Monday, March 30, 2020

Montgomery County's shortage of hospital beds: I told you so - ten years ago

Headline from my March 9, 2010 article
calling for 2 new hospitals to be built in
Montgomery County
My uncanny ability to predict Montgomery County's future could have been put to good use had I been elected to the County Council when I first ran ten years ago. Thanks to a news blackout by a local press controlled by the County's political cartel, that hasn't happened. But what I've predicted in articles and speeches has consistently happened. The latest controversy over Montgomery County's missing hospital beds reminded me of a ten-year-old article I wrote arguing for the need to build two additional hospitals in the county, entitled, "A Real Health Care Plan for Montgomery County."

According to the Maryland Department of Health, Montgomery County is 500 beds short of the number it will need to serve coronavirus patients at the peak of the outbreak. Imagine if we had started on the long process of adding our hundreds of missing hospital beds ten years ago.

In 2010, there were proposals on the table from Adventist Healthcare and Holy Cross to build a new upcounty hospital. This followed Montgomery County's failure to require more beds in approving Suburban Hospital's expansion plan a few years earlier, something I also criticized County officials for at the time.

State and County officials were determined to build only one new hospital upcounty. Looking at the 2002 SARS and 2009 H1NI pandemics, and the fact that the D.C. region is a major terror target, I correctly saw our needs differently.

"I believe that our county and state must commit the resources necessary to build both projects, and make further investments over time to expand those facilities, if we are to face the health and public safety challenges the near future poses," I wrote. "The need for more hospital beds could not be more clear."

I noted an incident one day in January 2007, when a norovirus outbreak and a large number of flu victims overwhelmed the emergency departments at Suburban, Sibley and Shady Grove hospitals with sick patients. Ambulances bringing patients with other injuries or illnesses were being diverted to other hospitals, according to a first responder familiar with events that day.

"Imagine what the situation will be if a terror attack, disease outbreak, or natural disaster does occur," I warned. "It's time to wake up. And time to build two hospitals."

Remember when I was right about the underground fuel spill in Bethesda, the need to find the "missing" African-American cemetery before starting the Westbard sector plan process, the BETCO property land swap money not going to the Little Falls watershed as promised by the Council, the plan to bulldoze existing single-family home neighborhoods the Council finally admitted in 2019, and what a fiscal disaster the County's finances would be in if we hit an economic downturn (like is happening just now?). "We can't go on like this," I told several County Council debate audiences in 2010 about our structural budget deficit, out-of-control spending, declining revenue and skyrocketing debt.

Just to name a few. Too bad you wound up with the council members who brought you more important government actions, like banning trans fats, circus animals and tanning beds for teenagers.

When coronavirus hits Montgomery County full strength in the weeks ahead, and we don't have enough hospital beds, many residents may find themselves once again having voter's remorse.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Montgomery County liquor store, nursing homes with coronavirus cases, Hogan touts Covid-19 research partnership with Bloomberg, Hopkins

Ride On reduces bus 
service to essential routes
drive-thru coronavirus 
testing site opens in Bethesda

A major coronavirus hotspot was identified by Montgomery County in one of its own County-owned liquor stores Friday. An employee at the Montgomery County Liquor store at 4920 Hampden Lane in Bethesda has tested positive for Covid-19, the County liquor department announced in a press release. The County said anyone who shopped at the Hampden Lane liquor store on March 23 or 24 should monitor themselves for coronavirus symptoms.

However, unless the employee only started working March 23, that does not seem like sound advice. The employee tested positive after exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19 on March 25. But a person can be asymptomatic for up to 14 days after being exposed to the coronavirus, so customers could have been at risk of exposure long before March 23.

When you think of how heavily the county government has pushed liquor sales during the coronavirus shutdown, and how many people in downtown Bethesda, Edgemoor, East Bethesda and Chevy Chase likely stocked up at the downtown Bethesda store over the last few weeks, this represents a major risk to the community. The Hampden Lane store has been temporarily closed for sanitizing and deep cleaning.

Montgomery County nursing homes
with coronavirus

The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services has identified three nursing homes in the county where either residents or staff have tested positive for coronavirus. Three residents at Brighton Gardens on Tuckerman Lane in Bethesda have tested positive for Covid-19, the HHS confirmed. All three are currently hospitalized.

One staff member at Fox Chase nursing home in Silver Spring, and one staff member at the Fairland Center on Fairland Road in Silver Spring also have tested positive. Each is self-quarantining at this time.

The reports on this and the liquor store are among the very few cases where the County has been open with the public on where infected people have worked, shopped or traveled. Such a lack of open information has helped to spread the coronavirus because residents could not avoid places of exposure, and people who were in those places could not self-isolate to protect vulnerable household members and others in the community.

Ride On further reduces
services to essential routes

Ride On announced that bus service is being further reduced to essential routes. If your regular bus includes a hospital as a stop, you're in luck, such as the Ride On 23 in Bethesda that goes to Sibley Hospital. If it doesn't, not so much. A full list of routes still operating can be found online.

Hogan announces partnership to find
coronavirus treatment with Bloomberg,
Johns Hopkins

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced a major research initiative the state is undertaking in partnership with Johns Hopkins Medicine and Bloomberg Philanthropies. The research will center around blood plasma samples from patients who have recovered from Covid-19, and attempt to find a treatment for the disease, if not a vaccine. Bloomberg is donating $3 million, and the state is contributing $1 million.

MedStar opens coronavirus
testing site in Bethesda

MedStar has opened a coronavirus testing site in Bethesda, as predicted by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich earlier this week. However, rather than using the White Flint Mall site Elrich suggested, MedStar has opened it at the Pauline Betz Addie Tennis Center, located at 7801 Democracy Boulevard. Before you jump in your car, though, you must have a referral from a MedStar physician who will approve you as a candidate for testing.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Rockville construction update: Main Street Apartments (Photos)

Let's take a look at the latest progress at the construction site of the future Main Street Apartments in Rockville Town Center. There has been a lot since my last report. This is where the famous IBM office building used to be. According to a sign on the building, the project will deliver in July, so they have certainly avoided any construction delays so far.









Thursday, March 26, 2020

Purse snatching in Twinbrook

Rockville police responded to a report of a forcible purse snatching in Twinbrook on March 24. The robbery was reported around 1:00 PM in the 13100 block of Atlantic Avenue in Rockville.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Hallmark Store closes at Montgomery Mall; does your building allow contactless delivery?; 17 Metro stations closing Thursday

Hallmark Fonz Christmas
ornament from 2014
WHEN YOU CARE
ENOUGH NOT TO
SPREAD COVID-19

Banner's Hallmark Shop at Westfield Montgomery Mall is temporarily closing. The store said it decided to close to protect its employees and customers from the coronavirus, and that they hope to reopen soon. Gov. Larry Hogan ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses in the state on Monday.

17 METRO STATIONS TO
CLOSE TOMORROW

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has already warned residents that you shouldn't be on transit unless you are an employee of an essential business, or a frontline healthcare worker. Riding Metro will get even tougher tomorrow, Thursday, March 26, 2020, when WMATA closes 17 Metro stations.

Red Line stations closing that may impact Montgomery County residents most are Grosvenor-Strathmore, Cleveland Park, and Judiciary Square. 

In addition, the Jennifer Street entrance to the Friendship Heights Metro station will be closed. So will the SW corner of L and Connecticut Avenue NW entrance to the Farragut North station, the South Entrance at 19th St & Connecticut Avenue at Dupont Circle, and the 12th and F Streets entrance at Metro Center.

SHOULD RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS
ALLOW CONTACTLESS DELIVERY
TO THE DOOR OF YOUR UNIT?

The coronavirus pandemic, and its national and worldwide impacts, have put us in uncharted territory. Another new controversy emerging from the outbreak is whether multifamily buildings should permit contactless delivery of food directly to a resident's unit, or bar deliverypersons from elevators and hallways, and require tenants to come down to the lobby to pick up their food.

A change in policy at The Palisades apartments in downtown Bethesda has ignited the online discussion. One resident expressed concern that the building's management has reversed its policy that allowed delivery of food to unit doors in the building. The new policy is that the deliveryperson must place the food package(s) down on a table in the lobby for that purpose. Then the resident must come down to the lobby and retrieve their delivery.

The resident noted that having to travel through the corridor, elevator and lobby would naturally increase her exposure to the coronavirus. She is requesting the management company change the policy.

Several residents agreed with her. However, some said a delivery person traveling the corridors and "touching all the buttons" in the elevator is a health risk, as well.

This is a tough call. Clearly, having to leave your apartment puts you at greater risk than staying in. At the same time, the delivery man or woman is also contacting numerous customers and restaurant staff throughout his or her shift. That multiplies the number of contacts. Of course, with contactless delivery, he or she theoretically is not making contact. 

What do you think about this? What is your building's policy, and do you think it should change? Give your two cents in the comments below, and maybe we can get a sense of what policies are in place around Montgomery County, and which of these two reasonable and compelling arguments is stronger from a medical and contagion standpoint.

TALBERT'S DELIVERS

Montgomery County landmark Talbert's, the longtime convenience store and beer/wine retailer at 5234 River Road in Bethesda, is reminding drivers on River Road that it always has made deliveries. A sign attached to the store's famous sign pole out front reads, "TALBERT'S DELIVERS: 301-652-3000." I can confirm that they have just about every snack or beverage you would need to survive the pandemic, and ice in case the freezer you stuffed full suddenly gives out.

NEW YORK IS THE EPICENTER;
WHAT ABOUT THE D.C. REGION?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is warning America that New York City's increasing coronavirus death rate and spread is a preview of what's coming to other parts of the country in the next few weeks. Join Marsha Coleman Adebayo of Bethesda's Macedonia Baptist Church this morning at 9:00 AM on WPFW-FM 89.3 for a discussion with NYC activist Margaret Kimberly, the Senior Editor of the Black Agenda Report, and the author of Prejudential, and King Downing, JD, WBAI morning host.

SURVIVING CORONAVIRUS
IN ROCKVILLE

The same day that Montgomery County removed basketball hoops from some of its parks, Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said basketball hoops had to be removed from city parks due to groups violating the governor's ban on gatherings of more than ten people, and of Hogan's order to maintain social distancing. In an ongoing series of video updates posted by the City, Newton encouraged residents to follow Hogan's directives. "We will get through this if we follow the rules, make smart decisions, and, above all, be kind and supportive of each other," she said.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Montgomery College student and employee test positive for coronavirus; YMCA offering free kids' meals, produce

College to restrict access to
campus buildings starting today

UPDATE - March 25, 2020: YMCA says it has had to suspend plans to distribute meals due to supply shortages.

Montgomery College announced Monday that one of its students, and one of its employees, have tested positive for the covid-19 coronavirus. The student hadn't been on-campus since March 11, 2020, and did not begin experiencing symptoms until March 16. But the employee did begin to feel sick the last day they worked on-campus, college officials said, which was March 13.

The college and the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services are cooperating to determine and identify who may have been exposed to either patient. Those individuals should be informed by the end of today.

A memo about the coronavirus cases by the head of public safety for the college did not identify which of the three campuses - Rockville, Germantown or Takoma Park - the student and employee were on. 

The cases came to light on the very day that the college transitioned most coursework to online classes. College officials said they had hoped to allow some campus facilities to remain in operation, but have now announced that starting today, March 24, access to all buildings on all campuses will be restricted even to employees. Only employees who have a critical need to take or return equipment or resources necessary to complete online course instruction will be allowed to enter any college facility. They will have to keep social distance of six feet while inside the building, and must exit the building in 30 minutes.

METROBUS IS NOW FREE

Gov. Larry Hogan has admonished residents that they should not be boarding transit unless they work at an essential business like a grocery store or pharmacy, or are a frontline healthcare worker. But if  you do qualify to ride, your Metrobus trip is now free by default. Starting today, passengers must board using the rear doors of the bus, unless they require the ADA features at the front doors. Passengers will not be required to pay fare on buses until further notice.

FRIENDSHIP HEIGHTS
VILLAGE SHUTTLE TO
ADD WESTBARD GIANT
TRIPS

The Village of Friendship Heights shuttle bus has been making trips to the Westwood Shopping Center Giant on Westbard Avenue on Saturdays since the Chevy Chase Giant store closed. Given the grocery shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the shuttle is adding a second day of Giant trips to Westbard. The shuttle will travel to the Westwood Giant on Wednesdays between 10 AM and 9 PM.

MoCo YMCAs OFFERING
FREE BOXED MEALS FOR KIDS,
FREE PRODUCE FOR EVERYONE

Several YMCA locations in Montgomery County will be offering boxes that contain 3-days' worth of breakfasts and lunches to anyone 18 or younger twice a week. They do not need to have any affiliation with YMCA to receive the free meals.
In cooperation with Keany Produce, these YMCAs are also offering free fresh produce to anyone who wants it, while supplies last. All you need to bring is a bag to put the meals and/or produce in. Here is a list of the YMCA locations offering the meals and produce in Montgomery County, and the days and times they will be available:


Monday, March 23, 2020

"We are still here," struggling Montgomery County businesses say, as others fall to coronavirus

Historic Bethesda diner cordoned off
Something you don't usually see in downtown Bethesda is the Tastee Diner closed. But the usually 24-hour restaurant is shuttered. This is emblematic of the new abnormal of business in the age of coronavirus in Montgomery County, as businesses countywide react to frequent new restrictions placed on activities and operations, and make decisions about how, and if, to keep the lights on.

Lights out at the Hilton Garden Inn
in Bethesda

HOTEL INDUSTRY CRATERS

The Bethesda Hilton Garden Inn has closed, with the hotel industry being hit hard by the low demand for travel. General Manager Roberto Perez says the hotel doesn't anticipate reopening before May 1 at the earliest. Bethesda-based Marriott International is laying off a large percentage of its employees until the crisis pauses or ends.
Ordinarily, this curbside on Waverly Street is
a hectic scene of airport cabs, Ubers and luggage



GAME OVER IN WHEATON

GameStop in Wheaton is also closing - apparently for good, as the video game emporium's furniture and fixtures are all up for grabs in the store's closing sale. All products are 50-80% off. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is not reduced to a liquidation price, however. GameStop has been the subject of controversy in recent days, as the already-struggling chain argued that its employees were "essential," and therefore their stores should be allowed to continue operating. 
Right now, the Wheaton GameStop - located at 11147 Veirs Mill Road - is operating on a schedule of 12:00-8:00 PM. Only 8 customers may be in the store at one time, and they have temporarily suspended trade-ins to avoid coronavirus contamination. There's only one week left to shop here, according to a sign in the store window.



WE ARE STILL HERE!

Businesses still toughing it out amid empty streets and parking spaces are trying to let people know they are still open. "We're Still Here!" declares a sign popping up in some Montgomery County restaurant windows, including this one at Guapo's.

EagleBank at 7815 Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda closed Friday, but will reopen today, March 23. The Blue House is still open nearby. They are offering curbside pickup, Virtual Shopper service, and free delivery if you live within 5 miles of their store at 7770 Woodmont Avenue. Capital Beer & Wine is still open every day at 7903 Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda. They have online ordering, curbside pickup, and delivery.
Random Harvest is temporarily closed at 7766 Woodmont Avenue, but the good news is that you'll still be able to shop with them later this week. The Bethesda furniture store says they will operate by appointment or telephone sales after March 24. Check their website after that date for full details.

Also closed, like many around the county, is Starbucks on Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda. Starbucks customers can't give up their favorite drinks, though, and are lining up for long waits at Starbucks locations with drive-thrus in places like Gaithersburg, Kensington and Burtonsville. Drive-thru is the way to go!
Look for these signs in urban
areas of Montgomery County
to avoid paying for parking when
picking up your carryout orders
Curbside pickup is also the way to go at this time. Look for special curbside stopping areas where you can avoid having to feed a meter during the coronavirus crisis in downtown Bethesda, Silver Spring, Bethesda Row, Pike & Rose and Rockville Town Square. Buffalo Wild Wings at Rockville Town Square is currently offering curbside service from 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM. World of Beer has all 250 beers on their list available for carry-out.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

First Montgomery County coronavirus death reported; Best Buy closes all stores, offers curbside pickup

Still "time to make the
donuts" at your neighborhood
Montgomery County
Dunkin' Donuts store

Montgomery County has led the state of Maryland in coronavirus cases. Late Saturday night, the first death from coronavirus in Montgomery County sadly was confirmed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. According to the Maryland Department of Health, the deceased patient was a woman in her 40s, who had underlying medical conditions that complicated her battle against the covid-19 virus.

Also yesterday, Best Buy announced that it would be closing all of its stores, effective immediately. Their stores will continue to sell products, but sales will be via curbside pickup at your nearest store.

Your local Dunkin' Donuts stores in Montgomery County are still open for carry-out and drive-thru sales. You can also use their app (scan the QR code in the image above to get the app) for touchless ordering.

Hot Pot Legend at 595 Hungerford Drive also announced yesterday that it was closing temporarily. They had been offering curbside pickup and delivery, but said they were ceasing all operations to protect their employees and families. Hot Pot Legend plans to reopen once the crisis has passed.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Starbucks goes to delivery/drive-thru only; region on verge of coronavirus shelter-in-place lockdown

Montgomery County
coronavirus testing site
in the works

Starbucks announced Friday that it was moving sales at virtually all of its American stores to delivery orders and drive-thru service only. Deliveries are available through UberEats, the company said. Starbucks said locations in and near hospitals may be kept open to serve frontline health workers and first responders during the coronavirus crisis.

COUNTDOWN TO LOCKDOWN

Leaks and statements from the District and Maryland suggest the region is nearing some form of a shelter-in-place order. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said his state is just one step away from declaring such an order. At least two journalists tweeted out yesterday that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser would order District residents to remain in their homes yesterday. Bowser's office quickly clarified such reports were false, but leaks from the DC government claim that the plans have been drawn up for implementation on short notice as needed.

National Guard units have been photographed on the move in many states across the country over the last week. A significant number of military vehicles were seen in the D.C. area Friday. As rumors began to spread online, the Maryland National Guard released a statement assuring citizens "there is not a threat of martial law." The Guard stated that the vehicles were headed to FedEx field, where troops are setting up a coronavirus testing site.

Military jets and helicopters were heard flying over Montgomery County early this morning, however.

ELRICH WANTS MONTGOMERY COUNTY
CORONAVIRUS TESTING SITE AT
WHITE FLINT MALL

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said at a press conference yesterday that the County hopes to establish a coronavirus testing site soon. MedStar would be the healthcare partner to staff and operate the site, he said. Elrich proposed using the site of the former White Flint Mall, of which only one store remains standing, for the testing location.

PIKE & ROSE RESTAURANTS
OFFERING TAKE-OUT AND DEALS

Restaurants at Pike & Rose are, like dining establishments countywide, rushing to adapt to the new abnormal of take-out/delivery only. Remember that they can also sell you beer and wine to-go under temporary alcohol sales rules.

City Perch in the iPic Theaters remains open for curbside pickup and delivery, even though the theater itself was forced to close under the sweeping statewide closures ordered by Hogan this week.

Here is a list of what other Pike & Rose restaurants are offering at this time:

  • Kusshi Sushi is offering a:
    • 50% discount to all medical and hospital workers
    • $10 meal credit for students under 18
    • 50% discount on wine
    • 25% discount on beer and sake
    • Must call to place order. Open until midnight!
  • Julii is available on UberEats or call direct (301) 517-9090 for no fee delivery or curbside pick-up. They have also created a mini grocery with essential items currently hard to find in grocery stores: toilet paper, fruits, meats, vegetables, pastries, pasta, and sanitizer. Half price bottles of wine also available.
  • Summer House Santa Monica created a similar mini take out market with such necessities.
  • Stella Barra has “make your own” BBQ pizza-to-go kit for families to make family dinners at home
  • Sweetgreen and &pizza are offering free meals to hospital workers

Friday, March 20, 2020

Montgomery County declared economic disaster area, coronavirus scenes across MoCo (Video)

Image: U.S. Small Business Administration

Restaurants retool to survive coronavirus;

Rural Maryland largely unscathed
by COVID-19 virus

Montgomery County's moribund economy already was the worst-performing in the region over the last decade, according to federal statistics. Yesterday, that same federal government officially declared the county an "economic disaster area" in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, making it eligible for federal Small Business Administration disaster relief funds.

Montgomery County Congressman Jamie Raskin
announces the county has been declared an
economic disaster area on Twitter
I hate to say, "I told you so," once again, but...yep. I've been warning since 2010 that our economy was moribund, and our fiscal course unsustainable. And posing the question of what would happen if we were hit by another recession while in this precarious financial state.

Our elected officials have ignored my warnings. It's instructive to go back to a notorious incident at the Council in 2016 at this moment. A top professional Council staffer declared at a worksession on the Westbard sector plan that an expensive, pie-in-the-sky solution to school overcrowding from urban-style development being permitted in that area was supremely doable. The math presented moved all financial burden, aside from standard impact taxes, from the developer to taxpayers. The math also presumed no financial downturns between FY-2017 and FY-2034 - no recessions, no depressions, no asteroid crashdowns, and no...pandemics.

The Council didn't question the math, and approved the plan.

And here we are. Does anyone outside of 100 Maryland Avenue actually believe we could afford a nearly-$6 billion FY-2021 budget in coronavirus-ravaged Montgomery County this year?

County revenues have been steadily declining. But a recession would sound pretty good compared to what we are facing in the next fiscal year: something between depression, and total economic collapse. 

You think falling revenues are bad - how about virtually no revenue? That's where we are for the indefinite future. We still haven't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in over 20 years, and if the County's debt was a department, it would be the third-largest department in the County government.

As I've said so many times, we're in real trouble, folks. Do the math. Because the Council apparently can't.

BRICKSIDE BETHESDA
LOWERS PRICES AS
COMMUNITY FEELS
FINANCIAL PINCH OF
CORONAVIRUS

Brickside Food & Drink at 4866 Cordell Avenue is one of many restaurants retooling practically overnight to survive the tidal wave of coronavirus that threatens to put many eateries out of business. In addition to converting to a carry-out operation, as all operating restaurants must at this point, Brickside has gone a step further, offering even more reasonable prices for brunch (Community Brunch Menu available Saturday and Sunday) and carry-out orders, in recognition that many are feeling the financial pinch of missing paychecks at the moment. Take a look at the menus here, and give them and the other restaurants remaining open across the county whatever support you can.


BEER AND WINE NOW AVAILABLE
WITH TAKE-OUT AT MOST
RESTAURANTS

Montgomery County is temporarily allowing restaurants to sell take-out beer and wine along with take-out food, in acknowledgement of the financial distress businesses are under at the moment. The beer and wine must be consumed off-premises. It will be hard for elected officials to explain why this could not continue after the coronavirus crisis ends. If it's safe now, it'll be safe then.

OLAZZO BETHESDA, 
OLAZZO SILVER SPRING
ALATRI BROTHERS, 
GRINGOS & MARIACHIS
DISCOUNTING PRICES

Save 25% off usual menu prices when you order take-out from Olazzo Bethesda, Olazzo Silver Spring, and Alatri Brothers (Bethesda) pizzeria. Prices are also temporarily 30% off at Gringos & Mariachis in Bethesda and Potomac.

Here are their current hours; call ahead to double check in the coming days (as you know, things change by the hour in this coronavirus situation):

Gringos & Mariachis Potomac 4:30pm-8:30pm
Gringos & Mariachis Bethesda 4:30pm- 8:30pm
Olazzo Bethesda noon- 8:30pm
Olazzo Silver Spring 5pm-8:30pm
Alatri Bros 4:30pm- 8pm
CORONAVIRUS SCENES
AROUND MONTGOMERY COUNTY

Here's a video of scenes of the coronavirus' impact across Montgomery County. Shuttered businesses. Mysterious men in hazmat suits. Empty streets.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY COUNCIL
MISSING IN ACTION
All scheduled Montgomery County Council
meetings through March 23 have been canceled
according to the Council calendar
The Montgomery County Council announced earlier this month that the public could not enter its building, attend its meetings or testify at public hearings due to coronavirus. But they did not publicly announce that they were going on hiatus. As the photos of their schedule here prove, that's what they are on right now, with all meetings and hearings between March 12 and 23 canceled or postponed. 

The only Council member seen in public in recent days was Will Jawando, but only on a Facebook livestream. Gov. Larry Hogan has effectively been running the Montgomery County government and public schools in absentia of their elected and professional leadership for the last couple of weeks.

CALIFORNIA ON TOTAL 
LOCKDOWN:
IS MARYLAND NEXT?

Predicting when Marylanders will be ordered to stay in their homes has been an online parlor game since the first Montgomery County coronavirus cases were announced. California went into total lockdown yesterday, and the City of Los Angeles went even further. City residents are now ordered to remain in their homes under penalty of "fines or imprisonment," according to the Los Angeles Times. There are specific exceptions, such as trips to the grocery or drug store, scheduled medical appointments, family caregivers, or exercising outdoors in your neighborhood, while maintaining a distance of 6' from others. All Los Angeles-based businesses requiring employees to be present in-person must close, and no public gatherings are permitted, the Times reported.

RURAL MARYLAND NEARLY
UNTOUCHED BY COVID-19 

A Republican party official told a GOP convention crowd in a red Maryland county in 2007 that they would "sleep well tonight." Why? "Pure Republican air," the official said to laughter. Is there anything to it?

Seriously, though, it's another data point that should be analyzed in the spread of coronavirus. No county on Maryland's Eastern Shore except for Talbot has a single case of covid-19 confirmed so far. None of the counties in Western Maryland have it either. Carroll and Frederick counties have 2 and 1 cases, respectively. Meanwhile, Montgomery County has 33, Prince George's has 23, Howard has 16, and Baltimore County has 12. 

It would seem that clustering millions of people into megacities is actually not the healthiest lifestyle for our future. We could look to our rural neighbors to learn more of the benefits of less-dense development and housing, cleaner air, open spaces, green space and trees. Mother Earth appears to be sending us a message.

At a minimum, the geographic clustering of the cases would tend to discount the idea that coronavirus was raging here back in December. Not to mention the lack of deaths. Even if they were misdiagnosed as cases of flu or pneumonia, the number of deaths would have been high enough to register public alarm. Had coronavirus been circulating prior to Christmas, we would likely have seen it spread to these rural counties as family members traveled back and forth for the holidays. That didn't happen.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Verizon working at night in downtown Rockville

Watch out for lane closures near Rockville Town Center. Verizon is performing utility work on their network in that area at night.