets like Germantown, Gaithersburg, or Rockville, which are dominated by office parks with fewer amenities, might continue to struggle.

Scenario 3: The revival of the suburban office park Submarkets in Montgomery County that would benefit: suburban markets (Germantown, Gaithersburg or northern Rockville).

‘Advancing the Pike District’ advances to the Planning Board

On Thursday afternoon, December 17, the Montgomery County Planning Department’s Advancing the Pike District project team will provide an overview of key findings and potential solutions from the Development Trends, Infrastructure Update, and Short-Term Solutions Report. Advancing the Pike District is a Planning Department initiative to accelerate the transformation of North Bethesda around the White Flint Metro Station area. You can click this link to read the staff report .

Yes, the report is a long document, and you may have seen slides from the Planning Department’s presentation at our recent community meeting. But it’s a report worth taking a look at. It is chock full of facts and figures as well as plans, placemaking, pedestrian safety and proposals,

This item is currently #9 on the board’s agenda for December 17.
The Planning Board’s facility is closed to the public during the pandemic, but the public can watch the meetings live online and on-demand, or hear them in real time by calling 877-668-9160 (password: 24252020). 

Friends of White Flint alum Jay Corbalis gets some press

Meet Jay Corbalis, JBG Smith’s man with a transportation plan – Washington Business Journal

Jay Corbalis, who used to work at Federal Realty and was instrumental in the founding and work of Friends of White Flint, was interviewed in the Washington Business Journal. The intro is below; click the link to read his interview.

When Jay Corbalis was interviewing for a job at JBG Smith Properties in March 2018, he said there was no mention of what would soon become the developer’s most high-profile partner: Amazon.com Inc.

Sure, there were plenty of rumors that the tech giant would pick Arlington for its massive second headquarters. But Corbalis said he accepted a job as JBG Smith’s new point man for transportation infrastructure in the Crystal City area without knowing for sure whether Jeff Bezos’s megafirm would be coming to town.

It turns out that Corbalis, the Bethesda developer’s vice president of public affairs, made the right choice. Amazon picked the newly dubbed “National Landing” area for HQ2, and brought with it an infusion of state funding into the very projects Corbalis was working on.

While things like a second Crystal City Metro station entrance, the transformation of Route 1 and a pedestrian connection to Reagan National Airport were all part of Arlington County’s long-range plans before Amazon was in the picture, the company’s arrival added a huge amount of urgency. And that thrust Corbalis into one of the most important roles in the entire company: making sure that Amazon’s new neighborhood meets the tech giant’s high expectations.

Read his interview at the Washington Business Journal.

A Covid-19 Update

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a COVID-19 update, but with the recent surge, it seemed appropriate. Here are the latest White Flint/Pike District area numbers courtesy of Delegate Marc Korman (who posts them daily on his social media.)

The Montgomery County testing portal is a useful list of places where you can get tested. (I was tested a couple of weeks ago at one of the county sites and got results back (thankfully negative!) in just 3 days.)

Don’t forget about Montgomery County’s new directive: a face covering must be worn when you are likely to come into contact with another person, such as being within six feet of another person for more than a fleeting time and must be worn unless a person is actively engaged in eating or drinking. And no gatherings of more than ten people.

Stay safe out there!