I am really happy that the Governor has ordered facial coverings on a statewide basis similar to what I first proposed here — all customers and workers in retail settings and all public transportation riders and operators. That’s just what we need.

Wearing a facial covering is proven effective to reduce your “aerosol” emission cloud when you talk or breathe. Because many of us carry the virus but are asymptomatic, wearing a covering is a symbol of your care and commitment to protecting other people.

To promote equity, the Council is considering an appropriation to provide masks to those who may have more difficulty in acquiring them. We are also considering an economic development grant for local makers and businesses to manufacture masks and face shields.

But don’t forget, staying home is the first precautionary principle; and you can use a scarf, bandana or other wrap to cover your mouth and nose when you are out for an essential purpose; you don’t necessarily need a “mask”.

The four At-large Councilmembers (Albornoz, Glass, Jawando, Riemer) and Congressman Jamie Raskin are teaming up to host an online town hall today at 1pm. Please join us. We’ll be taking questions in advance (submit yours here) and responding to them live on the topic of COVID-19.

We are all wondering what it will take to reopen the economy. While there are many key elements, in addition to health system capacity, two critical measures stand out to me:

  • Testing. We must have sufficient affordable, rapid testing to catch transmission immediately; without adequate testing it is impossible to know who needs to quarantine and who doesn’t. That is why I initiated a program with our biohealth executives to increase testing capacity.
  • Tracing. To get control over the outbreak, when a person tests positive their contacts in the preceding two weeks must be traced and contacted so they can be tested and potentially isolate as well. That will require hundreds of workers doing outreach and investigations. We need to put these systems in place now locally to enhance statewide plans.

If you sew masks or facial coverings and are willing to provide for critical needs, we recommend that you connect with a growing new community at www.mocomaskmakers.com. They are coordinating on how to get masks into a supply chain where the need is greatest.

If you make (3D print) face shields for frontline workers, we encourage you to coordinate with the KID Museum, one of our local maker organizations. The County may procure masks from you allowing you to have your materials costs covered. Here is a website on the process they have established with the county: https://kid-museum.org/our-response/face-shields/

For people who have access to higher grade printers and can print NIH-certified models, we are suggesting you use https://getusppe.org/makers/

If you want to make and sell masks and/or have the ability to scale up production to the point of starting a business, we encourage you to connect with Sarah Miller at the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation to be learn more about our local manufacturing initiative. Email me and I will put you in touch.

The Council is now taking up the proposed budget for the next fiscal year in earnest. Unfortunately, the County Executive continues to advocate for a property tax increase. The County Executive also did not submit a balanced budget as required by the Charter. His budget includes $10 million in “savings to be identified later,” which is not a best practice in budgeting. (While we borrow a substantial amount for our construction budget, our operating budget must be balanced).

We have some heavy lifting ahead.

The County Council has appropriated $20 million for emergency grants to small businesses and will almost certainly approve an additional $5 million next week. The application went live, Wednesday, April 15 on this website: https://montgomerycountymd.gov/biz-resources/pheg/. You can find details in several languages, the required documents to apply, and a sample application form.

Thank you and please let me know if you have questions that I can help answer.

Hans Riemer

P.S. Unfortunately in times like these when people are at their most anxious about the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones, some people are preying on those fears with scams. If you have questions or concerns or wish to file a complaint, please contact the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection at ConsumerProtection@montgomerycountymd.gov.