Council Questions Elrich on COVID-19 Strategy

By Adam Pagnucco.

On April 27, the county council sent a memo with a lengthy list of questions on the county’s COVID-19 strategy to County Executive Marc Elrich, Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine and Chief Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles. Council Member Hans Riemer drafted the memo and all nine council members signed it. As of this writing, the council has not yet received a response. We reprint the memo below.


Testing and tracing are crucial elements of any plan to defeat the novel coronavirus. Answers to the following questions will help the County Council to gain a better understanding of the state of testing and tracing in order to inform the Council’s appropriate oversight. Please respond at your earliest convenience, and please note the requests for regular reporting.

Testing for Coronavirus

How many molecular (PCR) tests per day / week does Montgomery County have access to currently?

Does Montgomery County have access to sufficient tests to meet the Priority 3 recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Interim Guidance: Healthcare Professionals 2019-nCoV?

Specific components in this guidance include the recommendation that health care workers and first responders should have access to PCR tests even if they do not (yet) have symptoms. For whom is that the case today?

If we do not have sufficient tests to meet the CDC guidance, what is the earliest date by which that capacity can be achieved?

What are the county’s projections of needed PCR tests per week?

What sources and volumes of tests has the county procured already?

What sources are being considered?

How many tests per day will be sent to GeneDx / BioReliance?

What are the next planned sites for collecting test samples? How many sites will be needed to meet the Harvard Global Health Institute recommended goal of at least tripling the amount of daily tests?

Does the County government plan to conduct outreach into vulnerable communities to conduct molecular tests where people lack health insurance and may not seek medical referrals for testing?

What additional targeted interventions are planned in the highest reporting zip codes, 20902, 20904, 20906?

Are community healthcare providers aware of current testing options available for their patients?

Please provide us with copies of County communications which update these options available to them.

How are we engaging our primary care clinics, particularly those service multicultural communities, and what is the strategy to engage them moving forward?

Are group homes and similar facilities required to isolate residents who are awaiting test results for COVID-19?

Please explain differences in how testing capacity is administered if it is secured by the County or State government as opposed to capacity available from private labs (Labcorp and Quest).

Please state your vision for using antibody testing to assess community level of past infection.

Are there particular communities where this would be valuable?

When would be the appropriate time to conduct that testing?

Who would conduct that testing?

How would the results be reviewed?

Are you working on this approach now and if so please provide an update.

Tracing and Isolation

What is the County’s plan to identify at-risk individuals so that tracing can be an effective tool to limit the spread of coronavirus?

Who is conducting tracing for Montgomery County today? Please describe all personnel (staff or volunteers or partners) involved and their level of work on the program.

What partnerships are being organized to expand tracing capacity? What is the timeline for those partnerships?

What are the goals and timeline for the County’s tracing program?

The governor has stated that the state’s contract with NOCR will enable 1,000 cases per day to be traced. What is the agreement between the County and the State for tracing Montgomery County cases?

What database does the County use for tracing? Is the County using the State’s COVID Link database?

Whether through COVID Link or another database, do you know for a given case:

  1. How many secondary contacts are then contacted?
  2. Are secondary contacts tested?
  3. Requested to self-isolate?
  4. If so, are they doing that?
  5. This information is requested for a daily report.

In how many hours after a positive test result will the patient, the county, facilities, and family be notified?

Starting with April 20 (if not earlier), please prepare a report showing tracing for all new cases and outcomes of tracing for those contacts.

Please provide a daily updated tracing report from the database (redacted for privacy as necessary) to the Council so that we may monitor the progress of the tracing and isolation initiative.


Coronavirus Mortality Severely Underestimated in Maryland.

The New York Times has the data and the story. Bottom line is that from March 8 through April, 207 people were reported to have died of COVID-19 in the state. But the total death rate for the same period was 700 in excess of normal, suggesting that roughly an additional net 500 people died of COVID-19 or as a result of changes due to the pandemic.

The response to the pandemic has a mixed impact on mortality. After all, fewer people on the roads has resulted in fewer road deaths. On the other hand, some have likely died because they avoided going to the hospital out of fear of catching COVID-19.

The additional 500 deaths includes all of these sorts of effects as well as COVID-19. Nevertheless, it also reflects many unreported COVID-19 deaths of people who were never tested and gives a good rough gauge of its real impact beyond that in the reported deaths statistics.


Delegates Call on Governor to Cancel Rent, Mortgage Payments (Updated)

By Adam Pagnucco.

District 20 Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins has organized a joint letter to Governor Larry Hogan signed by 48 Delegates asking him to cancel rent and mortgage payments for businesses and residents affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The delegates also write:

In addition to rent and mortgage cancellation, we urge you to take executive action to require renewal of expiring leases, prohibit rent increases and late fees, and require that landlords negotiate reasonable, long-term payment plans. Finally, the undersigned urge the creation of a robust housing relief fund for renters and homeowners alike.

Half of MoCo’s house delegation signed the letter, including Delegates Gabe Acevero (D-39), Lorig Charkoudian (D-20), Charlotte Crutchfield (D-19), Bonnie Cullison (D-19), Lesley Lopez (D-39), David Moon (D-20), Julie Palakovich Carr (D-17), Kirill Reznik (D-39), Emily Shetty (D-18), Jared Solomon (D-18), Vaughn Stewart (D-19) and Wilkins.

We reprint the letter below.

Update: Two more delegates – Dalya Attar (District 41 in Baltimore City) and Al Carr (District 18 in Montgomery County) have signed the letter after we posted it. That means 50 delegates have signed. The updated version appears below.


Union Files Unfair Labor Practice Charge Against MCM

By Adam Pagnucco.

NABET-CWA Local 31 has filed an unfair labor practice charge against MCM (Montgomery Community Media) alleging that MCM is refusing to bargain a new collective bargaining agreement. MCM is a non-profit that acts as a vendor for Montgomery County Government by operating a cable access channel and covering county events. In the year ended 6/30/18, MCM reported revenues of $3,567,892, net assets of $1,332,862 and positive net income of $151,566. The county reported giving MCM $2,608,164 in FY18, meaning that 73% of the non-profit’s budget came from the county.

The union, which represents production employees but not other classifications, is alleging that MCM is refusing to negotiate a new contract after its prior one expired on 6/30/18. The union claims that its members have not received a raise since a 3% increase in 2015. (This is waaaaay below the regular wage increases received by county employees.) The union also claims that MCM is using the pandemic as an excuse to avoid bargaining by refusing to discuss the contract in person, by video, by phone or by email. The union filed an unfair labor practice charge against MCM on April 24 and appealed to the county council for help last week.

Given the fact that the county funds nearly three-quarters of MCM’s budget, the council has enormous leverage to end this labor dispute.

We reprint the letter written to the council below and follow with a copy of the unfair labor practice charge.


Dear Council President Katz,

My name is Barbara Krieger. I hope you are well. I am an employee, and the NABET-CWA Contract negotiator at Montgomery Community Television. (d/b/a: MCM) As the County begins to hand out money to businesses because of the pandemic, please read what is happening at MCT. When a Company doesn’t take care of its people before a pandemic, how can you expect them to disperse money to these “Essential” employees because of this present health tragedy!!

The NABET-CWA Union has been attempting to negotiate a Contract with MCT since it expired June 1, 2018. For nearly two years MCT’s CEO, Nanette Hobson has insisted there’s no money for wage increases for the Union-represented employees, who have not had a raise in almost five years!! Yet MCT has received money for “staff” in every County approved budget in the last five years; and moreover, MCT provided a 3% raise to every non-union employee early last summer.

Now, MCT is shifting the blame for not bargaining over employee wages to the County Council and yourself!! According to the Company lawyer… “the pandemic, and resulting uncertainty on the budget, renders my client unable to confidently commit to any wage-related proposal.” The reference to the “budget” is of course the County’s approval of this year’s fiscal budget.

Secondly, MCT has refused to continue the negotiations claiming that parties need to meet in person. Such an argument is frivolous because it ignores the fact that negotiations can still take place by video conference, telephone conference or even email. For these reasons of refusal to bargain, the Union has today filed an Unfair Labor Practice with the NLRB.

Please contact Ms. Nanette Hobson, CEO/MCT. Please inquire as to what’s been happening to the money the County Council has been approving every year for the organization. How can any Company expect employees to live in this wonderful County without at least a Cost of Living raise each year?? These Union employees are “Essential Employees,” who continue to work during this despairing time of the pandemic!

Thank you in advance for your assistance with this egregious problem.
Barbara Krieger
Assistant to the President
NABET-CWA, Local 31


Why Would Anyone Want to Build Rental Units in MoCo?

By Adam Pagnucco.

Left largely undiscussed during the debate over MoCo’s recently passed rent stabilization bill was the overall condition of the county’s rental market. Yes, Council Member Andrew Friedson brought up our recently published data showing that rents are declining in MoCo and are projected to continue falling for the rest of the year. But there’s a lot more to this issue, especially when considering the long-term needs of tenants and the associated implications for the county’s economy.

The bottom line is that MoCo is emerging as one of the most unattractive places in the D.C. area to build rental units.

Put yourself in the shoes of a regional developer, real estate investor or creditor and consider the following facts.

1. MoCo’s rental market is one of the slowest growing in the region.

This is the first sign that not all is right in the county. MoCo has a relatively affluent population, 11 Metrorail stations, a nationally recognized school system, a new light rail route (the Purple Line) under construction and is planning several bus rapid transit routes. Developers should want to build here, but disproportionately, they are not. If Downtown Bethesda were removed from the county’s unit statistics, one wonders how poorly the rest of the county would rank in the D.C. region.

2. Rents in MoCo are also growing slowly.

With the exception of Loudoun County, every other major jurisdiction in the region has seen more growth in average rent than MoCo. That’s good for tenants but not so good for investors looking for an adequate return. That is especially the case given the level of uncertainty in MoCo’s real estate market, which would normally demand higher returns to compensate investors for dealing with it. More on that in a bit.

Here is an interesting fact. Loudoun, Arlington and Howard have been the three fastest-growing large jurisdictions in the area in terms of renter occupied units. They are also three of the four slowest-growing jurisdictions in terms of rents. That’s how a market should work – rapidly expanding supply should keep prices down even with substantial demand, and Loudoun has been one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. But MoCo has seen slow growth in both construction and rents, making it an outlier.

3. No other major jurisdiction in the area has experienced a larger increase in rental vacancy since 2010 than MoCo.

You might think that with MoCo’s relatively stagnant construction demand for housing would push vacancy down. Instead, it’s gone up – by more than any other jurisdiction in the region. In 2010, MoCo’s rental vacancy rate was 2.7%, the second-lowest of 10 large area jurisdictions. In 2018, MoCo’s rental vacancy rate was 4.9%, tied for the third-highest rate. The vacancy rate gain (2.2 points) was the largest in the area. This is going to get worse as vacancy rates for Class A and Class B units are projected to approach 7% in coming years.

4. Evictions in MoCo are time consuming and expensive.

In 2018, the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) studied evictions in MoCo and stated, “The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office reports that on average it takes 12-13 weeks to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent, though the process can sometimes be significantly longer.” OLO also found that the cost to evict a tenant can range from $5,700 to $16,600, landlords “are often unable to recover lost rent” and “costs and process delays discourage small property landlords from renting out.”

Landlords with lots of units and market power might be able to spread these costs to other tenants in the form of higher rents. Other landlords might choose to avoid the county altogether if they believe its procedures are more onerous than its neighbors.

5. The county executive is an open housing skeptic.

Before becoming executive, Marc Elrich built his political career by opposing development, voting against seven different master plans (six centered near transit stations) and famously comparing growth to a tumor. He has not changed much since then. Over the last three years, he has compared gentrification to ethnic cleansing, said he doesn’t believe in missing middle housing, said he doesn’t want to lose affordable units “to build housing for millennials” and opposed regional targets for housing construction. His opposition to accessory dwelling units even attracted criticism from his fellow socialists. The executive doesn’t control county land use policy, but he does control the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, the county’s principal regulator of landlords.

6. The county’s moratorium policy is a major source of uncertainty for residential builders.

MoCo stops new applications for housing development in school clusters that exceed certain capacity thresholds. Last year, the county imposed moratoriums on four high school clusters and 13 individual elementary school service areas that accounted for roughly 12% of the county and included parts of high-profile housing markets like Downtown Silver Spring and North Bethesda. This year, more areas could be at risk. The moratoriums do nothing to stop school crowding but they do create serious uncertainty for the real estate industry. Who wants to spend millions on design, architecture, planning reviews, public outreach and land use attorneys only to see a project stopped dead in its tracks by an arbitrary moratorium?

7. The county just passed temporary rent stabilization.

The council made major changes to Council Member Will Jawando’s rent control bill, allowing rent increases up to the county’s voluntary guidelines and extending the bill’s duration to 90 days after a catastrophic health emergency. The direct economic impact of the bill may be mild because it is temporary, allows small increases and takes effect in an environment in which rents are declining. But it could be extended at a later time, a possibility that adds to the uncertainty of investing in MoCo. It also has tremendous symbolic importance. Let’s remember that Takoma Park has had rent stabilization for decades and has suffered absolute losses of rental units.

Consider this. It’s hard to find two terms that are more hated by the residential rental industry than “moratoriums” and “rent stabilization.” At this moment, MoCo is the only jurisdiction in the Washington region that has both of them.

MoCo is still seeing residential construction from projects that were approved before the current downturn, before the current round of moratoriums, before the approval of rent stabilization and before the current executive took office. But after that wave (a rather small wave) of construction wraps up, what will come next?

Imagine that you are a regional developer, real estate investor or creditor and you are evaluating a jurisdiction that has had slow rent growth (and now falling rents), slow unit growth, rising vacancy, expensive and time consuming evictions, a moratorium policy, temporary rent stabilization that could be extended and a county executive who is an open skeptic of housing construction. Right next to that jurisdiction are several others with fewer or none of those drawbacks.

Given all of the above, why would anyone want to build rental units in MoCo?


Liquor Monopoly Truck Crashes in Aspen Hill (Updated)

By Adam Pagnucco.

This morning, a delivery truck operated by MoCo’s liquor monopoly crashed in Aspen Hill. The crash occurred on Connecticut Avenue near the intersection with Georgia Avenue, shutting down southbound traffic and sending countless cases of liquor splattering across multiple road lanes.

The first indication of the crash was this set of pictures posted on Facebook by a person who came across the crash scene.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Spokesman Pete Piringer tweeted three times about the crash.

Here are close-ups of the four pictures tweeted by Piringer.

NBC Chopper 4 reporter Brad Freitas posted video of the aftermath on Twitter.

From Piringer’s reporting, what is known right now is that there were two occupants of the truck, both of whom were transported away by ambulance, and that the driver was trapped and had to be extricated from the truck. Traffic was completely shut down on southbound Connecticut Avenue and limited to one lane northbound. The mess will take some time to clear.

At this time, the cause of the accident is unknown.

Update: NBC4 has video of how this crash affected seven lanes of traffic.


MoCo’s Most Influential, Part Seven

By Adam Pagnucco.

Part One of this series laid out the rules and methodology for how we determined MoCo’s most influential people. These lists were developed by adding together the nominations of 85 people who are themselves extremely knowledgeable and influential. Today, we present the mind-bending conclusion!

5 (tied). Jill Ortman-Fouse, Former Member, Board of Education – 16 votes

Source: Love her or loathe her, she’s taken center stage in the most controversial topic in county politics right now.

Source: Even though no longer in an elected position her past actions on the BOE had influence over what is happening with the BOE/MCPS now. She regularly stirs the pot online and offline and isn’t scared to go head to head with her opponents.

AP: It’s amazing to think that JOF’s influence is even greater now than during her time on the school board, but it is. Even her opponents in the school boundary war concede her influence with their relentless and often personal attacks. JOF’s lasting mark will be in her mentorship of the next wave of MCPS activists, many of whom idolize her and have vowed to carry on her agenda of diversity and equity for years to come.

5 (tied). DeRionne Pollard, President, Montgomery College – 16 votes

Source: Not only has she done tremendous work with the college, partnered with corporate and community leaders as well as electeds across the county, but she’s also led strategic conversations on race as she tries to address those barriers not only for her students, but for the future of the county.

Source: Holy moly, what a dynamo of leadership! She is inspiring, bold and always on! She shoots for the moon and rarely misses. Just look at her track record of budget successes for the college.

AP: It’s easy to forget what a mess Dr. Pollard’s predecessor, former Montgomery College President Brian Johnson, made of the college. The college’s professor union discovered through public information act requests that Johnson was frequently absent from the office, “routinely censored” information, prevented employees from talking to trustees and ran up outrageous expenses. Later, it was revealed that Johnson was wanted for arrest in Maricopa County, Arizona for failure to pay child support and the sheriff even said, “We’d be happy to put him in jail.” Thankfully, that’s ancient history. Montgomery College has rebounded nicely under Dr. Pollard’s leadership and is now one of the highest-ranking colleges in Maryland. That’s one reason why she has been at the college for ten years, an unusually long tenure for a person in her position.

4. Gino Renne, President, MCGEO – 17 votes

Source: Still one of the gorillas in MoCo politics, always at the table.

Source: Manages to be influential despite MCGEO’s pathetic track record in actually getting candidates elected. Remember the Duchy vs. Berliner showdown? OK, Gino lucked out when Marc Elrich squeaked out a win in a crowded primary, but I have no idea why so many elected officials get so concerned about what MCGEO thinks – yet there it is.

AP: The Godfather has been stomping on politicians and getting contract results far exceeding the private sector for a looooooong time. But with a budget crisis looming, he is about to go up against the only force more powerful than he is: a bad economy.

3. Jack Smith, Superintendent, MCPS – 24 votes

Source: Schools are still the number one issue.

AP: This being Montgomery County, the MCPS Superintendent will always be on this list. However, none of Jack Smith’s predecessors have had to do what he is doing now: designing and implementing a distance learning program for the entire student population in a matter of weeks. If he pulls it off well, it will be a huge success story for the entire school system.

2. Adam Pagnucco, Co-Author, Seventh State – 28 votes

AP: Two words. Sample bias! Let’s move on to number one.

1. Casey Anderson, Chairman, Montgomery County Planning Board – 31 votes

Source: Chair of the planning board, an incredibly influential position that even people in-the-know underestimate, and perhaps the only official (elected or otherwise) who has a vision for where he wants the county to go. Together, they’re a dangerous combination.

Source: His views on housing, schools, and transportation are respected in both Rockville and Annapolis.

Source: Perhaps the most activist planning board chair ever, tied in closely to smart growth/YIMBY movements and will play the central role in the upcoming General Plan, which will set the stage for 50 years of land use planning and subdivision staging which is top of mind for the here and now.

Source: With incredible data to back him up, he is changing the conversation around development/moratorium/etc.

Source: Has made many strategic moves with planning. Innovative visionary.

Source: His post gives him huge power over land use. He wields his power effectively to satisfy his overlords on the council. As a regular on the Democratic Party circuit, his interest in partisan politics suggests Casey is jockeying for a run at elective office.

Source: Someone has to stand up to Marc Elrich.

Source: Land use is political in this County. Has overseen numerous policies and plans that will shape this County for years to come. Surprisingly laid back guy when not in his official capacity. Last term on the Planning Board – what will he do next?

AP: Casey is my choice for the most influential non-elected person in MoCo. He is not only the most prominent smart growth leader in the county today; he has become one of the greatest planning board chairs ever. His stewardship of the upcoming general plan as well as his role in crafting many other master plans over the years will put his stamp on the look and feel of this county for the next 50 years.

That’s it! Thanks for reading!


Time to Bag Jawando’s Rent Control Bill?

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando (D-At Large) introduced legislation to temporarily suspend the county bag tax and enact rent control to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The first has already bit the dust and it looks increasingly like the second should too.

Bag Bill Bagged

Councilmember Jawando introduced a bill to suspend the county bag tax during the health crisis. Though cosponsored by all of his colleagues, except Councilmembers Evan Glass (D-At Large) and Tom Hucker (D-District 5), the bill received a lot of pushback.

Much like Councilmember Hans Riemer’s (D-At-Large) bill to allow businesses to suspend payments for alcohol to the county monopoly, it faced the problem that bonds are tied to the revenues. Additionally, the environmentally-focused Sierra Club was not happy.

In a rare story for a bill sponsored by seven of nine members, it was on the fast track to defeat instead of passage. Most would have let the bill die quietly at this point. Mystifyingly, Jawando chose instead to announce a full retreat by declaring victory:

Councilmember Will Jawando plans to withdraw Expedited Bill 17-20, Carryout Bag Tax Suspension after working collaboratively with members of the community. . .

County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles recommends “a number of strategies for using reusable bags including washing them between use, customers packing their own reusable bags at check out and frequently cleaning surfaces in baggage areas.”

In addition, the Department of Environmental Protection has agreed to work on a campaign and resources to remind consumers to wash their reusable bags that can be posted at grocery stores and retail establishments.

Jawando can trumpet his success in finding an “alternative solution” but it sure sounds suspiciously like the status quo.

Rent Control: A Solution in Search of a Problem?

Now, Councilmember Jawando is pressing ahead with a rent control bill that is scheduled to have a hearing on April 21 (tomorrow) and a full council vote on April 23 (Thursday).

Jawando has explained to the media that his office has received “multiple reports” of rent going up 20, 30, 40 percent. He also expressed concern that at the end of the crisis that “You’re going to see people try to raise rents to get out people who can’t pay. And then you’re going to see a spike in evictions and then you’re going to try to bring people in at higher rents to recoup the loss.”

As Adam Pagnucco previously reported, the chambers of commerce have pushed back very hard on these claims:

We were deeply disappointed by the reckless statements you made. . . claim[ing] that landlords were instituting 20 – 40 percent rent increases during COVID-19.

The most offensive premise of the interview was the impression that rent gouging was a rampant and widespread issue. We were taken aback by these allegations and reached out to our landlord members to determine if any of them had implemented of that magnitude. To the contrary, we learned that none of our members reported any rent increase, let alone a 20 – 40 percent increase.

The claim that widespread rent hikes are now happening makes no sense.

No landlord wants to lose a regularly paying tenant now even if they have to make some adjustments and take some losses. There is no guarantee you can fill the vacancy and you certainly won’t be able to do so until this crisis ends.

If anything, rents may fall as demand declines due to mass unemployment. So much for recouping losses by jacking up rents, which is just not how rental markets work. Landlords can only charge what the market will pay.

If a landlord tries to raise rents now, tenants can just not pay due to the moratorium. Such a mean and stupid landlord may well be out even more rent as well as all of the time and expense of evicting someone once that is again legal. The landlord then also loses yet more rent due to the time it takes to fix the place up again, if needed, and to find a new tenant.

Jawando’s specific claim that landlords will raise rents in order to evict non-paying tenants makes even less sense as that will not allow a landlord to evict their tenant any more quickly. If anything, the tenant will appear even more sympathetic to landlord-tenant court judges who will be very disinclined to evict anyone during the immediate aftermath of this crisis anyway. Remember that evictions are a lengthy legal process.

In short, if it doesn’t make any sense even from an amoral greed perspective, is this really happening on a widespread basis? It might be better to explore specific situations and address any bad actors on an individual basis. I wouldn’t think landlords would want to be publicly exposed as raising rents right now.

In an email response to my request for specific information, Jawando stated that his bill “supports” landlords and tenants alike:

Some landlords have thankfully already decided not to impose the burden of a rent increase on their tenants during this time . . . The intention of Bill 18-20 supports the action of these landlords while protecting other tenants whose landlords have not made a similar decision.

The idea that his bill “supports” the vast majority of landlords who have not increased rent is bizarre in light of the response of the chambers of commerce pushing back on this bill as a broad smear of how landlords have responded to the crisis.

Despite repeated requests, Jawando has not produced an iota of concrete evidence that this has occurred let alone a widespread problem that requires fast-track legislation:

Some of the tenants who have contacted our office are nervous about coming forward to the media as you might imagine, however when I introduced the bill, I did share several cases with increases ranging from 9% – 60%.  

Except big claims and major legislation require hard evidence that should be made public. At the very least, Jawando could have by now produced redacted letters if such notices of rent increases are being distributed widely in some buildings. Regardless, any documents he has are public as he received them in his capacity as a councilmember.

Jawando’s bill has already been through several iterations, first excluding then including then excluding again commercial properties from the bill. These changes further suggest that the facts regarding the problem it is intended to solve are not known. At the very least, they aren’t being made public. Right now, all we have are unsupported anecdotes from the bill sponsor.

If this is a widespread problem, Jawando’s bill may be an appropriate response. If not, the Council should move along to address may of the other pressing problems that the county will face during and after this crisis.

The Council’s unanimous effort to fund the production of cloth masks to make sure all county residents have access to them is a much better example of good use of their time. My applause to all councilmembers for supporting this effort. More please.


Top Seventh State Stories, March 2020

By Adam Pagnucco.

These were the top stories on Seventh State in March ranked by page views.

1. What’s More Important? The Liquor Monopoly or a Thousand Bartenders?
2. Liquor Monopoly Ends Takeout Cocktail Ban
3. Montgomery Leads Maryland in Social Distancing
4. MoCo’s Most Influential, Part Two
5. Is This the Worst Communications Debacle in County History?
6. Is This Moving into the 21st Century?
7. In MoCo, Public Media are Replacing Private Media
8. Everyone Can Vote Absentee
9. MoCo’s Most Influential, Part One
10. The County Budget is in Crisis. What Now?

Of interest is the fact that three of these stories concern the liquor monopoly. The top post – What’s More Important? The Liquor Monopoly or a Thousand Bartenders? – is, as of this writing, one of the top ten most-viewed posts in the history of Seventh State.

Most MoCo politicians don’t like talking about the liquor monopoly. Many of them admit that it is inefficient and archaic in private, but they don’t want to give up its revenues and they worry about offending the union that represents its employees. Our site traffic indicates that Seventh State readers care a lot about this topic and some of our liquor monopoly posts really pop. Politicians who get out front on this will benefit.

More top posts are coming next month!


Good News on Maryland Coronavirus Projections

On April 6th, I posted the University of Washington coronavirus projections for our state They have updated their projections and the news, as throughout the country, is very good in terms of reduced cases and demands on our resources. Today, April 18th, was the day they projected to be our peak resource day back on April 6th, so now seems a good time to revisit.

All ICU beds needed and available:

The total number of ICU beds still exceeds the state’s normal capacity based on the pre-corona number of beds and their use. The good news is that the state has expanded the number of beds and the projected peak need has declined from 1224 beds to 430 beds. Still a high rate of use but more manageable.

All hospital beds needed and available:

On April 6th, UW projected that we’d need a maximum of 6443 hospital beds, way more than the state’s normal availability of 3961. The projection has now declined to 2405, which is within the state’s capacity.

All ventilators needed and available.

UW expected that we’d need 1040 ventilators in their April 6th projections. Now, Maryland should need 373.

Projected deaths per day:

The maximum projected deaths per day has declined to 46 pm April 20th, two days from now. Previously, UW had projected a maximum of 138 that on April 19th, tomorrow.

Projected total deaths:

The new projected total of 914 COVID-19 deaths in Maryland is a 61% drop from the projection on April 6th of 2326.

An increasingly vocal minority believes that the much improved projections mean that COVID-19 was much ado about nothing. Except that as epidemiologists have tried to explain, the better the outcome, the less it will appear it was necessary because an improved job will have been done at stopping the infection in its track. The improved projections are due to extensive social distancing, not a random event.