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Some Encouraging News On The COVID Front

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Gov. Larry Hogan says Maryland’s COVID numbers are declining.

He announced in a wide-ranging news conference Tuesday the state’s positivity rate dropped by 58% over the last seven weeks to a level of 3.90 and case rates have dropped dramatically as well. He called them the best numbers since October.

The governor also said the state has reached agreements with The University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University to expand genomic sequence testing of COVID-19 variants.

He said the agreements with UM and Hopkins would more than double the state’s ability to do genomic sequencing on the COVID-19 variants that have been detected in Maryland.

“This enhanced capacity will enable us to screen and sequence over 10% of all COVID-19 cases, giving Maryland one of the strongest surveillance programs in America, doing 300% more than the nation as a whole,” he said.

Dr. Jinlene Chan, the acting deputy state health secretary, said the additional testing capacity will help not only with the ongoing response to this pandemic, but with responding to future health problems as well.

“The increase in sequencing will dramatically increase our chances

of identifying these coronavirus variants of concern in all of our communities,” she said. “So, we anticipate that as we do more sequencing, we will identify more cases.”

Hogan also announced that the mass vaccination site that is to open Thursday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore already has booked 10,000 appointments, despite the computer glitches Monday. And he said the state is about to open a fourth site at the stadium of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, a minor league baseball team, in Waldorf.

While the additional sites will help, he said, the lack of vaccine remains a problem throughout the nation.

“The basic problem quite simply is that you cannot schedule an appointment or a vaccine that does not yet exist,” he said. “And unfortunately, all across America, the demand continues to far, far exceed the available supply.”

But there is some good news, Hogan added. Federal officials have told him that the FDA may soon grant emergency use authorization to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine that’s being manufactured at the Emergent Biosolutions plant in East Baltimore.

“We can expect to see allocations of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to the states as early as next week,” he predicted.

Finally, Hogan warned Marylanders of scammers trying to take advantage of confusion over COVID vaccine availability. He said his office has received reports of fraud, including calls to residents from people claiming to represent the state health department and asking for payments and Social Security numbers.

“No one can sell you a vaccine,” he said. “No one can charge you for a vaccine. It is free. No insurance information is required and no social security information is required.”

In addition, the US Attorney for Maryland charged three Baltimore area men last week with setting up a website that mimicked one of a bio-tech company in New England and that offered to sell COVID-19 vaccine to unsuspecting customers.

 

Hogan said Marylanders who may be suspicious can verify information about authorized providers on the state’s website, covidvax.maryland.gov.

 

“And if you see something that doesn’t look right or sound right to you, or if you suspect any type of fraudulent activity, we ask that you immediately report it to law enforcement,” he said.

 

He 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.”

 

 

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