At his weekly media briefing on Wednesday, County Executive Marc Elrich was asked by a reporter about why libraries, recreation centers, and senior centers still have not reopened.
According to Elrich, there are “different issues” for why these places have not fully reopened. “One is you know we don’t we don’t have everybody vaccinated then unless you’re going to start using passports to determine who comes in we’d like to be at a higher level of vaccination before we generally open things up which is why we’ve set our targets based on the percentage of people vaccinated now,” he said.
Elrich said another issue is that the county has not filled vacant positions for libraries and recreation over the last year, so it requires going through a hiring process. “I don’t have enough staff right now to open up all the libraries,” he said.
Elrich said that the county is working on opening senior centers, but he did not have a date for when they will be back online.
Montgomery County Public Libraries are open only for holds-to-go programs and they have increased digital resources and programming. MCPL Director Anita Vassallo told MyMCM in April that the county libraries are developing a phased reopening plan, but there still is not a date for when libraries will loosen more of their restrictions.
Councilmember Hans Riemer tweeted yesterday that he supports reopening libraries and he took aim at Elrich for the fact that libraries are still closed.
“Let me be perfectly clear. There is no public health reason that libraries are closed. 25%, 50% capacity limits w social distancing apply to libraries, too. The libraries aren’t open because the @MontCoExec
hasn’t opened them,” Riemer tweeted.”
Let me be perfectly clear. There is no public health reason that libraries are closed. 25%, 50% capacity limits w social distancing apply to libraries, too. The libraries aren’t open because the @MontCoExec hasn’t opened them. https://t.co/GxcI3ooCJn
— Hans Riemer (@hansriemer) May 5, 2021
“We’ve tried to maintain an abundance of caution but we also know we are preparing to begin the reopening of libraries and centers and this will happen,” Elrich said.
Some recreation centers in Montgomery County have slowly started reopening, but they are only open on a limited basis. People can make appointments to use the gyms and there are fitness classes available for adults and children.
Dr. Earl Stoddard, the director of Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management, said that some of the recreation centers and libraries are being used for the pandemic response to help with testing and distributing vaccines.
Stoddard said some of the Recreation Department’s staff has been helping at vaccine sites but the staff will be freed from helping at these sites on May 8.
The county is working on reopening more centers, but it’s going to take some time, Stoddard said. “We don’t want to have our pandemic response lessened while simultaneously opening our senior center, so we want to be able to do both.”