Coronavirus concerns dominate virtual town hall in Montgomery County

The coronavirus continues to be top of mind in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Everything from mask-wearing to the impact the virus can have on schools took center stage at a virtual town hall meeting in Montgomery County Thursday night.

“I’ve noted that fewer people in my neighborhood are wearing masks and keeping safe distances,” said Danuta Krotoski.

Krotoski said the county should take steps to make masks more available and make sure people know how to properly wear them, especially in communities hardest hit by the virus.

Council member Gabe Albornoz said when it comes to distributing masks, the county has some locations known as “hubs,” at which families dealing with food insecurity can receive help and masks. Albornoz said additional funds have also been set aside to create more of these sites.

In outreach, Councilwoman Nancy Navarro said there is work underway to help educate people on all aspects of the pandemic and what it takes to fight the spread. One plan involves recruiting people from the most impacted communities, such as the Latino community, to serve as health promoters who can educate others in those communities.

“They can go in there, and they’re trusted people,” Navarro said.

There also were concerns raised about evictions, since a moratorium on evictions will expire on July 25. Councilmember Will Jawando said he intends to introduce a measure next week, which he said would call on Gov. Larry Hogan to extend the moratorium through Jan. 31.

On the topic of schools, Montgomery County Public Schools teacher James Doffermyre asked what county health officer Dr. Travis Gayles would want to see before he gives the green light to resume in-person learning. Gayles said he would like to know the burden of new cases drops to the single digits or the teens.

“To be able to be sure that when we open schools back up and we open up other aspects of society, that the risk of transmission is as small as we can potentially see,” Gayles said.

For the fall, the school system has decided to do virtual learning through the first semester, which ends on Jan. 29.

Board of Education President Shebra Evans said the school system intends to phase in the return of students to the classroom.

“We’ll come back in November with Dr. Gayles, to assess where we are, before we move forward,” Evans said.

The virtual town hall, according to Council member Andrew Friedson, was part of the county’s efforts to give residents access to their council during the pandemic.

More Coronavirus news

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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Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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