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Transcript: April 28 Press Conference

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  Good afternoon.

Joining me today from the Maryland Department of Health are Secretary Dennis Schrader and Dr. Jinlene Chan.

Today marks 414 days since we confirmed the first cases of COVID‑19 and declared a state of emergency in Maryland in response to the worst global pandemic in more than a century.

It has been a long and difficult year but that’s to the hard work, the sacrifices and the vigilance of the people in Maryland, each day now brings us closer to the light at the end of this very long tunnel and to a return to normalcy in our everyday lives.

Today Maryland will surpass another milestone with more than 4.5 million vaccines administered.

We have now vaccinated nearly 85% of all Marylanders over the age of 65 and more than 60% of all Marylanders 18 years and older.

Maryland is vaccinating at a faster rate than the nation, faster than most other states.

As a result our state also continues to see significant improvements in our health metrics with the biggest drop in new cases and the lowest transmission rate in the country.

Maryland’s case rate per 100,000 has dropped 33% over the past two weeks.

Our positivity rate has now dropped below 4%, to 3.89%.

From a peak in January of 9.43 and a peak last year of 26.83.

COVID hospitalizations are dropping across all regions of the state and are down 44% from the winter peak just a few months ago.

We continue to conduct COVID surveillance testing at one of the highest rates in the country and sequencing for coronavirus variants at one of the highest rates in the world, allowing us to quickly track, trace, and stop emerging outbreaks.

With these consistent improvements in our health metrics, declines in hospitalizations, positivity rate, transmission rate and our incredibly fast pace of vaccinations, today we are able to take additional actions to continue our health and economic recovery.

Today I’m announcing that effective immediately we are lifting the outside mask mandate.

Masks and face covers are no longer required outdoors in the state of Maryland.

Lifting this emergency order is in line with the new CDC advisory guidance yesterday regarding masking.

And it follows the advice of our team of public health experts as well as the advice of national health leaders including Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield and Dr. Scott Gottleib all agree that the risk of transmission outdoors is very low, especially for those that have been vaccinated.

Although it is no longer a state mandate, if you are not yet vaccinated, public health experts still strongly recommend that you immediately get vaccinated and that until you do, you should continue to be cautious and continue to wear masks, especially when you cannot be physically distanced.

Face covers are still required for Marylanders at all large ticketed venues as well as indoors at all public and private venues across the state and when using public transportation.

Effective this Saturday, May 1st, all restrictions will be lifted for outdoor dining.  Standing service may resume outdoors at bars and restaurants, and all restrictions related to outdoor dining capacity and distancing will be lifted.

For the time being, until more people are vaccinated, seated service and physical distancing requirements will remain in place indoors at bars and restaurants across the state.

And individuals who are not vaccinated should continue to be careful.

As we have stressed from the very beginning, outdoor activity is much safer than inside activity.

And as the weather gets warmer, we’re encouraging Marylanders to move as much of their activity as possible to outdoors.

As our vaccinations continue to expand and our health metrics continue to improve, we expect to be able to take additional actions in the weeks ahead and to a return to a sense of normalcy.

However, I want to stress, once again, that the faster way to put this pandemic behind us once and for all is for every single eligible Marylander to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

As I have been saying for months, that we will hit a point where we are no longer constrained by supply.  And thanks to the 11,400 people working on this massive effort around the clock and all the Marylanders who have been following the public health experts to go out and get vaccinated, we have now reached that point.

And we are now entering the next phase of our vaccination campaign.

To make the vaccine as easily accessible as possible to everyone everywhere, our more than 3,000 points of distribution have now been expanded to 611 pharmacies and over 200 doctor offices.

Our equity task force has completed over 200 admissions and adding dozens of clinics each week, including a clinic opening at Morgan State University on Friday.

We have 12 mass vaccination sites open and operational across the site.

And our 13th and final site at Howard County is opening Friday at the mall in Columbia and is anticipating an opening day rate of 1,000 vaccinations a day.

To make it even easier to get vaccinated, beginning Saturday May 1st, we are transitioning to direct scheduling for all the mass vaccination sites.

At the end of the day tomorrow, we will no longer require any preregistration.

By the end of the day Friday, everyone that has been in our system as a preregistrant will have been contacted for an appointment.

As of Saturday, all Marylanders can visit or calling the multilingual support center at 1‑855‑MDGOVAX.

If you prefer you would avoid the appointment process altogether, it is now possible to walk up or drive through at nine of our mass vaccination sites.

You’ll be able to immediately get vaccinated without an appointment.

If you require additional assistance in getting vaccinated, especially if you are homebound or need transportation through our No Arm Left Behind initiative, you can contact our call center, provide your information, and we will directly connect you with a vaccinator.

We are reserving large blocks of university students and major employers across the state.

All college students in Maryland are encouraged to begin the vaccination process immediately here in Maryland, even if you may end up getting your second shot in your home state.

If you have already been vaccinated, thank you for doing your part.

And please encourage your friends and family to immediately get vaccinated as well.

If you have been on the fence or have been waiting to get vaccinated, now is the perfect time to finally go out and get your shot.

These vaccines are safe.

They’re clearly effective.

And they’re widely available everywhere across our state.

If you’re an individual who does not intend to get vaccinated, we want to make sure that you understand that you are still in danger of hospitalization and death.

Unvaccinated people, including younger people, are continuing to be hospitalized.

Without a vaccine ‑‑ with a vaccine, you are much safer now.

But without a vaccine, you continue to be at risk.

After all we’ve been through over the last year, I know that Marylanders are very eager to return to normal.

I know that I am.

But please remember that we’re all truly in this together and if we can pull together just a little while longer, together we will bring this pandemic to an end.

With that, we’d be happy to take some questions.

(speaker off microphone.)

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  The state law always has given local governments the ability to have stricter state requirements ‑‑ they can’t ignore state requirements, but they can be stricter.

This is the advice of the CDC.

(speaker off microphone)

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  I know vaccinated people can take off their mask, unvaccinated can’t.

We are advising they are ‑‑ you have had plenty of time to get a vaccine.

You can get one everywhere.

You can no longer to be held back because of those that are refusing to.

(speaker off microphone.)

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  It’s our opinion and it’s the opinion of the federal government that they should be able to take off their masks outside.

SPEAKER:  Governor, you talked about the fact there will be less restrictions.

What’s the combination of benchmarks you are looking for to be able to get back to something like prepandemic?

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  We have had weeks of great metrics, and they continue to decline.

We want to continue to see that for a couple of more weeks.

Thanks to the great work of all the folks that have been working with the vaccine effort, we made tremendous progress there.

But we still got folks who need to get vaccinated.

I think we continue to get more people vaccinated.

We continue to see the numbers go down, we will be getting a lot closer.

SPEAKER:  What will it look like July 4th?

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  Hopefully not like last July 4th but the one before.

(Speaker off microphone.)

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  If you are together with a group that is all vaccinated, there’s very little to no risk, especially if you are outside.

But unfortunately not everybody is.

So you have to be really careful if you’re going to be in large groups.

The folks that are not vaccinated are still at risk.

SPEAKER:  Governor, are we at the point where the supply is too much?

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  I said we would get to the point where the demand is sort of matching the supply.

But very soon ‑‑ I mean, we’re starting to get to the point where we’ve been talking about this since January, that originally we had huge demand, no supply.

The supply started to catch up.

We built the infrastructure.

And we’ve been cranking 4 1/2 million shots.

And now that when you hit 85% of people over 65, we’re running out of people.

We’re trying to find them, where they are.

They’re not going to mass vax sites.

When we are at 60% of the entire adult population, we’re more than halfway there.

So there’s going to be less and less people.

And we’re doing more pulling in rather than just pushing it out.

We’re going to continue to do that until we can get every single person who wants one gets one.

But there’s no question.

That’s why we’re able to now not have preregistration.

We didn’t have enough vaccines to schedule appointments.

We had to preregister so when a vaccine became available, you could then schedule an appointment.

Now we have plenty.

We’re opening up no appointment necessary lines.

And we’re opening up more points of distribution.

It’s a lot easier now to get one from your doctor or your pharmacy.

There’s less demand on the mass vax site.

We’re still getting quite a bit of traffic through them.

We will continue to keep those open for a while.

We’re probably going to ‑‑ we’re not going to have to them every day of the week or the same hours.

We will gradually wind them down until they are no longer needed.

(speaker off microphone.)

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  I don’t really have a reaction to that.

I know the state Board of Education voted unanimously yesterday to require 180 days of in‑person instruction.

They’re going to have to follow that.

(speaker off microphone.)

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  That’s a great question.

I don’t know if you want to talk about Pfizer and the time line.

I know we had a discussion.

Do you want to ‑‑ I think it’s toward the end of June.

SPEAKER:  Yes, sir.

We’re tracking on it.

We’re planning for its eventuality.

But probably the end of January.

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  It will be a tremendous effort when we get the 12 to 15‑year‑olds.

Pfizer is a little bit more difficult to work with because it requires a deep freeze and you have to have a thousand doses.

That’s the only one that’s submitted for the younger kids.

It could be any time.

I think people thought by the end of June it will help.

(speaker off microphone.)

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  Well, we have ‑‑ again, we’re not experiencing the same problem as they are in most parts of the country.

We have one of the best vaccination rates.

We never anticipated we could possibly get to 85% which is where we are on the 65 +.

We’re already at where people thought was the peak.

All the national polls said maybe 60% wanted to get vaccinated.

We are already done with 60%.

We still have a lot more to do.

We have been working on vaccine hesitancy since last December.

We’ve been running commercials targeted at different groups and community leaders.

We continue to ‑‑ the Biden administration followed us with a similar kind of federal program.

But we’ve been running nonstop television commercials and print ads and online trying to convince people.

And we’re still telling those folks there’s some reluctance, not nearly what it is in the rest of the country but we still have a few groups, pockets of folks and a number of different communities.

We’re trying to do everything we can to convince them.

They will not be safe until they get vaccinated.

(speaker off microphone.)

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  I would like to get them done as soon as possible.

I know the small business owners have been struggling for quite a while.

We want to make sure we’re safe.

We just have a little more work to do.

We’re kind of cleaning up.

But right now we still do have these variants, which are, you know, virulent.

And we are still seeing some younger folks going into hospitals.

It’s just not as safe inside as it is outside.

So we’re going to continue to take a look at it.

My desire would be to get everything back to normal as soon as we can get everybody done with vaccines.

SPEAKER:  Do you know why that site was picked?

Do you plan to be there tomorrow?

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  I do plan to be there.

We look forward to welcoming the vice president to the M&T Stadium tomorrow.

It was picked because it’s a perfect example of a very well-run vaccination center that we are very proud of.

It is part of our equity effort of Baltimore City and we are cranking out lots of vaccines there.

I don’t know that there’s a better one in the country.

We will be proud to show it off to her.

Thank you.