What needs to happen for Montgomery Co. to loosen more pandemic-related restrictions – WTOP

Montgomery County, Maryland, leaders on Monday talked about the successes and challenges of the COVID-19 vaccination program, and what they need to see going forward.

Health officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, expect to announce on Tuesday that 50% of residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. While demand for vaccination remains high, there’s renewed effort to reach communities being left behind.

“As we’ve ventured into this new phase of vaccine dissemination, we are now microtargeting communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus,” said Montgomery County Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz at a Monday briefing.

Albornoz said people in some ZIP codes are harder to reach, but not necessarily because of vaccine hesitancy — “often because of work schedules, often because of language barriers, often because of challenges with technology,” he said.

While efforts to address those issues are underway, county officials said there are enough points of distribution to push forward with vaccinations aggressively; the challenge is availability.

“We have additional capacity — now we have a mass vax site that we have all advocated for up in Germantown; we have this robust program of community clinics and the micro targeting that Gabe talked about. We have the ability to get more vaccine in more arms in Montgomery County as soon as we get more supply from the state,” Council President Tom Hucker said.

On Tuesday, the county council will convene as the county Board of Health to be officially informed of the 50% one-dose vaccination rate. It then will vote on suggested triggers for loosening pandemic-related restrictions based on various vaccination rate levels.

“As long as that [vaccine] supply continues to come in, we’re going to be on pace to reopen,” Hucker said. “But we’ve seen that ebb and flow.”

Hucker wants to see vaccine distribution around the state become more equitable. He noted that some mass vaccination sites in rural areas have switched to walk-up clinics.

“They have an oversupply of vaccines and an undersupply of interested residents,” Hucker said. “We could use some of those vaccines in Montgomery County.”

Also at Monday’s briefing, Deputy Health Officer Dr. James Bridgers said metrics being considered for a phased, “measured” approach to loosening restrictions will include reviews of hospitalization, available intensive care unit beds, acute-care bed availability and emergency room visits.

“We still need to look at the hospital data; we still need to look at those admission rates over either a two-week moving average or a 30-day moving average, to make sure that we still surveillance the rate of community transmission,” Bridgers said.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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