Montgomery County introduced legislation that would require proof of vaccination to enter certain businesses as the county sees a surge of hospitalizations and staffing shortages at hospitals, schools and county liquor stores amid spiking COVID-19 cases.
“We have a large population of people in Montgomery County who need to be boosted, and I do think that is significantly contributing to the hospitalization rate we are seeing in the county,” said Dr. Earl Stoddard, director of the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security.
Councilman Craig Rice fought back tears at Tuesday’s council meeting to share his experience inside an overwhelmed county hospital over the weekend after his mother suffered a heart attack.
“Our healthcare workers on the frontline are fighting each and every day to protect and care for those of you that are sick, and they're putting themselves and their lives on the line,” he said.
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County leaders see requiring proof of vaccination to enter some businesses as a way to encourage people to get vaccinated.
“It was an incredibly traumatic weekend for me but one that was eye-opening as to exactly why we need to make sure we continue to press for vaccinations,” Rice said.
There are still several details to work through ahead of next week’s public hearing on the proposal.
“Undeniably vaccines work,” Councilman Andrew Friedson said. “It’s a question of whether this is the best tool and whether as proposed it is an appropriate tool.”
Despite the county’s high vaccination rate, officials believe the next month will be difficult as COVID-related staffing shortages persist, potentially forcing the county and public school system to make some tough decisions
“Yes, we’re frustrated, but it’s also a reality the bodies are not there, the teachers are not there, the staffing is just not there,” Councilwoman Nancy Navarro said.
To combat a bus driver shortage within Montgomery County Public Schools, the county has asked the National Guard to step in to help get kids to school.
“That request is still pending,” Stoddard said. “They’re still looking around. My understanding is that the National Guard may not be able to help, but they’ve also sent it around to counties around who may be able to help us with it.”
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