Vaccines and reopening

Dear residents,

About a month ago (on March 22nd), I wrote to you about our progress on vaccinations. I projected that by the end of April, at least 470,000 residents would have a first dose. That math has guided my perspective ever since.

A lot of readers appreciated the forward thinking, but I also got some understandable pushback — “we don’t know if that’s true… we don’t know if supply will keep up,” etc.

Today I am pleased to say that we are over 535,000 residents with a first dose.

With about 800,000 residents presently eligible (age 16+), we are more than 60% of the way through first doses for the eligible population; and about 50% of the way through the total population.1

It should be no surprise therefore that even with the more contagious variants circulating, our new cases plateaued weeks ago and are now trending downward. The vaccines work!

While recognizing that many if not most residents up to this point have had to leave the County to get vaccinated, there is now a lot more availability of doses locally.

In fact, as I am writing this message on Tuesday morning, I went on the Giant pharmacy website and could secure an appointment for the same Tuesday afternoon.

Based on this progress, I have been calling for the County to adopt a transparent path to reopening — a path that can better allow our community to plan for a summer where it will be a lot more safe to interact with our families, friends and neighbors.

Today, the Council will take up a new public health order recommended by our health and scientific advisors that provides that staged or triggered re-opening.

The basic outline provides for additional opening measures at 1.) 50% of the population with one dose, 2.) 60% of the population with one dose, and finally 3.) 50% of the population fully vaccinated.

Phased Reopening

Stage 1:
When 50% of the county population has received at least one dose

  • gathering limits increase to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors;
  • businesses limited to 25% capacity move to 50% capacity if they do not sell or permit the consumption of food or drink;
  • camps can move to the gathering limits of 50 indoors and 100 outdoors;
  • sports move to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors with a similar number of spectators;
  • and more.

Stage 2:
When 60% of the county population has received at least one dose

  • gathering limits increase to 250 people indoors and no limit outdoors;
  • most businesses move to 75% capacity and may sell food and drink for consumption while seated;
  • camps can increase to gathering limits of 250 people indoors and no limit outdoors and permit campers from outside the DMV;
  • food service establishments may move to 75% of maximum capacity;
  • religious facilities may move to 75% of maximum capacity;
  • sports may increase capacity for participants and spectators to 250 people indoors and no limit outdoors;
  • and more.

Stage 3:
When 50% of the county population has been fully vaccinated

  • All conduct and business in the County must follow any State or MDH requirements in place at the time.

Read the full plan here

 

If current trends hold, we are likely to hit stage 2 in early/mid May and stage 3 in early June.

I hope it is also clear that being in stage 2 and 3 will not mean that there is “no risk.” We will continue to live with the risk of COVID-19 for a long time, likely years.

Families with children, for example, will need to think carefully about how to weigh risks while children are not yet vaccinated, and continue following protocols, particularly masks.

Testing will continue to be important — and rapid testing is becoming widely available at pharmacies as an addition to the most accurate molecular testing.

While these benchmarks provide stages of re-opening, there is no question that our vaccination campaign has a long way to go before fully suppressing the virus and fully protecting our most vulnerable and less connected communities.

We need more community partners helping us by booking appointments so that we can reach into every household and housing community. We MUST keep up this momentum to reach full vaccination.

Hans Riemer with the Vaccine Hunters
The Vaccine Hunters are leaders of our movement to get everyone vaccinated

That is also why I am urging our County HHS and MCPS to work together on a student vaccination campaign to ensure the highest possible vaccination rate before students disperse for the summer.

We aren’t out of the woods yet, but we’re definitely seeing the rays of sunshine on the path ahead of us.

We can do this.

Sincerely,
Hans

1Our total population immunity is also higher given that many people have already had COVID-19.


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