2021 | Coronavirus

What to know about reopening, COVID-19 vaccines in Montgomery County

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Bethesda resident Vanessa Fontana Keszler receives her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the vaccine site on Montgomery College's Germantown campus on March 31, 2021.

File photo

After the state lifted its remaining restrictions on Saturday, the county has set a date for the last stage of its reopening — 6 a.m. on May 28.

Nearly all restrictions will be lifted, but masks must still be worn in public transportation, health care facilities, and at schools for anyone older than 5.

Montgomery County has handled reopening with a three-phased plan. The second phase, which begins when 60% of the county’s population has received a first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, is expected to start in the coming week.

The second phase lifts more restrictions, including an increase to 250 indoors for gatherings, operations of 75% capacity for most businesses, and smoking allowances for cigar and hookah bars.

Under the final phase, the county will drop its local restrictions and adhere to state guidance. The third phase is reached when at least 50% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated, two weeks after receiving a second dose or a one-dose vaccine.

The county reached the 50% benchmark on Friday, starting the two-week clock for full vaccination.

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Does the county track vaccinations for residents who were inoculated elsewhere?

County officials have been keeping track of vaccinations through the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the county’s data dashboard reports Maryland Department of Health data, which does not account for residents vaccinated outside the state, such as in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

County officials have said they plan to switch the vaccine data dashboard to use numbers from the CDC instead.

The CDC tracks county residents who have been vaccinated outside Maryland.

The data that include residents who were vaccinated outside of Maryland gives the county a jump of a few percentage points.

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How many Montgomery County residents have been vaccinated in Maryland?

As of Friday, 601,610 county residents, or 57.2% of its population, have received a first dose of a two-dose vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna. The two-dose vaccines are administered three to four weeks apart.

There are 476,104 county residents, or 45.3% of the population, who are fully vaccinated with a second dose or with the one-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

Those figures only account for Montgomery County residents vaccinated in Maryland.

The county bases its figures on the total county population, which includes minors under age 12 who are not yet eligible for a vaccine.

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How many variant COVID-19 cases are there in the county?

As of Friday, the state has discovered 219 variant cases in county residents. Variants of COVID-19 have caused the virus to be more transmissible.

Of the 219 cases, 191 were of the B.1.1.7, or U.K., variant. Eleven cases had the B.1.351, or South African variant.

Of the two California variants, there are five cases of B.1.427 and seven cases of B.1.429. There have been five cases of the P.1., or Brazilian, variant.

The state is sequence testing 20% of the coronavirus tests for the variants, which means more variant cases might not be caught.

The variant testing is conducted on random cases.

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Do I need consent from a parent or guardian to receive a vaccine if I am younger than 18?

Yes, you will need consent from a parent or guardian if you are ages 12 to 17.

Parents and guardians will need to come with minors to the appointment to confirm the minor’s age and sign a consent form.

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How should children ages 12 to 17 sign up, since they can only receive the Pfizer vaccine?

When the county’s preregistration site pulls names for appointments each week, staff members check the list to ensure that residents ages 12 to 17 will receive an appointment for a Pfizer vaccine dose.

Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for people under age 18.

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What is currently allowed in the first phase of the county’s reopening plan?

Because 50% of the county’s population has had a first dose, the first phase of a new reopening plan allows these changes:
● Gathering limits increase to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors (previously 25 indoors and 50 outdoors)
● Businesses limited to 25% capacity move to 50% capacity and can sell concessions, with social distancing
● Camps can move to the gathering limits of 50 indoors and 100 outdoors (previously 25 indoors and 50 outdoors)
● Escape rooms — in which groups try to solve clues to earn their way out of an enclosed area — can allow 10 people per game (previously 6 people per private game)
● Museums and galleries can reopen touch exhibits
● Malls can reopen pedestrian concourses and return tables and chairs inside
● Sports can move to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, with a similar number of spectators (previously 25 indoors and 50 outdoors)

The second phase, lifting more restrictions, will begin when 60% of the county’s population has had a first dose.

The third phase will be reached once 50% of the population has been fully vaccinated with a second dose or a one-dose vaccine. Under the last phase, the county will no longer have local restrictions and will instead follow any state or Maryland Department of Health requirements in place at the time.

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If I am homebound, how can I get a vaccine?

When residents preregister through the county’s system, they can indicate whether they are homebound.

The county is working with a clinical partner to administer homebound vaccinations.

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How do I get to the county’s mass vaccination site if I don’t have a car?

A free Ride On Vaccination Shuttle is being offered for transportation between the Shady Grove Metro Station and the mass vaccination site at Montgomery College in Germantown.

The vaccination shuttle runs every 15 minutes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. At the Metro station, the shuttle will be at Bus Bay H.

Ride On bus Route 55 goes to the college on its run between Rockville Metro Station and Germantown Transit Center.

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I’ve already been vaccinated. Can I cancel my preregistration with the county health department?

Yes. If you have already been vaccinated elsewhere, you can cancel your preregistration for a county-run clinic here. Completing the form will take you off the list. LINK

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How do I find more information?

More information can be found through these resources:
● Montgomery County vaccine website: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/vaccine
● Maryland vaccine website: https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/vaccine
● Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html

Residents and workers 12 and older can preregister with the county.

A Preregistration Helpline for county-run clinics is available at 240-777-2982. General vaccine questions can be directed to the county at 240-777-1755.

Staff members are available for callers in English and Spanish. The call center is open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Have a question that wasn’t answered here?

Email your question to steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com and include “COVID Q&A” in the subject line. We will try to answer it.

Our past vaccine Q&As are available here:
May 7
April 30
April 23
April 16
April 9
April 2
March 26
March 18
March 11
March 5
February 24
February 17
January 19