MARYLAND — Maryland will open its fourth mass vaccination site next month, boost its surveillance of COVID-19 variants, and may soon get shipments of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Gov. Larry Hogan said at a Tuesday news conference.
Here’s a breakdown:
Another Mass Vaccination Site
Hogan said the state will open its fourth COVID-19 mass vaccination site in Charles County next month.
It’s slated to open no later than March 11 at Regency Furniture Stadium — a 4,200-seat ballpark used by a minor league baseball team.
Hogan said the site will be supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will provide more than 100 personnel — including trained vaccinations — to help staff it.
To date, Maryland runs two mass vaccination sites: one at Six Flags America in Prince George’s County and the other at the Baltimore Convention Center.
M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore — the state’s third site — will begin administering vaccines on Thursday, Feb. 25. More than 10,000 appointments have already been made, Hogan said.
“Following both the federal and state vaccination plans, we continue to broaden the distribution network to ensure as many points of access as possible in every single county,” he said. “We are utilizing every single dose we are allocated, and building an infrastructure with the capability of doing up to 100,000 shots per day, just as soon as they are made by the manufacturers and allocated to us by the federal government.”
Maryland is in Phase 1C of its vaccination plan, which includes:
Adults 65 years and older
Essential workers in lab services
Cancer patients in active treatment
Individuals currently being treated in a hospital and diagnosed with COPD, diabetes, and sickle cell disease
(A more comprehensive list of eligible residents can be found here).
As of Tuesday, Maryland has administered 1,112,651 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Among those, 746,919 were first doses and 365,732 were second doses.
Keeping Tabs on COVID-19 Variants
The state will also expand its capacity to screen for more contagious variants of the coronavirus.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Hogan said the state has partnered with the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University to screen and sequence more than 10 percent of positive cases. That’s more than double what the state can do now.
“The Maryland Public Health Laboratory is already testing for these variants at a much higher rate than other states by using genomic sequencing to track virus mutations,” Hogan said. “This new partnership will give Maryland one of the strongest surveillance systems in the country and the world.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified three COVID-19 variants — one from the United Kingdom, another from South Africa, and a third from Brazil. All three variants have been identified in Maryland.
Deputy Health Secretary Dr. Jinlene Chan said the state has seen about 60 cases involving coronavirus variants. Most of them have not been linked to international travel.
“What that indicates to us is that there is ongoing community transmission already happening here in the state,” she said. “And so again, it’s now more important than ever that we wear a mask, that we practice social distancing, and that we avoid large gatherings to try to prevent the ongoing transmission of the variant cases.”
Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine
Maryland may receive its first batch of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine as early as next week, Hogan announced Tuesday.
Like the other two vaccines in circulation, Johnson & Johnson’s product must be authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The vaccine, which is being manufactured in Baltimore, is expected to get that authorization as early as this weekend.
Hogan said states are awaiting further guidance from the federal government.
A New Executive Order Is Issued
Hogan also issued an executive order that will require everyone over the age of 5 to wear a mask in any part of a school where interaction with others is likely. That includes including classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, auditoriums, and gymnasiums.
The governor repeatedly called on schools to adopt a hybrid learning approach by March 1, saying there was “no public health reason” for schools to be closed.
Nearly every school system in the state has already done so or has indicated that they will meet the deadline, Hogan said.
A Warning About Scammers
There have been “increased reports” of scammers luring people into sharing their personal information for a vaccine appointment, according to Hogan.
He said the fraudsters pretend to represent a local health department and ask residents for their credit card or Social Security number. Some even try to sell residents a vaccine.
“I want to make this very clear. No one can sell you a vaccine. No one can charge you for a vaccine,” Hogan said. “It is free. No insurance information is required and no Social Security information is required.”
Residents can verify information about all authorized providers at http://covidvax.maryland.gov/.
“If you see something that doesn’t look right or sound right to you — if you suspect any type of fraudulent activity — we ask that you immediately report it to law enforcement,” Hogan said. Anyone who attempts to prey on innocent people in this life-and-death crisis will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”