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Hogan Announces New State Employee Vaccine Rules

Gov. Larry Hogan
Gov. Larry Hogan

Gov. Larry Hogan, citing the highly infectious Delta variant, announced Thursday that state employees who work in “congregate settings” would be required to be vaccinated by September first or wear face coverings and submit to regular COVID testing.

But he stopped short of reinstating mask mandates.

Hogan warned that the Delta variant is “without question far more serious than the original COVID-19” and vastly more contagious.

“The Delta variant is spreading like wildfire in areas with lower vaccination rates,” he said at an afternoon news conference. “In Maryland, our very high vaccination rate is helping us contain the fire.”

Because of that, he said, employees who work in “congregate settings” would be required to be vaccinated by September first or wear face coverings and submit to regular COVID testing.

The order covers 48 state facilities in the departments of health, juvenile services, public safety and corrections and veterans’ affairs.

“These actions are being taken to further protect our most vulnerable citizens,” he said. “The state will lead by example with our own employees who are working in congregate facilities.”

Hogan warned that anyone who tried to provide false proof of vaccination would be “subject to disciplinary action.”

He urged the private operators of Maryland’s 227 nursing homes to follow the state's example.

"While our data does not show infections among nursing home residents increasing, we are seeing an uptick in unvaccinated staff member infections," he said. It was "a consistent source of the earlier outbreaks among nursing home residents, which resulted in so many deaths."

Hogan touted Maryland's vaccination statistics, which outstrip national figures..

"We're already heading toward 80% with 77.9% of adults now vaccinated," he said. "And we've vaccinated 93.4% of all Maryland seniors."

The Governor said the most effective way to stem the disease is to get people vaccinated.

"At this time. masked mandates or shutdowns will not be able to eradicate the threat of the virus, or this delta variant."

Hogan acknowledged, however, that the state health department strongly recommends that those who have not been vaccinated wear face coverings and maintain physical distancing. Businesses and other workplaces in the state could set their own policies, he said.

Stuart Katzenberg, of AFSCME Council 3, the state’s largest employee union, said they look forward to negotiations on the subject.

“We think vaccinations are one component of a plan,” he said. “As the variant’s breaking through there must be a holistic approach.”

Dr. Jinlene Chan, Maryland’s deputy health secretary, said researchers in state and private health labs have learned more about the Delta variant.

“Some of the new studies suggest that people infected with the Delta variant actually have a higher viral load and so they can shed more virus,” she said. “In addition they may be able to shed for a longer period of time, so they're contagious for a longer period of time.”

And she pleaded for people to get vaccinated.

“Please go to covidvax dot maryland dot gov to find a vaccination site and make yourself an appointment.”

Hogan, citing stories of people who have contracted COVID, begged for the vaccine and were told it was too late, reprised a theme he used earlier in the pandemic, but with a variation.

“We do not want any Marylanders or any more Americans to become one of these preventable stories,” he said. “So please, just get the damn vaccine.”

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.