Showing posts with label COVID19. Show all posts
Showing posts with label COVID19. Show all posts

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Coronavirus patient surge at hospitals puts Montgomery County on Blue Alert

Critical care beds
"mostly full" at all
County hospitals tonight

The number of coronavirus cases confirmed by the Maryland Health Department has continued on an upward track recently. Tonight, Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Services spokesperson Pete Piringer confirmed that critical care beds at all county hospitals are "mostly full" this evening. This triggers a Blue Alert for MCFRS crews. County EMS supervisors are actively managing patient distribution countywide at this hour.

"All area hospitals are busy," Piringer said. As a result, patients may be transported to a hospital further away from their home until beds free up.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Regal Cinemas Rockville marquee has new coronavirus messaging

Regal Cinemas Rockville Center has posted some new coronavirus pandemic messaging on its marquee at 199 E. Montgomery Avenue. Not surprisingly for a cineplex, the updated messages draw on classic movies like Casablanca and Sudden Impact. Most of all, the theater misses "our Rockville neighbors."

Friday, April 24, 2020

Enterprise Holdings to lay off 92 in Rockville

The economic collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic continues to implode Montgomery County's already-moribund economy. Enterprise Holdings announced yesterday that it intends to lay off 92 of its employees in Rockville. In a statement, Enterprise said their rental car business is "at a standstill" with very little travel taking place nationwide.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Gilead's Remdesivir effective in Rockville study of monkeys with coronavirus covid-19

A study at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases {(NIAID) in Rockville has shown that pharmaceutical firm Gilead's experimental Remdesivir anti-viral treatment slowed the progression of the covid-19 coronavirus in monkeys infected with the virus. It also reduced lung damage.

Early administration of the drug made it more effective, according to a report on the study by The drug did not reduce the monkey's shedding of the virus while infected, however, which means they would remain contagious even while on Remdesivir, if this study's finding holds in further clinical testing.

The NIAID is at 5601 Fishers Lane in the Twinbrook area of Rockville.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

First Watch temporarily closed in Rockville due to coronavirus pandemic

First Watch at Rockville Town Square has temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. CEO Chris Tomasso said it was a "difficult decision," but that he decided to close all of the chain's locations to protect employees from contracting covid-19. He also announced that First Watch employees will receive medical coverage and additional health benefits related to coronavirus. First Watch is located at 100-D Gibbs Street.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Maryland State Police shut down Flagship Car Wash in Rockville

Longtime car cleaning business
asks for customers' help

WJLA ABC7 reporter Kevin Lewis witnessed Maryland State Police drive up and blockade the Flagship Car Wash on Chapman Avenue near the Rockville Target store early Sunday afternoon. The company confirmed to Lewis that MSP officers had shut down four Flagship locations across Montgomery County Sunday. Flagship also has locations in the District and Virginia.

Flagship's owner told Lewis that the services her business was providing were compliant with a written directive from the state regarding which "essential" auto maintenance services could be offered during the statewide coronavirus shutdown. I can confirm this is true, because Flagship had announced way back on March 25 that they were limiting services in Rockville to exterior cleaning only,  with machine-operated automatics, self-service and vacuums to be open 24 hours. Exterior cleaning by employees was not even listed for the other two upcounty, just the automatic and self-serve options.

Later Sunday, Flagship asked its customers on Facebook to share the ABC7 story to support their business. MSP told Lewis that car washes are not an essential service, and that the Flagship location in MoCo should remain closed.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Masks mandatory on Ride On buses starting today

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has mandated that all Ride On bus passengers must wear masks or face coverings starting today. Riders not in compliance will be asked not to board, or to disembark if they remove their mask while aboard. A similar rule will take effect statewide on Saturday, April 18, 2020.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Where is the coronavirus in Montgomery County? Here are confirmed cases by ZIP code

Here is a list of coronavirus cases confirmed by the Maryland Department of Health across Montgomery County, listed by ZIP code.

What this list tells us:

The list gives a rough snapshot of the number of patients who were sick enough to seek medical attention, and who were given a test for coronavirus that came back positive, in a particular ZIP code. Because of the 14-day incubation period for the Covid-19 coronavirus, we're likely looking at what the situation was about two weeks ago in each ZIP code.

What this list doesn't tell us:

These numbers obviously don't tell us how many infected people were asymptomatic, and/or did not qualify to be tested, in each ZIP code. They are also not necessarily an accurate estimate of the overall health or safety of a particular community.

For example, there are quite a few nursing homes and facilities for the elderly in eastern Montgomery County, in places like Wheaton and Fairland. Nursing homes have been the biggest hot spots for coronavirus across Maryland and many other states, so this makes the numbers look worse than they are for the general public in those areas. By contrast, there are no nursing homes in the 20816 ZIP code, which has one of the lowest non-rural confirmed case totals.

The public needs and deserves more information than Montgomery County and Maryland have provided so far, which may have caused the virus to spread since many were unable to know if they had been exposed and should isolate, thanks to a lack of contact tracing information being released publicly by the county and state (think about how many times you've heard a public announcement that someone with measles shopped in a particular store, or traveled through an airport on a particular date - that didn't happen here with coronavirus).

But the ZIP code information does represent some data and information we didn't have prior to this week. So let's make use of it.

ZIP CODE (Towns/Cities in that ZIP Code): Number of coronavirus cases

20818 (Cabin John): 0
20817 (Bethesda/North Bethesda/Potomac/Cabin John/Huntington Terrace): 50
20816 (Westbard/Sumner/Westmoreland Hills/Spring Hill/Brookmont/Somerset/Glen Echo): 20
20815 (Chevy Chase): 50
20814 (Downtown Bethesda): 53
20812 (Glen Echo/Brookmont): 0

20832 (Olney): 24
20833 (Brookville): 0
20838 (Barnesville): 0
20839 (Beallsville): 0

20841 (Boyds): 17
20842 (Dickerson): 0

20850 (Rockville/North Potomac/Travilah): 44
20851 (Rockville/North Bethesda): 17
20852 (North Bethesda/South Rockville): 66
20853 (Rockville/Aspen Hill/Norbeck/Olney): 54
20854 (Darnestown/Travilah/Potomac/Rockville): 68
20855 (Derwood/Redland): 18

20866 (Burtonsville/Fairland): 26

20871 (Clarksburg): 20
20872 (Damascus): 11
20874 (Germantown): 74
20876 (Germantown/Clarksburg/Wildcat Forest): 45
20877 (Gaithersburg/Montgomery Village/Redland/Washington Grove): 61
20878 (Gaithersburg/N. Potomac/Darnestown): 58
20879 (Gaithersburg/Montgomery Village/Germantown): 35

20882 (Montgomery Village/Damascus/Laytonsville): 18
20886 (Montgomery Village): 45
20889 (Bethesda): 0

20892 (Bethesda): 0
20895 (Kensington/Garrett Park/Chevy Chase View): 31
20899 (Gaithersburg): 0

20901 (Silver Spring/Kemp Mill/WhiteOak): 81
20902 (Wheaton/Kemp Mill/Glenmont/Glenview): 135
20903 (Parts of Silver Spring/White Oak/Hillandale): 56
20904 (White Oak/Fairland/Calverton): 137
20905 (Colesville/Ashton/Sandy Spring): 21
20906 (Aspen Hill/Leisure World/Layhill): 126
20910 (Silver Spring/Takoma Park/S. Kensington): 92
20912 (Takoma Park): 44

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Montgomery County updates coronavirus policy requiring masks to be worn in stores

Unmasked shoppers can be
barred from entering stores,
Stores now must provide masks
for employees

Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles has released a further update and clarification to his order requiring shoppers to wear masks when shopping in County retail establishments starting tomorrow, Monday, April 13, 2020. Gayles clarified that there is no civil or criminal penalty for shoppers who do not wear a mask. But he also clarified that his order establishes the right of stores to bar customers who are not wearing masks or equivalent face coverings over their nose and mouth.

Businesses do face stiff fines for not complying with the business-related parts of Gayles' order, however. Gayles reiterated that businesses will face a $500 fine for their first violation, and $750 fines for each repeat offense.

One other important update to the policy: Where the original ordered that businesses must allow their employees to don masks, the update now mandates that businesses "must provide face coverings for employees, whether the employees interact with customers or not."

Friday, April 10, 2020

Montgomery County health officer orders face masks required in stores starting Monday for coronavirus

Once again a government official has had to step in to act during the coronavirus crisis while the Montgomery County Council dithered. Last evening, County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles issued an order requiring customers to wear masks when inside grocery stores, pharmacies and "large chain retail establishments," effective Monday, April 13, 2020. The order also requires these stores to limit the number of customers allowed in at any one time, and to facilitate social distancing through the use of floor markings.

Giant had already announced it would begin limiting the number of customers in its stores prior to Gayles' order being issued.

Gayles also ordered the affected businesses to provide clean restrooms stocked with soap and hand sanitizer for their employees, and to allow them to wash their hands every 30 minutes. He did not mandate face coverings for employees, but ordered that employers allow them to be worn. Physical barriers between customers and employees should be erected, Gayles said, and widely-used equipment like shopping carts should be cleaned, and wipes provided for customers to use to clean them.

Face masks are expected to be largely improvised or homemade at this point, as even cloth masks are selling out online and in what few stores carried them. Surgical and N95 masks were sold out online and in stores four weeks ago, and Gayles discouraged their use by non-medical professionals.

However, cloth masks, bandannas, t-shirts and other improvised masks do not have the same filtration and moisture controls that professional-quality surgical masks provide. Only N95s provide maximum protection in direct contact with individuals infected with covid-19.

Federal officials have repeatedly lied about masks from the beginning of the crisis. First, they falsely claimed that surgical masks would not reduce your chances of catching the virus. Now they claim going into stores looking like a bank robber provides the same protection as a professional surgical mask, again for the sole reason of not wanting to force mask manufacturers to produce enough for the general public and medical professionals. The government has known since 2002 that a pandemic like this was coming, and yet failed to stockpile and domestically produce enough masks to protect its taxpayers despite nearly two decades to prepare.
Cloth masks are good if you fancy
yourself a train robber in the Old West.
Protecting you from covid-19...not so much
The County mask order, as a result, is simply an additional step that will reduce the spread of the virus, by reducing the airborne droplets generated by infected customers. Cloth masks will not hold in or keep out bacteria, viruses and contaminants to the degree that a surgical mask would. They are also heavier and more uncomfortable than lightweight surgical masks. And they become petri dishes themselves, as they have no moisture-retardant material like a medical grade mask.

"I fully support the County health order requiring people wear face coverings in grocery stores, pharmacies, and large chain retail establishments," County Executive Marc Elrich said after Gayles issued the order. But, in light of the limitations I referenced in the previous paragraph, Elrich urged residents to stay home as much as possible, and not forgo social distancing measures while wearing a mask.

This is yet the latest case of a government official having to take immediate action to protect the public while the County Council slept at the switch during the pandemic. Councilmembers spent so many days trying to get on television to promote themselves via their proposed mask bill that they had no time to actually pass the bill. Gayles finally stepped in to immediately issue the order. Last month, the Council and Montgomery County Public Schools leaders hemmed and hawed about whether or not to close schools, primarily for political and ideological reasons. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan then stepped in and ordered schools closed statewide.

Hogan, Elrich and Gayles have taken leadership roles during the crisis. The Council has "led from behind," struggling to stay relevant as other officials have effectively run the county for the last six weeks in their absence - an absence that began with a two-week Council vacation, just as the pandemic began in February.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Canopy by Hilton takes coronavirus message to heart at Pike & Rose

The Canopy by Hilton hotel at Pike & Rose is temporarily closed, like many hotels nationwide, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Upper floors of the building are still lit up because they comprise the 930 Rose condos atop the hotel levels. But some of the otherwise dark hotel windows have been lit up, Visiting Hours-style (ironically), to form a heart at this stressful time.
A man-made window pattern was topped off by the light of the moon over the hotel last evening. Hilton's website explains what the current reservation timeline is, and what policies the Tysons-based chain has modified or introduced to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Rockville virtual support group forms to help those stressed by coronavirus

Stressed out about coronavirus? A new COVID-19 virtual support group has been formed by Zixuan Wang, Psy.D. at Quince Orchard Psychotherapy in Rockville. With gatherings now forbidden due to the pandemic, the group will meet online once a week, from 1:00-2:00 PM on Fridays. Each session costs $20, and with no paper goods available to buy online or off, you've probably got the money. For more information or to register online, go here.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Montgomery County urgently seeking PPE donations for medical, public safety personnel

Montgomery County issued a statement early this morning asking for donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical professionals and public safety employees. Items needed for the coronavirus crisis include
  • Respirators (N95 or KN95)
  • Masks (surgical or procedural)
  • Gowns (medical, isolation, or surgical)
  • Face Shields (medical goggles or safety glasses)
  • Gloves
County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director Dr. Earl Stoddard said the County has already received much-appreciated donations from individuals, construction companies, laboratories and manufacturers, but that more are still needed. Anyone who is in a position to donate such equipment can fill out this form online.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Rockville biotech firm begins COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine test

BIOQUAL, a Rockville-based biotech firm, announced Tuesday that it has begun in-vivo testing of coronavirus COVID-19 vaccines. The company, founded in 1981, said that it has been developing animal models for a vaccine since February in partnership with Dr. Dan Barouch at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the Ragon Institute, both affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

BIOQUAL has previously been active in vaccine development against AIDS, Hepatitis, Zika, and Chikungunya, to name a few. The firm is located at 9600 Medical Center Drive.

Montgomery County policy on coronavirus contact tracing: Do ask, don't tell

Most Montgomery County residents who live through the coronavirus pandemic will likely never forget the dramatic announcement of the jurisdiction's Patient Zero, Patient One and Patient Two - three travelers who brought the Covid-19 virus back to the county with them. The news meant the dreaded and deadly virus was now officially here. State and County officials said they would not reveal those patients' identities, and no one actually wanted or expected them to. But the public did want to know where those three people had gone while contagious, the general vicinity of MoCo in which they were located, and who had been exposed. Officials assured us that extensive interviews would take place to map out this information.

They never released it.

It's too late now. The three patients, thankfully, recovered. But aside from a single event at a Rockville retirement community, Montgomery County residents were never told which stores, restaurants, gyms, or other business and public facilities these people went to while contagious.

Whomever they exposed to the virus - and it's not credible to claim they contacted no human beings since returning from their travels - has either contracted it or fought it off, recovered or died. So it would be pointless to demand this information at this late date.

But the policy of "Do ask, don't tell" continues. Out of 388 known cases of coronavirus in Montgomery County, only a handful of exposure points have been made public, with the County liquor store on Hampden Lane in Bethesda being the only memorable one recently. The County has primarily announced when its own employees have tested positive, but it has not made public the public places those few dozen people went while contagious.

Is contact tracing being performed? If so, where are the results being recorded, and why have they not been released in a timely fashion while still relevant for each case? The local media hasn't pressed for these answers. While some countries have made the controversial move to track all citizens via their cell phones to provide the most-thorough contract tracing possible, and then alerted those exposed, here we are getting no answers from the honor-system interviews we were assured would take place when the first cases were confirmed on March 5(!!).

The failure to contact trace, or to make the results public (without identifying the patients, of course), has put all of us at risk. Along with the federal government's farcically-weak travel restrictions (a cruise ship loaded with infected Americans was allowed to dock, and the passengers disperse nationwide on commercial flights, only about 10 days ago - even after all federal officials knew at that point), the lack of information prevented potentially contaminated facilities from being cleaned according to coronavirus protocols, and those exposed from self-quarantining away from vulnerable family and community members.

Along with the deliberate failure at the federal, state and county levels to ensure sufficient hospital beds, masks, PPE, ventilators and other supplies would be available for a pandemic everyone has known was coming since SARS in 2002, a policy of "You can ask, but we won't tell you" has made the coronavirus outbreak even more dangerous for Montgomery County residents than it had to be.

Image courtesy CDC

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

What does a mandatory Stay at Home order mean in Maryland?

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan took a somewhat stern tone in announcing his mandatory Stay at Home order Monday morning, frustrated with ongoing violations of his earlier advisory Stay at Home policy. There was confusion among some in the following hours about exactly what the order means. For most people, it means very little change to what you've already been doing. The key change is that the order can now be enforced by police, and gratuitous violations could earn you a fine or jail time.

Under the order, you may leave your home for essential travel to buy groceries, fill up your gas tank or seek auto repairs, shop at drug stores or liquor stores, travel to your job like you've been doing if it was classified as essential (or otherwise, telework, if that's possible), visit another home or property you own - i.e. to check on utilities, travel to care for a relative or friend in need, and go outside for fresh air, exercise, and walking or running as long as you keep six feet away from other people.

Hogan ordered a text alert to be sent to all devices capable of receiving one in the state. The alert went our successfully at 3:00 PM Monday afternoon. This was a very effective move to get the public's attention and reinforce the seriousness of the situation. The point on gatherings could have been clarified a bit better. You really should not be engaging in any group activities of ten people at this time if you are serious about protecting yourself and others from contracting coronavirus! That is nuts. Social distancing would be expected if such an event were to be held, however.

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.

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

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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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: