Reopening Montgomery — But We Must Do It Safely

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June 25, 2020 |  Bookmark and Share

A Message from County Executive Marc Elrich

County Executive Marc Elrich

Dear Friends:

Hall of Fame baseball player Leroy “Satchel” Paige was well known for his great skill, but also for his wisdom. One of his lasting observations was, “Don’t look back because something may be gaining on you.”

Those thoughts from decades ago have value today. However, in the case of trying to control the COVID-19 virus, we must always be looking back—and all around—to make sure the virus does not again gain on us.

It is good to be in Phase 2 and for people to visit the businesses and restaurants that opened this past week with the reopening guidelines. However, I keep stressing that everyone must wear face coverings (except when seated at a restaurant) and maintain physical distance. We do not want to see a spike in cases and we cannot relax in fighting COVID-19.

Although we have reached a bit of stability, the virus is still here. It is not going away, and we will watch those numbers carefully over the next couple of weeks.

I’m happy to report that our libraries will resume some services on Monday (you can read more below). Our County-owned pools will be opening, but we do not yet have a date when that will happen. We are making sure we have all the appropriate precautions in place before we reopen them.

I have been asked about Phase 3 of reopening. I cannot give you a date because, at this point, we are watching the data and following the science.

As we look ahead, we are constantly seeking ways to help our business community recover from the public health crisis. This week, the County Council unanimously approved a plan I proposed last year to create a Local Business Preference Program for obtaining County contracts. I championed this initiative because we need to use our purchasing power to support our local business community. Money spent on purchases from local businesses more likely stays in Montgomery County in the form of wages or purchases from other local businesses.

I have just announced my “Reimagine Public Safety” initiative.  This effort will include robust community engagement and a comprehensive review of the police department and programs. You will be hearing more about this important step we are taking to make Montgomery County a better place.


Marc Elrich

Marc Elrich, County Executive

Face Coverings Required as Phase 2 Reopening Continues, With New Directive Requiring Them Outdoors in Some Instances

mask health order

As Montgomery County continues Phase 2 reopening, health officials remind all residents that face coverings must be worn to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. In a health officer directive issued on June 18 by County Health Officer Travis Gayles, residents (except those under the age of two and those with health conditions that make breathing difficult) must wear face coverings whenever they are in public and physical distancing is not possible.

Wearing face coverings outdoors is currently required:

  • On public transportation such as Ride On, Metro and ride sharing
  • Entering businesses and services that are open, including:
    • Grocery stores
    • Restaurants
    • Retail businesses
    • Religious services
    • Hair salons and barbershops
    • Pools, except when in the water
    • Gyms and fitness centers, including when exercising
  • Exercising or interacting with others outdoors
  • Outdoor markets, including farmer’s markets
  • Child care centers

Businesses allowed to reopen during Phase 2 are required to have employees wear face coverings at all times, including during food preparation and when interacting with customers.


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Proposal by County Executive Elrich to Create Local Business Preference for Obtaining County Contracts Approved

Montgomery county Emblem

A proposal by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich to create a Local Business Preference Program for obtaining County contracts was unanimously approved this week by the County Council.

Expedited Bill 25-19, which the County Executive sent to the Council last September, will provide a 10 percent price preference in evaluating a bid or proposal from a local business on a contract awarded by the County. The bill is intended to bolster the County’s economic growth and support the creation and retention of employment opportunities within the County. The Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee amended the bill to cap the dollar amount of the preference at $200,000 for a competitive sealed bid.

“I sent this bill to the Council because it is key to ‘walking the walk’ in supporting our local business,” said County Executive Elrich. “We know that local business is key to a strong local economy, and we need to use our purchasing power to support them. Money spent on purchases from local businesses generally stays in Montgomery County in the form of wages or purchases from other local businesses. It has a local ripple effect. This is an important tool that was discussed during our 4Business listening sessions last year, and I’m glad we now have it in our toolbox as we continue our work to strengthen our local economy.”

Under provisions of the legislation, the director of the Office of Procurement will be required to certify a business as a local business if it has its principal place of business in the County.


Business Resources

Public Libraries to Resume Some Services Beginning Monday, June 29

reopening news

Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL), which have been closed for most services during the COVID-19 health crisis, will be resuming some services beginning Monday, June 29.

MCPL plans to open book drops at all branches (except for Noyes and Long Branch) on Monday so that users can return materials that they borrowed before operations were shut down in March. Go! Kits, items from the Library of Things Music, laptops and hotspots cannot be returned at this time.

For those still not comfortable visiting a library book drop, fines will remain suspended at this time.

In addition, phone service will be restored at all branches, with the exception of Noyes and Long Branch. Service hours will be limited. See the library's website for hours for each branch.

On July 6, MCPL plans to begin providing a contactless holds pick up service at all branches (except for Noyes and Long Branch). Users will be able to place items on hold online or by phone, and then make an appointment to pick them up in the library vestibule or at an outside table.


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County Receives 20,000 Masks from Sister City Xi’an, China, to Aid Response to COVID-19 Health Crisis

County Receives 20,000 Masks from Sister City Xi’an, China, to Aid Response to COVID-19 Health Crisis

Montgomery County’s “Sister City,” Xi’an, China, has donated 20,000 masks to protect the County’s frontline workers during the COVID-19 health crisis. The Montgomery Sister City Association also contributed $1,000 to ensure the masks passed through customs.

In 2013, Montgomery established a Sister City relationship with Xi’an, which is home to 12 million residents and the famous Terra Cotta Warriors.

The County’s Department of General Services received the masks on June 22 at its warehouse in Gaithersburg and will begin distributing them.

“This generous donation from our Sister City Xi’an reinforces the importance of diplomacy and international cooperation during these challenging times,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “These masks will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our community and protect our most vulnerable residents. I want to thank our counterparts in Xi’an for reaching out to offer a donation, unsolicited, and our partners in the Sister City Association for their financial and logistical assistance in receiving this donation. Thanks also to the Northwestern Chinese American Association of Greater Washington and State Delegate Lily Qi for helping facilitate delivery of the masks.”

The County’s response to COVID-19 has required extensive work by planning and operational teams that need to supply N95 and surgical masks, gowns, gloves and hand sanitizer to nursing homes, senior living communities, hospitals, medical offices, frontline County staff, essential child care providers and food distribution volunteers.

“Montgomery County’s Department of General Services staff and County volunteers have worked tirelessly over the past few months to distribute scarce personal protective equipment to frontline workers and this donation is greatly appreciated,” said County Executive Elrich. “Thank you to our friends in the Xi’an Municipal People's Government.”


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Department of Permitting Services Brings Back ‘Residential Fast Track’ Online Applications for Qualifying Home Projects

department of permitting services

Montgomery County’s Department of Permitting Services (DPS), which suspended its “Residential Fast Track” online application process during the COVID-19 health crisis, on June 24 reactivated the service for qualifying projects. The Fast Track service can be available for many projects with total gross floor area or work area of 400 square feet or less. 

In many cases, permits for projects that are approved for Fast Track consideration can be approved in two business days or less.

DPS, whose office remains closed and has employees working from home, is working on bringing the Commercial Fast Track back in very near future. 

Residents with eligible Fast Track projects can find the application at Applicants should use the “Apply & ePay” button at the top of the page to create a new account or to sign into their existing DPS account. 


Press Release

‘Ambassadors’ Assist County Businesses During Reopening Phases

‘Ambassadors’ Assist County Businesses During Reopening Phases

When Montgomery County began preparing guidelines for its phased reopening, one concern was how to address the special needs of businesses. In some cases, they had been closed entirely for months and in other instances were operating under much different circumstances than normal. Having special liaisons to help businesses during this most unusual time seemed like a good approach. Quickly, the Montgomery “Business Ambassador” program was formed and its representatives have been very active.

County Executive Marc Elrich and Health Officer Travis Gayles wanted to make sure businesses knew that opening during a time of mandatory protective measures would require adherence to all guidelines. There also was a need to clarify where Montgomery County reopening guidelines differed from Maryland guidelines.

The County’s housing code inspectors have been largely sidelined during the health crisis to avoid potentially exposing them and residents to COVID-19. The inspectors know their regions well, have County vehicles assigned to them and many speak multiple languages. They already had many of the credentials needed to make them well-suited as liaisons with local businesses. They became the core of the new “Business Ambassador” program.

Since the program’s inception on June 8 under the direction of Dan McHugh, the manager of the Housing Code Enforcement Division for the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, 19 ambassadors have visited more than 1,650 businesses during the Phase 1 and Phase 2 reopening periods. They have helped businesses stay aware of measures needed to make their businesses safe for customers and employees.

Ambassadors visit the businesses to offer resources, support and answer questions. If they revisit a business that is not following guidelines, they can pass that information to the County Department of Health and Human Services for possible enforcement.

The County has worked in other ways to help businesses stay aware of the reopening guidelines. A new webpage was created and fact sheets in multiple languages were printed for distribution by the Ambassadors.

For more information on resources for businesses, visit the Reopening Resources webpage.


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Alcohol Beverage Services Reopens Cabin John Village Center

liquor and wine

Montgomery County’s Alcohol Beverage Services (ABS) on June 22 reopened its Cabin John store located within the Cabin John Village Center mall following guidelines issued by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich under Phase 2 of his reopening plan from the COVID-19 health crisis. The store had been closed since March 19 when Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced the closure of all enclosed malls in the State to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The Cabin John store hours will be the same as the other 25 stores operated by ABS throughout the County. The stores currently are open Monday through Saturday from noon-7 p.m.


Press Release