Bethesda Film Fest to be held virtually next week

Bethesda Film Fest to be held virtually next week

Plus: Gaithersburg to host additional book festival program on race

| Published:

This column on local news related to coronavirus will be updated regularly.

 

Bethesda Film Fest to be held virtually next week

The Bethesda Film Fest will be held virtually on June 25 at 7 p.m. in place of an in-person event that had been scheduled for late March, but was canceled due to the COVID-19 health crisis.

There will be four short documentaries made by local filmmakers:
• CRI: The Story About Juan Pineda – by Gabriel Veras of Washington, D.C.
• Deathly Silent – by Eman Alghamdi of Vienna, Va.
• Gun Show – by Richard Chisolm of Baltimore
• Sage – by Gabe Dinsmoor and Rebecca McCutcheon of Baltimore

Those interested can see the films here, and also register for a discussion with the filmmakers here. The films and the discussion are both free.

For more information, go to www.bethesda.org or call 301-215-6660.

The annual Bethesda Film Fest is produced by the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District and supported by Leslie & Bruce Lane, along with a number of other organizations.

Dan Schere

***

Gaithersburg to host additional book festival program on race

The Gaithersburg Book Festival has added a virtual discussion next week with four authors on race, as a supplemental program.

The discussion will be held on June 24 at 7 p.m., and can be seen on the festival’s YouTube channel. It will feature authors Dhonielle Clayton, Adam Gidwitz, Wade Hudson and Hena Khan, all of whom have spoken at the book festival before.

The discussion will be about “how books and stories from diverse voices can foster understanding and empathy, open the minds of a young generation, and ultimately change the world,” according to the website.

The event was added as a special program following protests that have erupted across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died on May 25 in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual book festival, normally held in mid-May, was held virtually this year with discussions that took place online during five consecutive weekends from May 16.

Gaithersburg has yet to announce plans about possibly rescheduling a discussion between Jeanine Cummins, the author of “American Dirt,” and author Reyna Grande, which was originally scheduled for March 31 at Gaithersburg High School.

Mayor Jud Ashman wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat on Wednesday that he hopes to hold the event in person when it is safe to hold large gatherings again.

Dan Schere

***

Teaching couple makes tribute music video for graduates

Two English teachers at Northwest High School in Germantown created a musical tribute for 2020 graduates.

Lynn and Charlie Hodgson, who are married to each other, recorded a 3-minute, 14-second video with their “commencement song.”

The lyrics inject humor into the challenges of having to stay inside during the pandemic and missing out on the final joys of high school, such as the prom and a graduation ceremony.

As the song plays out, the Hodgson put their own spin on graduation advice clichés, with help from their baby, who plays a supporting role in the video.

The Hodgsons conclude in their commencement song: “The future is in good hands with you.”

The video was posted on Thursday and had been viewed more than 2,600 times as of Monday afternoon.

—Andrew Schotz

 ***

Mobile parking app shuts down

An app for making parking payments in Montgomery County has shut down.

MobileNOW! was one of two mobile parking payment app providers in Montgomery County, according to a county press release.

The company operated on a contract with the county. MobileNOW! reported that it was ending its operations because of factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the press release said.

A message the company posted online say it ended its operations and dissolved on May 18. Its website, www.mobile-now.us, will remain active for a limited so that people can access their accounts.

The company plans to post a notice letting customers know what portion of their balance will be returned to them, along with the timetable and the payment method.

Parkmobile, the other app in use in Montgomery County, still allows parking payments through a phone, according to the county.

—Andrew Schotz

 ***

Pier 1 imports closing all stores, including two in Montgomery County

The home décor chain Pier 1 Imports announced last week that it is closing all of its stores. The company filed for bankruptcy in February.

Pier 1 Imports operated stores in Rockville and Gaithersburg. All of the chain’s stores have been closed since the beginning of the COVID-19 health crisis, according to a press release.

Neither of the Montgomery County stores is listed on the company’s website, even under “temporarily closed,” the label on other stores.

Representatives from Pier 1 could not be reached for comment.

—Dan Schere

***

Retro Fitness permanently closes in North Bethesda

Retro Fitness, a national chain of gyms that offers fitness classes and training, has permanently closed its location in the White Flint area of North Bethesda, the company confirmed Friday.

The gym, which was at 5238 Nicholson Lane, closed along with all other gyms in Maryland on March 16 because of an executive order from Gov. Larry Hogan in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The North Bethesda gym was Retro Fitness’s only location in Montgomery County.

Retro Fitness CEO Andrew Alfano wrote in an email Friday that the gym’s closing was a “strategic decision” made after “careful consideration.” He did not elaborate on the reason for the decision.

News of Retro Fitness’s closing was first reported by the Moco Show on its Facebook page.

Dan Schere

***

Gaithersburg Book Festival to hold virtual presentations on five weekends in May, June

The Gaithersburg Book Festival, originally scheduled to be held this month at Bohrer Park, will instead stream programming online during five consecutive weekends, starting on May 16.

The annual book festival is held in May and brings together award-winning authors from around the country. This year, though, the city has canceled the in-person event and made it a virtual one due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Jud Ashman, the book festival founder, will open the virtual event with a welcome video on the morning of May 16, according to the book festival’s website. The schedule for that day after that is:
• 1 p.m.: authors Elizabeth Wetmore and Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne discuss their books “Valentine” and “Holding on to Nothing,” respectively
• 3 p.m.: author Nic Stone will talk to Ronald L. Smith about Smith’s work, “Shuri: a Black Panther Novel.”
• 7 p.m.: authors Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez will discuss their book “Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life.”

There will be programming each day on the weekends of May 22 to 24, May 29 to 31, June 5 to 7, and June 12 to 14. All author presentations can be seen on the festival’s YouTube channel.

Friday presentations with authors will be livestreamed at 5:30 p.m. Viewers can submit questions by writing in the YouTube comments section.

On Saturdays at 7 p.m., viewers can watch prerecorded presentations with authors.

Children’s authors will present on Sundays at 11 a.m. Those sessions will include both live and prerecorded presentations.

Viewers can visit the festival’s website for a full list of programming.

The city has not announced any new details on a discussion with author Jeanine Cummins, who was scheduled to discuss her book “American Dirt” with author Reyna Grande on March 31 at Gaithersburg High School.

The book festival, which is sponsoring the event with Cummins, announced on March 13 that the event would be postponed due to the pandemic. Ashman wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat on Wednesday that he had no updates about the event.

Dan Schere

***

Parade kicks off Nurses Week

A car parade went through Olney on Wednesday to kick off Nurses Week.

Olney Assisted Living arranged the parade to show support and gratitude for nurses, especially for their work during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Mary Beth May, the facility’s director of community relations.

The parade — which had seven stops — included family members of residents of Olney Assisted Living and the staff; the Artis Senior Living corporate staff; representatives of Capital City Nurses and Rehabilitation Services Inc; Montgomry County police officers; and the Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Enterprise furloughing 92 employees at fleet center in Rockville

Enterprise Holdings, the parent company of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, is furloughing 92 employees at its fleet management center in Rockville.

The company filed a notice of the layoffs under the federal Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires large employers to give at least 60 days’ notice of business closures and mass layoffs.

A notice was posted on Wednesday that 92 workers would be furloughed in the Rockville office at 2273 Research Blvd. The effective date is April 4.

Last month, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Enterprise, which is based in Missouri, was furloughing some full-time workers, but didn’t give a number due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dan Schere

***

Visionworks laying off 44 workers at five Montgomery County locations

Visionworks, a national chain of stores that sells glasses frames, lenses, sunglasses and other accessories, is laying off 44 employees at five Montgomery County stores.

The company filed a notice of the layoffs under the federal Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires large employers to give at least 60 days’ notice of business closures and mass layoffs.

Notices were posted on Thursday that the workers would be laid off at stores at the following locations, effective April 4:

• 631 N. Frederick Ave. in Gaithersburg (9 workers)
• 271 Kentlands Blvd. in Gaithersburg (5 workers)
• 11802-B Rockville Pike in Rockville (11 workers)
• 8551 Fenton St. in Silver Spring (7 workers)
• 11160 Veirs Mill Road in Wheaton (12 workers)

Visionworks’ website did not include any information on the layoffs and the company did not indicate if they were related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dan Schere

***

Flyover tribute for ‘health care heroes’ planned on Saturday

The Air Combat Command of the U.S. Air Forces has planned a flyover on Saturday for “health care heroes.”

Several hospitals in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., region will be included. Aircraft will include KC-135R, F-16C USAF Thunderbirds and F/A-18 USN Blue Angels.

Anyone who is outside to watch the flyover is asked to use social distance guidelines in not congregating.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Further reductions in Ride On bus service

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation is further reducing the hours of operation for Ride on buses.

Starting on Sunday, there will be no service after midnight.

Ride On buses are operating under an Essential Service Plan, with 36 critical routes since late March, to avoid the possible spread of the coronavirus.

More details are posted at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DOT-Transit/essential-plan.html.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Follow along with county executive to learn how to make a mask

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer a guide for people to make their own masks, which customers and employees must wear in stores that are open in Maryland.

The CDC has instructions for sewing a mask and for making one without sewing — by cutting up a T-shirt.

While sitting outdoors on a porch, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich recorded a 12-minute video on the cutting method.

First, Elrich talks for a few minutes about why a homemade face covering is useful for preventing the spread of the coronavirus, but not to the same degree as a medical-grade mask.

Then, he picks up the scissors and cuts.

He says the distance from wrist to the tip of the finger is a good guide for measuring how wide the mask should be. At that size, it will cover the mouth and nose.

He walks viewers through each step, then demonstrates how to tie the finished product.

As of Thursday morning, Elrich’s instructional video on YouTube had been viewed nearly 12,000 times.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Company grades local residents on how far people travel during pandemic

Tech company Unacast has released a mapping tool that tracks location data on people’s phones through various apps and assesses how far people are traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company’s letter grade of A is designated for locations that have at least a 40% decrease in average distance traveled. A letter grade of F is given to locations that have less than a 10% decrease.

Unacast most recently gave Montgomery County a C+ on Monday. There has been a 55% to 70% reduction in average mobility based on distance traveled in the county since Feb. 24.

The company reported that there has been more than a 70% reduction in nonessential visits, but less than 40% decrease in human encounters since the same date.

—Briana Adhikusuma

***

Bethesda liquor store that closed after COVID-19 case has reopened

Hampden Lane Liquor & Wine in Bethesda reopened Wednesday, more than two weeks after county officials announced that a worker there tested positive for coronavirus disease, or COVID-19.

The worker was sent home on March 25 after not feeling well and later tested positive for COVID-19, county officials said.

The employee who had the virus is “doing well” and has been allowed back to work, a press release said on Wednesday.

The press release said that after the worker tested positive, other workers at the store were asked to self-isolate for two weeks. Those employees were paid.

ABS Retail Chief Kent Massie said in the press release that no other workers reported experiencing symptoms of the virus.

Officials wrote that a “specialized team” was brought in to disinfect the store while it was closed.

All county-owned liquor stores have installed plexiglass to separate customers and cashiers, and the stores now have hand sanitizer stations, the press release stated. To maintain social distancing, ABS workers are also limiting the number of people that can be in the store at one time.

Dan Schere

***

New York & Company laying off 46 employees in Silver Spring, Wheaton

The women’s clothing store New York & Company will lay off 46 employees at its stores in Silver Spring and Wheaton, according to the Maryland Department of Labor.

The layoffs appeared in a filing of the federal Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires large employers to give at least 60 days’ notice of business closures and mass layoffs.

According to the WARN log’s April 8 notice, 29 employees would be laid off as of March 29 at the Silver Spring store at 937 Ellsworth Drive.

Another notice from April 8 states that 17 employees would be laid off as of March 29 at the store in Westfield Wheaton mall.

On its website, New York & Company states that all stores are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but customers can still order from the company’s website.

Dan Schere

***

Work on Marriott headquarters project postponed for another week

Work on the new Marriott International world headquarters and hotel in downtown Bethesda was scheduled to resume on Tuesday after a brief shutdown, but has been put on hold for another week.

The work was temporarily suspended last week after two employees of a subcontractor tested positive for coronavirus disease.

Work stopped so the site could be deep cleaned by a firm “specializing in biohazard cleanup,” according to Hensel Phelps, the general contractor for the headquarters and adjacent Marriott hotel.

Kris Warner of Maier & Warner, speaking on behalf of Marriott, wrote in an email on Monday that construction was going to resume on Tuesday.

However, on Tuesday morning, Warner sent an update, saying the plan has changed.

“Out of an abundance of caution, it has been decided to keep the site closed for another week,” she wrote.

In its statement last week, Hensel Phelps said it learned on Wednesday “that two subcontractors working on the 7750 Wisconsin Avenue site have tested positive for COVID-19. Following protocol, these two individuals left the site more than a week ago after experiencing flu-like symptoms.”

Hensel Phelps also said it “proactively added additional plumbed handwashing and sanitizing stations, increased frequency of cleaning and engaged with a healthcare team to monitor the wellness of workers.”

Marriott is scheduled to move its headquarters in 2022 from Fernwood Road in Bethesda to the new downtown site between Wisconsin and Woodmont Avenues. Marriott will manage the new 244-room hotel.

Andrew Schotz

***

CorePower Yoga laying off up to 59 employees at Bethesda studio

The yoga and fitness studio CorePower Yoga plans to lay off up to 59 employees at its studio at 6708 Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda, according to the Maryland Department of Labor.

The layoffs at the Bethesda studio were listed in a filing under the federal Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires large employers to give at least 60 days’ notice of business closures and mass layoffs.

An April 1 notice states that 59 employees at the Bethesda studio would be laid off as of March 30.

Four CorePower studios in Baltimore were also included. The WARN log notice says up to 134 employees wwould be laid off at the four Baltimore studios.

CorePower Yoga’s studios closed last month because of the coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, pandemic.

In a message to customers on its website at the time, the company said it was closing on March 16, but hoped to reopen at the end of the month.

Dan Schere

***

Hogan issues new order to protect nursing home residents, employees

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Sunday issued a new executive order aimed at keeping nursing homes safe.

There are several parts to the order, including:

• Everyone who interacts with nursing home residents must wear personal protective equipment, including a face mask, eye protection, gloves and a gown, at all times.
• Facilities must use the quickest process for testing and getting results. Tests for symptomatic residents of nursing homes and long-term-care facilities will be prioritized and expedited, along with hospitalized patients and symptomatic health care providers and first responders
• Facilities must designate a unit of the staff to care for known or suspected COVID-19 patients. A room, unit or floor must be designated as a observation area where new or returning patients are kept for 14 days and checked during every shift.
• Nursing home residents admitted or seen at a hospital for COVID-19 must be allowed to return to the nursing home, as long as it can follow approved safety guidelines.

State officials said this week that there have been coronavirus outbreaks at 60 nursing homes across the state, including 10 in Montgomery County.

Andrew Schotz

***

Tastee Diner temporarily closes in Bethesda

Tastee Diner in Bethesda announced on Friday that it is temporarily closing during the coronavirus pandemic.

The restaurant, at 7731 Woodmont Ave., wrote on Facebook that it has laid off its entire staff as a precautionary measure to protect employees from the virus and help slow its spread.

The restaurant is asking people to donate to a GoFundMe page to help pay the employees while they are not working. More than $7,000 had been raised as of 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

Dan Schere

***

Union, MCPS reach agreement for pay for paras, part-time workers

SEIU Local 500, the union representing school district paraprofessionals and part-time workers, including custodians and bus drivers, reached an agreement with MCPS on Wednesday to provide pay to its members during the statewide schools shutdown.

In a message posted to the SEIU website, President Pia Morrison wrote that no union members will be required to work on-site during the shutdown, except “in the case of emergency or unforeseen circumstance.”

In cases where employees are needed to perform operational work, MCPS will ask employees to volunteer, according to the message. Volunteers will be paid time-and-a-half for all hours worked.

If there is an emergency situation requiring employees to work on-site, those employees will receive double pay for all hours worked, according to the message.

All other employees will continue “to receive their regular pay while MCPS operates remote learning, either while teleworking or just remaining at home.”

“This is just the beginning of our efforts to win you further protections and improvements as we navigate this crisis,” Morrison wrote. “MCPS continues to operate in these trying times because of your commitment and dedication to the students and to our communities.”

—Caitlynn Peetz

***

COVID-19 testing was offered at MedOne Urgent Care in Bethesda

MedOne Urgent Care in Bethesda did coronavirus testing on Thursday, April 2.

Dr. Eric Felber, the owner, wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat on Thursday afternoon that the tests were available to anyone who walks in — they don’t need a doctor’s order.

MedOne Urgent Care is at 7930 Old Georgetown Road.

“Our hours are inconsistent now so it will vary day to day,” Felber wrote. “We may do it other days also but I am not sure when.”

Andrew Schotz

***

Developers to hold project meetings online 

To comply with state orders that no groups with more than 10 people congregate, an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, Montgomery County developers are now required to hold virtual project meetings for residents.

In the past, developers were required to hold “presubmission” meetings, prior to submitting project plans to the county Planning Department. During the meetings, attendees could ask questions about the project. Now, the meetings will be held online, according to a news release from the Planning Department.

Presubmission meetings must be held within 90 days of the project’s submission to the Planning Department.

In an email to Bethesda Beat, Deputy Director Robert Kronenberg wrote that developers will be required to inform nearby residents of the virtual meeting at least 15 days in advance, and presentation materials must be sent at least three days in advance.

Developers can determine what platform they use to host their meeting, Kronenberg wrote

—Caitlynn Peetz

***

Bethesda Circulator suspends service; Additional Ride On cutbacks to start Sunday

The Bethesda Circulator, the free shuttle bus serving the downtown area, suspended service starting Saturday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bethesda Urban Partnership, which manages the circulator, announced on its website and its Facebook page on Friday that the Circulator was being suspended as part of a series of reductions the Montgomery County Department of Transportation was making to its Ride On bus service.

Starting Sunday, Ride On will start its “Essential Service Plan,” which means that buses on 35 routes will run – less than half the number that normally run, according to the county’s website.

The county wrote that buses will continue to run on routes that serve key locations such as hospitals and other medical facilities, grocery stores and pharmacies. The routes also run near some of Montgomery County Public Schools’ meal distribution sites, but not all of them.

Ride On has gradually reduced service since the coronavirus disease outbreak has worsened this month. The county’s transportation department has said the bus service will be free during the pandemic, and passengers must board using the rear door, unless they have a disability, are with a stroller, and if they need need a ramp.

Information about the Ride On routes that will continue to run can be found here.

—Dan Schere

***

MCPS students create ‘Social Distancing TV’

Montgomery County Public Schools students have created a new show called “Social Distancing TV,” or SDTV, with news and features about life during the coronavirus pandemic.

The first students involved are from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, but the creators are hoping the program will be for and by all of MCPS.

The first episode premiered on Tuesday and Wednesday on MCPSTV.

There will be new shows every Tuesday and Thursday, with encore broadcasts each Wednesday and Friday.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Business Leaders Fighting Hunger announces eight emergency grants

Business Leaders Fighting Hunger, a coalition trying to end hunger in Montgomery County, is awarding emergency grants, for a total of $50,000, to eight entities:

• Manna Food Center
• Identity
• The Universities at Shady Grove
• Gaithersburg HELP
• Meals on Wheels
• Nourish Now
• Rainbow Community Development Center
• Shepherd’s Table

“It will make a difference for hundreds of families and children in the county,” Andy Burness, the coalition’s co-founder and president of Burness a public interest communications firm in Bethesda. “But, we need corporate leaders to join us, donating to these organizations or to any others that are on the front lines serving people who are really suffering now.”

—Andrew Schotz

***

Free toilet paper with purchases at cafe

Anyone who spends at least $10 at Watershed Cafe at 19639 Fisher Ave. in Poolesville gets a free toilet paper, too.

The business announced the promotion on March 20 and said it would stay in effect while supplies last.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Strathmore still active online

Strathmore in North Bethesda is expanding its free online offerings while people are limited in what they can do in public.

• On its Facebook page, it has a “Live from the Living Room” series with performers from its Artists In Residence program. The performances are every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
• There are online Saturday Family Jam Sessions, running at 10:15 a.m., also on the Facebook page.
• Virtual tours are given of exhibitions in the Mansion. On March 28, one is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. for kids and another is at 1 p.m. for adults, held on Zoom, a video conference platform.
• Creative Writing Workshops are also held through Zoom. There is one at 7 p.m. April 16 to discuss the works of poets Lucille Clifton and Linda Pastan.
• An Artist in Fiction Book Club also meets through Zoom. At 3 p.m. April 15, the group will discuss “The Art Forger” by B.A. Shapiro.

—Andrew Schotz

***

State court system to stay closed through May 1

An administrative order this week will extend the closure of Maryland’s state courts through May 1, with limited exceptions.

Courts will continue to conduct remove proceedings using various communcation platforms, according to a press release from the Maryland Judiciary.

Because of the health crisis related to coronavirus disease, all nonemergency court hearings or proceedings scheduled for March 17 to May 1 will be postponed, unless otherwise noted.

The court system is not taking action on foreclosures, tax sales, residential evictions and similar collection-related procedures.

Emergency matters that still might be handled by a court include domestic violence petitions, peace order petitions, bail reviews, juvenile protection hearings and search warrants.

Members of the media are allowed in courthouses with a press ID, but are encouraged to heed guidelines on limiting the number of people congregating in public.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Free webinars posted to help families cope with coronavirus

The Parent Encouragement Program, which offers parent training, has posted free webinars to help families cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

One is about how to talk to children about coronavirus.

A second examines a new way of living during the health crisis, including structure, routine, schedules and problem solving.

A third, called “Keeping the Peace,” looks at maintaining harmony and deciding limits.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Restaurants offer carryout discounts for first responders

Some Montgomery County restaurants are offering discounts to first responders.

Kusshi Sushi in North Bethesda’s Pike and Rose development is offering 50% off carryout orders to firefighters, police officers, nurses and other first responders, server Eric Lee said.

“If they come in uniform, we’ll honor that. If they show a badge or ID, we’ll honor that as well,” he said.

Kusshi Sushi is offering $10 meal credits to students younger than 18 with school ID, he said.

Kusshi Sushi’s carryout hours are 11 a.m. to midnight, Lee said.

Nick’s Diner in Wheaton is offering 30% discounts to all first responders and medical workers during its carryout hours of 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Founding Farmers in Potomac is offering 50% off to first responders, along with current and former employees, on pickup orders. It has curbside pickup and delivery from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Dan Schere

***

Grosvenor-Strathmore closing as part of mass Metro station shutdown

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has announced 17 Metro stations are closing starting on Thursday. Among the stations to close is the Grosvenor-Strathmore station on the Red Line.

WMATA stated in a press release that the closures are being done to reduce trips to only those that are essential during the coronavirus outbreak.  The transit agency stated that closing some stations will also help conserve cleaning supplies and limit the risk of exposure for employees.

The Grosvenor-Strathmore station was picked, WMATA stated, because it was one of the stations with the lowest ridership during the coronavirus outbreak, which has led to a 90% drop in ridership on Metro.

Dan Schere

***

A giant pill bottle at Village Green

Kelly L. Moran was pleasantly surprised when she visited Village Green Apothecary in Bethesda this week.

She saw a girl dressed as a giant pill bottle, who was handling curbside pickup for customers.

In a message to Bethesda Beat, Moran wrote: “Way to go Village Green for injecting some happiness into the pandemic!! How great is this!!!”

—Andrew Schotz

***

County DOT wants to buy hundreds of lunches for its bus drivers each day

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation is trying to help local restaurants while feeding its Ride On bus drivers.

The department has put out a call for any food provider that can sell 300 bagged lunches a day, or a portion thereof, for its drivers.

Nikkia Carver, an executive administrative assistant for the chief of Ride On, said lunch orders are lined up for the next few days.

She did not know if the purchases would go on the whole time businesses are strugglingwith the economic effects of the coronavirus economic effects. But she said it’s something the department wants to do for now, “so we can give back to the community,” for both business owners and their employees.

The department is either looking for lunches to be delivered to Rockville or it can pick them up.

Carver can be reached at 240-753-3679.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Stores set aside shopping times for higher-risk residents

Giant stores in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Washington, D.C., will dedicate 6 to 7 a.m. as shopping time for people 60 and older and people with compromised immune systems.

Both groups are considered more susceptible to catching coronavirus disease and getting sicker if they have it.

The changes begin Friday, according to a news release from Giant.

The release does not say how Giant will ensure only elderly and immunocompromised people are shopping.

There are Montgomery County Giant locations in Bethesda, Burtonsville, Chevy Chase, Colesville, Derwood, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Olney, Potomac, Rockville, Silver Spring and Wheaton.

Dollar General and Safeway have also set aside time for vulnerable populations to shop.

Montgomery County government on shared a list of other stores setting aside time for people older than 60 to shop.

Target and Whole Foods are each offering “seniors-only” shopping hours in all of their Montgomery County stores. Four local stores are also participating in this special program. Participating stores include:

  • Global Food, Takoma Park: 8 to 9 a.m. for senior citizens
  • Grosvenor Market, Rockville: 8 to 9 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday for senior citizens and those with health concerns
  • Dawson’s Market, Rockville: starting March 24 — 7 to 8 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Also, will honor Wednesday 10% senior citizens discount; free Drop Coffee during those hours
  • Roots Market, Olney: 7 to 8 a.m. Wednesday; 8 to 9 p.m. Sunday for senior citizens and those immunity concerns
  • Whole Foods, Bethesda, Kentlands, Rockville, Silver Spring, Friendship Heights: for customers 60+, one hour before opening to the general public
  • Target, Bethesda, Gaithersburg, Rockville, Wheaton, Germantown: the first hour each Wednesday for older customers and those with health concerns

The county is working with other local stores and national chains to expand the list in the coming days.

—Caitlynn Peetz and Andrew Schotz

***

County allowing free parking in Bethesda, Silver Spring garages

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that it has made two county parking garages free to help residents during the coronavirus outbreak.

The department said in a press release that the Auburn/Del Ray garage in Bethesda at 4910 Auburn Ave. and the Bonifant/Dixon garage in Silver Spring at 1101 Bonifant Drive are free.

The Bethesda garage normally costs $1 per hour Monday through Friday and the Silver Spring garage normally costs 70 cents per hour during the week, according to the department’s website.

Dan Schere

***

Leaders in region speak up for cleaners, security officers

Elected officials in Montgomery County and elsewhere in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. are speaking up to support the jobs of cleaning employees and security officers.

A statement attributed to Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and leaders from D.C., Arlington, Prince George’s County and D.C. urges commercial real estate companies not to eliminate or cut back on the jobs of those workers, despite the economic losses related to coronavirus.

“The metropolitan Washington area has the healthiest real estate market in the country and tenants continue to pay the highest rents in the country. During this temporary change, where tenants continue to pay rent, the owners and their contractors have a responsibility to their cleaners and officers. These men and women have performed their jobs admirably under extraordinarily difficult circumstances,” says the statement, which was distributed by 32BJ SEIU, a union that represents the workers.

—Andrew Schotz

***

BlackRock Center for the Arts closed through May, staff laid off

BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown announced Wednesday afternoon it is ceasing operations until the end of May in response to the spread of the coronavirus disease.

All performances, classes and events are canceled.

More than 60% of the center’s full-time staff were laid off Monday, according to a message posted on the company’s website, signed by Chief Executive Officer Lynn Andreas Arndt. The remaining full-time staff will be working at 50% of their salaries.

—Caitlynn Peetz

***

Clarksburg Premium Outlets closed until end of month 

Simon Property Group, owner of Clarksburg Premium Outlets, announced Wednesday it will close all of its retail locations.

The closure begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday and lasts through March 29, according to a news release.

The shopping center has more than 90 stores and restaurants, according to its website.

—Caitlynn Peetz

***

Metro cuts hours, frequency of trains 

Urging “essential travel only,” Metro is reducing its service in response to the spread of the coronavirus disease.

In a news release on Tuesday afternoon, Metro announced it is reducing its hours of operation and that trains will operate every 15 minutes on each line.

The release also said Metro ridership was down approximately 70% on Monday.

Beginning Wednesday, Metro trains will operate from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the weekend. Each train will operate with eight cars, the maximum allowable length, “to help maintain social distancing.”

Track work is being canceled or reduced, aside from emergency maintenance, the news release said.

Metro buses will operate on Sunday schedules, and bus operators are able to bypass stops “to maintain safe social distancing aboard the vehicle.”

The news release says anyone who is not feeling well “must avoid taking public transportation” and urges people to only travel if “absolutely necessary.”

—Caitlynn Peetz

***

Humane Society suspends pet adoptions

To promote the safety of its staff and local residents, the Montgomery County Humane Society has suspended pet adoptions “until further notice.”

The Humane Society also canceled all other educational programs.

“Of course, the animals in our care will continue to receive quality care, love and attention from our staff,” a notice on the Humane Society’s website says.

On March 10, the Humane Society put out a call for help on social media: It was running “very low” on blankets, puppy food, soap and cleaning supplies.

The community showed a “tremendous response,” the organization’s Facebook page says, dropping off supplies or shipping them to its Rockville headquarters.

“At this time, we are good on supplies,” the post said on March 13.

—Caitlynn Peetz

***

Strathmore closes Mansion and Music Center

Strathmore in North Bethesda announced Tuesday that it is closing the Mansion and the Music Center to the public and is suspending programming at AMP, the music venue in Pike & Rose.

The closures, because of new prohibitions on public gatherings, will be in place through April. 3.

Strathmore said it is working to reschedule canceled performances.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Ride On drops charge for bus rides

Rise On bus service will be free starting Monday.

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation said it made the change to support the county’s efforts to address coronavirus.

Ride On will have passengers board through the rear doors of the bus to limit close contact between passengers and drivers. Passengers who need a lift at the front of the bus can board that way.

Ride On said it is sanitizing every bus, every day, an effort that has been “rigorous and increased.”

The Ride On and Ride On Extra services are continuing on a regular schedule, except the Flex Bus pilot service in Rockville and the Wheaton-Glenmont zone, which will temporarily be suspended.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Pepco not disconnecting service

Pepco is suspending service disconnections and waiving new late payment fees through at least May 1, the utility said. It also will work with customers to establish payment arrangements and identify energy assistance options.

“We are committed to helping every customer through difficult times, and we know there will be many challenges associated with this pandemic,” said Dave Velazquez, president and CEO of Pepco Holdings. “From programs that provide supplemental support, billing options that spread costs more evenly, to relief of late payment fees, we are taking important steps to support our customers and communities.”

Pepco customers with a disconnection notice or who have service disconnected can receive a grant up to $1,000 once a year through the Pepco Washington Area Fuel Fund Partnership administered by the Salvation Army. Montgomery County residents can call 301-515-5354 for assistance

—Andrew Schotz

***

Metro reducing service

On Friday, Metro elevated its response to the coronavirus outbreak. It has moved to Phase 3, the highest level.

Starting Monday, Metro will reduce its service. Trains will operate every 12 minutes on all lines Monday through Saturday and every 15 minutes on Sunday. Weekday buses will operate on a Saturday supplemental schedule.

Metro will spend additional time disinfecting trains and buses. Weekly, it will use a process called electrostatic fogging on its 1,200 railcars and 1,500 buses. Positively charged particles cling to and coat a surface.

Metro emphasizes that anyone who is not feeling well should not take public transportation.

In addition, Metro is implementing mandatory telework for its administrative employees.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Area private schools preparing for closures following coronavirus outbreak

This entry was updated at 10:30 a.m. March 13, 2020, to correct information about Connelly School of the Holy Child’s remote learning plan

A number of area private schools in Montgomery have cancelled classes in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak across the country.

Bullis School in Potomac will close at 3:30 p.m. Friday and remain closed at least through April 3, spokeswoman Beth Crowley said. The school will shift to online learning starting next week.

Crowley said Bullis will reevaluate on April 3 to determine what to do after that.

Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville will also close starting Monday, and will remain closed at least through March 27, spokeswoman Laurie Ehrlich said. Ehrlich said remote learning that will take the place of in-person instruction during that period.

The school has not determined whether classes will resume after March 27, she said.

“We are obviously monitoring what the state and the Department of Health are saying,” she said.

Connelly School of the Holy Child in Potomac is on spring break next week, with a remote learning plan set to go into effect March 23 through 27.

Caitlin McNamara Chalke, a spokeswoman, said Friday that the school will reevaluate after the 27th whether to continue the remote learning.

Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda also will be on spring break starting Monday and extending through March 27, spokesman Patrick Coyle said.

Coyle said the school will evaluate during the break whether students can return to school on March 30, or if it will implement remote learning.

“We’ve been meeting as a leadership team daily to discuss updates on the situation and developing scenarios for our own community,” he said.

Coyle added that after-school activities have been suspended starting Friday until further notice.

Coyle said about 70 of the school’s 497 students are from foreign countries. Local families have agreed to host them in the event they cannot return to their home countries.

—Dan Schere

***

Archdiocese of Washington makes changes: schools close, Masses stop

The Archdiocese of Washington said Thursday that it is closing its schools from March 16 to 27.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory also has ordered that Masses open to the public not be held for now, effective Saturday.

Weddings and funerals may proceed, but only with immediate family, according to a statement posted on Thursday.

“I have made available pastoral and spiritual resources as well as TV Mass on our website that I encourage you to use,” Gregory said in the statement. “I also invite you to join us for Mass and prayer via livestream in our social media.”

—Andrew Schotz

***

WSSC won’t turn off water service

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said Thursday that it will not shut off any water service while people are coping with the coronavirus outbreak. It also will waive late fees.

Other actions that WSSC announced are:

  • All in-home, non-emergency work, including plumbing inspections and meter readings, are cancelled and/or postponed for one week. This decision will be reassessed weekly moving forward based on the information available.
  • All public meetings have been postponed for the next 30 days (April 12). This includes the Commission Meeting on Wednesday, March 18.
  • The One-Stop-Shop and WSSC Water cashier will be closed for the next 30 days (April 12).
  • WSSC Water’s Satellite Offices in both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties are closed for the next 30 days (April 12).
  • The Visitor Center at Brighton Dam will be closed for the next 30 days (April 12).
  • All non-essential WSSC Water employees that can work from home are encouraged to telework for the foreseeable future.
  • For employees that cannot do productive work from home, supervisors will implement social distancing measures.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Trials will be delayed

All civil and criminal jury trials in Maryland have been suspended from March 16 to April 3.

Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera issued an administrative order on the suspension on Thursday.

For cases with a trial pending during that period, the judge shall consider a new date, the order says.

Non-essential court activities also were put on hold.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Parks department closing indoor park facilities, cancelling activities

Montgomery Parks on Thursday announced closures connected to public concern about coronavirus.

The department is closing all indoor park facilities to the public, starting Monday.

Also, the department is cancelling all programs, classes and events in parks and at park facilities through March 31.

People who have already registered for activities can get a credit.

Outdoor areas of the parks will stay open from sunrise to sunset, the department said in a press release.

The parks staff has been encouraged to telework when possible.

—Andrew Schotz

***

Tourism industry suffering from coronavirus spread

Montgomery County’s tourism industry is taking a significant hit due to the coronavirus outbreak, said Kelly Groff, the president and CEO of the tourism agency Visit Montgomery.

Groff said in an interview Wednesday that starting in early February, her agency began to get word of groups that were cancelling hotel reservations.

“At that time, it was international tour groups coming from international markets,” she said.

In the past week, Groff said, the volume of postponements and cancellations of events throughout the region has significantly increased with the rise in the number of cases in the greater Washington, D.C., region.

“Large group gatherings are being discouraged, so any conferences that are hosted here that have a national, regional or local draw are being postponed or cancelled,” she said.

Groff said each day brings more lost business for the county, but the “well being of our visitors is important.”

When the virus outbreak eventually subsides, Groff expects that there will be “pent-up demand” for travel to the area.

“People are gonna want to come out and travel, so we have to take advantage of that,” she said.

Dan Schere

***

State high school basketball tournaments postponed

The boys and girls high school state basketball tournaments, scheduled for Thursday through Saturday, were postponed “until further notice,” according to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association. No additional information was released Thursday afternoon.

Four Montgomery County teams were scheduled to compete: the Winston Churchill High School girls, the Rockville High School girls, the Springbrook High School boys and the Richard Montgomery High School boys.

—Caitlynn Peetz

***

Bethesda Chamber president self-quarantines due to sickness following trip to Italy

Ginanne Italiano, the president and CEO of the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce, has been self-quarantining since the beginning of the month after she and her husband, Tom, got sick following a trip to Italy.

Italiano, 65, said in an interview Wednesday that she and her husband arrived in Italy on Feb. 28 as part of a group tour of the country with the company Collette Tours. The trip was supposed to last eight days, she said.

Italiano said on the morning of the second day, the group’s tour guide told the group that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had issued a Level 3 warning for travelers in Italy in response to the coronavirus outbreak, and the that the trip would be cut short. The group’s participants were placed on a flight to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport later that day.

A Level 3 warning means the country has been experiencing “widespread community transmission” of the virus and that people are asked to avoid all nonessential travel. Additionally, the CDC advises travelers to Italy to stay home for two weeks after returning to the United States.

Italy’s government has issued a nationwide quarantine, with more than 10,000 cases of coronavirus disease there as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the World Health Organization.

Italiano was back in her Annapolis home on March 1, she said. That is when she and her husband started experiencing symptoms of a cold. Both have been coughing since then, she said, and she has felt lightheaded a few times.

Italiano said she spoke to her doctor on the phone, and described her symptoms to find out whether she could get tested for coronavirus. Italiano said that after her doctor consulted the CDC, she was told she couldn’t be tested for the virus because she didn’t have a fever. But her doctor still said she should remain at home for two weeks as a precaution.

Italiano said she has been able to work from home, but being quarantined has been frustrating.

“We have meetings and events at the chamber, and people want to know whether I have [coronavirus disease],” she said.

Italiano said the chamber is still holding events and conducting business normally, but is advising people not to attend functions if they are sick.

—Dan Schere

***

Washington Waldorf School closes this week for a ‘deep clean’

A Bethesda private school announced it will be closed Thursday and Friday to “deep clean” after a student had indirect contact with two people who tested positive for the coronavirus disease.

In an email message to families at about 6 p.m. Wednesday, Washington Waldorf School officials wrote that a “relative of a family in our school attended an event where two people tested positive for the coronavirus.” The relative didn’t have direct contact with either person, but has since had contact with a member of the school community.

“While we do not believe that our school community has sustained any exposure, we want to be proactive,” the message said. “Beginning [Wednesday] evening and continuing until Monday morning, the school will be off limits to all students, employees, tutors, private music teachers, and others so that the building can be deeply cleaned and disinfected.”

All athletic games and field trips were canceled.

Washington Waldorf, on Sangamore Road in Bethesda, has an enrollment of approximately 300 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, according to the school’s website.

—Caitlynn Peetz

***

Gaithersburg St. Patrick’s celebration canceled; book event being discussed

The city of Gaithersburg has canceled Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The city posted on Twitter that the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution to protect the health & safety of our guests, parade participants & employees.”

The parade was to run along Grand Corner Avenue, starting at Rio Boulevard.

No decision has been made about another upcoming Gaithersburg event — a discussion with author Jeanine Cummins about her book “American Dirt.”

It is scheduled for March 31 at Gaithersburg High School.

Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman wrote in an email Wednesday that he would hold meetings this week to discuss plans for the event. He wrote that he would know more by Friday.

—Andrew Schotz and Dan Schere

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