ANNAPOLIS — Roughly 680 COVID-19 variants have been identified in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday.
Most of them are the B117 or U.K. variant, but others include strains from New York, California, South Africa and Brazil.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases this week released a small study that suggests current coronavirus vaccines are effective against new variants of the disease, but more research is needed to confirm the findings.
“Across America, these variants are driving an increase in new infections and hospitalizations, particularly among younger people,” Hogan said.
“In our effort to win this race against these variants, in addition to doing as many vaccinations as quickly as we can, we’re also focused on prioritizing vaccines for the most vulnerable Marylanders and those in hard-to-reach areas of the state,” he said.
Hogan announced several new mass COVID-19 vaccination sites across the state. The closest one to Garrett and Allegany counties remains in Hagerstown, which is roughly 70 miles from Cumberland and 116 miles from Oakland.
The first federal mobile vaccination units in the nation arrived Thursday at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Reisterstown, Hogan said.
“In the coming days, these 32-foot trailers will be fanning out across the state, together along with special FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) strike teams to help us get more shots into arms in remote areas and zip codes that rank high on the CDC’s social vulnerability index,” he said of a tool that uses U.S. Census data to help public health officials and local planners prepare for and respond to emergency events.
An interactive map on the CDC’s website shows Allegany County in 2016, the most recent year available, scored “moderate to high level of vulnerability.”
The latest federal operation builds on the state’s recently launched mobile clinics that have completed nearly 100 missions.
The Maryland Department of Health will require county health officers submit a COVID-19 vaccine equity plan by Monday, Hogan said.
“The state health department will also be providing each county with a targeted list of underserved zip codes and a list of specific congregate facilities in their jurisdiction, which we need them to concentrate their efforts on to ensure they do not leave anyone in their counties behind,” he said.
Hogan also said folks should continue to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines and practice precautions to slow spread of the disease.
While some states have lifted mask mandates and restrictions, Maryland’s masking order “remains in full force and effect,” he said.
Marylanders are also advised to avoid travel to states with high COVID-19 case rates, and get tested for the disease upon returning home from such areas.
Phase 3 open
Maryland has administered more than 2.7 million COVID-19 vaccinations, “including more than 140,000 in just the past 48 hours,” Hogan said.
“We’re now averaging over 57,000 shots per day, which is one of the fastest rates in America,” he said.
As of this week, 75% of state residents age 65 and older have received a shot.
Preregistration is now open for Maryland’s COVID-19 Phase 3 vaccination plan that includes all Marylanders age 16 and older.
“As of today, every single Marylander who wants a COVID-19 vaccine can now preregister for an appointment at a mass vaccination site,” Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday.
Nearly 300,000 Marylanders have preregistered.
Senior centers reopen
Hogan directed MDH and the Maryland Department of Aging to work with local jurisdictions to develop plans for senior centers to safely reopen by the end of April, with public health protocols in place.
“Prior to these safe reopenings, closed-pod vaccination clinics will be held at the senior centers across the state in coordination with local health departments and clinical partners so that we can ensure the return of safe indoor activities at the senior centers,” he said.
116 students quarantined
Allegany County Public Schools reported for the week of March 29 one COVID-19 case in a staff member and three cases in students that were within an ACPS building.
“These individuals will complete the required isolation period before returning to their school buildings,” the school system said via press release.
Close contacts at school were identified in two of the student cases.
“Those identified close contacts will complete a 10-day quarantine before returning to the school building,” the release stated. “Parents were notified through the ACPS Blackboard notification system if there was a positive case in their child’s school building.”
ACPS had five staff members reported as quarantined due to either a close contact with a positive person or symptoms of the virus.
“ACPS had 116 students reported as quarantined this week due to either a close contact with a positive person, or Covid Like Illness,” the release stated.
State, local numbers
MDH on Thursday reported 1,584 new COVID-19 cases, 17 additional deaths and 17 fewer hospitalizations across the state in the past 24 hours.
The statewide daily COVID-19 positivity case rate was 5.51%, with Allegany County at 3.39%, Garrett County at 2.91% and Washington County at 9.28%.
The seven-day moving average COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 by county was 21.14 statewide, 12.17 for Allegany, 6.4 for Garrett and 27.99 for Washington.
Register for vaccine
- Allegany County residents can complete a COVID-19 Vaccine Interest Form at health.maryland.gov/allegany.
- Garrett County residents can complete a COVID-19 Vaccination Interest Form at garretthealth.org, or call 301-334-7698 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for assistance.
- Learn more about Maryland’s mass vaccination sites at COVIDvax.maryland.gov or call the state’s COVID-19 vaccination support center