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Schrader Confirmed As Health Secretary

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Joe Andrucyk/Maryland Health Department
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Dennis Schrader, the Secretary of the Maryland Health Department

The vote comes after lengthy debate

The state Senate confirmed Dennis Schrader as Maryland’s health secretary Friday after a lengthy debate in which many senators said they had little choice because there wasn’t enough time left in the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan to find another secretary.

One by one, senators complained that Schrader had failed to respond well to the COVID-19 pandemic, that the vaccine roll out had been chaotic and that minority communities had been left out.

Sarah Elfreth, an Annapolis Democrat, said she had been hearing from constituents about the lack of vaccines.

“This is less a vote of confidence, like so many folks here, and more a vote of hope,” she said. “And I hope he will continue to work with this body. I hope he will continue to seek the counsel of the folks in this room to improve the system for everybody we represent.”

Only two senators voted against Schrader, Mary Washington, a Baltimore Democrat, and Clarence Lam, a Democrat whose district includes Baltimore and Howard counties. Lam recounted problems with the vaccine rollout and said local health officials had told him the state department had been unresponsive to them.

“I am deeply concerned about this nominee,” he said. “I hope that the health department will continue to see progress. But from what I've seen to date, I cannot support this nominee. And I believe that Marylanders deserve better.”

In a statement, Hogan said Schrader has “served the citizens of Maryland well and faithfully during the biggest public health challenge we have ever faced.”