ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced a long-term plan Thursday to battle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic with a possible case surge looming over the state as the weather gets cooler in the fall.
The “COVIDReady Maryland” plan encourages Marylanders to get vaccinated and receive a booster shot, as well as additional outreach and public awareness, surge preparedness and increased and maximized use of therapeutics.
The state’s “Test to Treat” program has nearly 90 locations, including a site in Baltimore. Those locations allow people to get tested and if eligible, receive medications and vaccines during the same visit.
Several dozen urgent care and ambulatory care locations offering tests and treatment are scheduled to open later this year.
The main goal: Keep people out of the hospital.
“We continue to stand ready to adapt and respond just as we have over these last 2½ years,” Hogan said at the State House in Annapolis. “As the number of cases go up and down, [it’s important] to continue to be smart and to exercise personal responsibility so that together we will continue to be COVID-ready and Maryland strong.”
The state health department reported 1,756 new cases Thursday. With more at-home test kits available, the figures could be higher.
The seven-day positivity rate reported Thursday was 8.9%, the highest it’s been since Jan. 30 at 9.02%.
Health officials said the state remains one of the highest in the nation in terms of vaccinations, which includes children ages 5 to 11 who’ve received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. About 43% received two doses.
In the past three weeks, about 10% of those children in that age group already received a COVID-19 booster shot, said Dr. Jinlene Chan, the state’s deputy health secretary for public health services.
The state continues to prepare for federal agencies to approve vaccines for children 5 and younger, which could happen as soon as June 20. Approximately 358,000 children statewide are in that age group.
Chan offered advice for parents still uneasy about vaccinating their infants and toddlers, such as talking to their child’s health care provider.
She said she’s spoken to some parents who say the vaccine wouldn’t affect young children compared to older adults 65 and older.
“That’s true … but just this year alone we’ve had over 300 kids under 5 who have been hospitalized. That’s not a small thing,” she said. “Hospitalizations are something we want to prevent. Vaccines are still our greatest tool in the fight against COVID-19.”
For more information or to find a testing site, residents can call 1-855-GO-MDVAX (855-634-6829).