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Transcript: COVID-19 Update – January 13, 2022

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I’m pleased to be joined here today by Brigadier General Janeen Birckhead of the Maryland National Guard and William Huffner, Chief Medical Officer, and the Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs at UM Shore Regional Health.

We are here at one of our hospital-based testing sites which is under construction in order to meet the demand for testing and urging people to not attend the hospitals just to get a Covid-19 test.  Last week we announced 10 new testing sites and 8 of those are operational and the remaining 2 sites will open tomorrow.  In addition to this site today I’m pleased to announce five more hospital-based testing sites including Tidal Health, Garrett Regional Medical Center, Holy Cross Germantown Hospital, in Montgomery County, Howard County General Hospital, and Baltimore Washington Medical Center.  Our team expects all sites to be opened by the end of next week.  All six of these new locations will be open seven days a week and they’re going to help us keep our already strained emergency rooms and hospitals from getting overrun with people who are just trying to get a test.

Maryland has now completed more than 17 million Covid-19 tests.  We’re administering an average of 63,000 tests every single day which is one of the highest testing rates in America.  Now as we continue to ramp-up testing across the state, we are redoubling our efforts to protect our most vulnerable residents who live in nursing homes.  Nearly 70 percent of Maryland nursing homes are now currently reporting positive Covid-19 cases among residents and staff.  While we want people to continue to be able to visit loved ones we will do everything in our power to ensure that they can do so safely.  The Maryland Department of Health is issuing an order today which requires all staff, volunteers and vendors who are regularly in the facility regardless of their vaccination status to be tested twice a week, whenever community transmission is high.

In addition all visitors will need to provide proof of a negative test or to be tested at the facility with a rapid test prior to entering.  This order will go into effect next week and we will be working closely with nursing homes across the state to make sure all necessary testing resources are available to them free of charge.  In addition, over the next few days the Maryland National Guard will begin distributing courses of Remdesivir which is effective against the Omicron variant.  From day one of this crisis we have taken unprecedented actions to bring our entire Public Health Arsenal to bare against this virus, this includes distributing hundreds of millions of gowns, masks and other PPE.  Those efforts are continuing as we battle the current surgery of the Omicron variant.  We know that it is four to five times more transmissible than Delta.  It is now the dominant strain in Maryland.  According to our newest data more than 995%.  Avoiding crowds, keeping your distance, washing hands, and wearing masks or face covering when appropriate.  Fortunately Marylanders have followed the Public Health guidance, more than in most other cases.  We continue to be one of the most vaccinated states in America.  We have now administered over 10.6 million Covid-19 vaccines and 92.9 percent of all Maryland adults have been vaccinated and without any state mandate we are ranked more than 45 other states for the percentage of people wearing masks.  Next to getting vaccinated and getting a booster shop wearing a mask is one of the most effective protections we have.  And wearing an N95 and Kn95 masks is important and we want to make it easier for you to have that extra layer of protection so the Maryland National Guard will begin distributing 20 million N95 and Kn95 masks across the state at no costs through multiple channels.  Beginning next week N95 and Kn95 masks will be made available free of charge through local health departments and at all state-run testing sites.  The vaccine task force led by Brigadier General Janeen Birckhead will partner with community organizations including the NAACP to distribute N95 and Kn95 masks into the community.  Masks will also be distributed to nursing homes across the state and to All State agencies for their employees.

We will keep taking actions to address this problem and we are, again, urging Marylanders to remain vigilant so we can continue leading the nation with our economic health and recovery.  At this time I will turn the podium over to Brigadier General Janeen Birckhead to get vaccines and tests out to hard-to-reach communities.