As I have been warning for the past few weeks, we are entering another pivotal moment in the fight against COVID-19. The Omicron variant, which appears to be many times more transmissible than Delta, is rapidly becoming the dominant variant here in Maryland. Most concerning, hospitalizations in our state have risen more than 180% in the past month, triggering new actions to address the strain on our health care system.
We will continue to constantly monitor this surge and take additional actions as needed. But there are also things that the people of Maryland can do in the difficult weeks ahead.
First, get tested. If you have plans to travel to visit family and loved ones, or host family gatherings and holiday parties, it is important to use caution and common sense. If you are about to travel somewhere or are just getting back, get a test. If you are feeling sick, or think you’re coming down with something—stay home, get tested.
I have directed the Maryland Department of Health to surge all community testing resources across the state through the month of January, and we are mobilizing the Maryland National Guard to provide personnel to help expand testing sites and hours. We are also providing $30 million in additional funding for school systems to purchase more tests through state contracts.
In addition to getting tested, we still need those last remaining Marylanders to get vaccinated. Right now, that remaining 8.8% of unvaccinated Maryland adults is responsible for more than 75% of our COVID-19 hospitalizations, pushing our hospital systems and our health care heroes to the brink. Please do not wait until it is too late or you get too sick. Go out now and get vaccinated.
If you have already been vaccinated, please get your booster shot immediately. No one should think of a booster as just a bonus or an extra dose. And you shouldn’t think that the term ‘fully vaccinated’ means ‘fully protected.’ If you’ve been waiting to get your booster shot, do not wait any longer. The time is now.
This latest surge is cause for concern, and so many of us are undoubtedly feeling deja vu. But I want to urge Marylanders not to panic. This is not March of 2020. We have the tools and resources in place to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. Just as we have withstood these surges before, we will do so again by remaining Maryland Strong.
Have a safe and merry Christmas, and happy holidays.