MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - Montgomery County leaders are sharing a dashboard with new county-specific COVID-19 data after concerns were raised accusing county leaders of not being transparent in their decision to remain under lockdown last week as other parts of the state moved toward slowly reopening.
A spokesperson for Montgomery County tells FOX 5, officials are planning to hold a digital meeting with reporters on Wednesday where this will be discussed further.
County officials identified five key areas they needed to see COVID-19 decreases in before reopening could be considered. This included decreases in the hospitalization rate and ICU bed use. However, much of this data has not been shared publically.
On Tuesday, FOX 5 reached out to the county, asking for that data in categories outlined, along with what specific numbers county leaders are trying to reach in order to reopen. FOX 5 also, among other requests, asked to speak with County Executive Marc Elrich for a second-day in-a-row.
“Our question, of course, we want that to be under control, but our question really is what metrics does the county have and what are they going to achieve them. So if you need more testing, does that mean you need test kits? More test-ers? More locations for testing? How can we help?” said Gigi Godwin, President & CEO, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, discussing the frustration from county business owners.
The county didn’t exactly get back to FOX 5 by our Tuesday deadline.
What we did see was a link to a new dashboard Tuesday, showing some of the Montgomery County-specific COVID-19 data. The dashboard did not immediately include hospitalization rates or breakdowns.
FOX 5 was told the dashboard is still being updated.
“I think more and more of us are begging to realize there’s no time limit set,” said Erik Tammaru, the creator of the Facebook group called, “Reopen Montgomery County, MD.” Tammaru also asked why the total lockdown if more than half of the county’s deaths are connected to senior and congregate facilities.
Looking at the number of COVID19 deaths compared to the county’s overall population, Tammaru argues 99.9% of the population is impacted.
“For me as a pastor, thinking about people. People of faith like myself, our faith is so important. To be locked out, it’s against our Constitution that talks about the right practice our religion,” Tammaru also said.
Montgomery County on Tuesday, reported the highest concentration of confirmed COVID19 deaths in the state and the second-highest number of positive cases, according to the Maryland Department of Health dashboard.
While we couldn’t speak with the County Executive before deadline Tuesday, we did hear from the county’s Health and Human Services Committee Chair, Councilmember Gabe Albornoz.
“It is a little more complex at the county level because we do have to work in collaboration with the state and sometimes there’s a lag time in being able to access all the information. But there is no question, [the dashboard] needs to be up,” the Councilmember told FOX 5.
Hospitalizations and ICU beds are key metrics to the county reopening and information many residents have asked for.
Later in the day, the county’s health department did confirm as of Tuesday, Montgomery County has 256 ICU beds with 168 of those beds currently being occupied by COVID-19 positive patients and others (126 ICU beds are COVID-19 patients). A county spokesperson said the county needs greater than 20% of the ICU beds open or available: that’s the ICU bed metric that needs to be reached for possible reopening to be considered.
While the county appears to have possibly reached that metric goal, there was still no data immediately available to show context: what type of decline in ICU COVID-19 patients the county has seen over the past several weeks.
On Monday, Montgomery County and Fire and EMS had confirmed 156 positive COVID-19 patients were in county ICU beds.
FOX 5 also heard plenty of community voices in favor of reaming closed until more can be learned about the deadly virus.
Councilman Albornoz told FOX 5, less than 3 percent of the entire county has been tested at this point. “… means we are continuing to fly blind,” he added.
Montgomery County’s leaders are planning at Wednesday 12:30 p.m. news conference to discuss the data the county will now be providing and the next steps in the continued Coronavirus lockdown.
This story was updated on Tuesday, May 19, at 7:58 p.m.