coronavirus COVID-19 vaccine vaccination generic graphic

About 7 in 10 Montgomery County residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, board of commissioners Chairwoman Valerie Arkoosh said Thursday.

Arkoosh, a physician, said the county found out a day earlier that 81,563 residents have received vaccinations in Philadelphia, pushing up Montgomery's total.

"Given this additional data, close to 70% of our total population and 80% of county residents 12 and over have received at least one dose," she said at an in-person commissioners meeting in Norristown.

Arkoosh added that almost every Montgomery County resident 65 or over has received at least one dose of vaccine.

Arkoosh also said the seven-day average of new COVID cases has fallen to 19. She said information about free vaccines for residents is posted on the county website. The federal goal for vaccinations is 70% by July 4.

Arkoosh and Kenneth Lawrence Jr. voted to extend Montgomery's COVID-19 emergency through Aug. 6. That is the eighth extension of the declaration since the pandemic was declared in March 2020. Solicitor Josh Stein said the commissioners could vote to end the declaration early if conditions improve.

The emergency only applies to operations of county government, any restrictions on businesses are set by the state government.

Commissioner Joseph Gale, the only Republican on the three-member board, voted against extending the declaration. He has opposed pandemic restrictions at schools and businesses.

Arkoosh is a candidate for the U.S. Senate, while Gale is a candidate for his party's nomination for governor.

The county is in good financial health, Chief Financial Officer Dean Dortone told the board.

"This year has been a challenge," he said, but early final numbers for 2020 indicate revenue exceeded projections by about $58 million, much of that the result of $50 million in federal CARES Act pandemic relief funding.

The county brought in about $477 million in 2020 revenue, Dortone said. The bulk as usual was real estate tax at 43%, and federal and state grants contributed 35%.

Expenses for 2020 totaled $436 million, according to early numbers, with 41% of that going to health and human services. Dortone said debt payments accounted for 10.5% of 2020 spending, less than some other counties that like Montgomery have top credit ratings.

Solicitor Stein was active during the public comment portion of the meeting, cutting off speakers who exceeded the two-minute limit or strayed from county business.

A man who identified himself as Brendan Lyons brought up a recent comment by Arkoosh objecting to abortion-related state legislation. When Stein said that was not a county issue, Lyons said, "She's my county commissioner and I would like her to apologize."

"It's not germane to county business," Stein ruled. He also cut off Lora Lehmann of Abington, who exceeded the two-minute limit while complaining about the two-minute limit.

By speaking during both public-comment periods, Lehmann violated the limit twice.

Ali Sherbiny, who said he represents the Norristown Company, also exceeded the limit while asking for the county to promote affordable housing.

The board's next meeting will be June 17 at the government center in Norristown.

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