Due to the Delta variant spreading rapidly both nationally and in certain parts of Maryland, state employees who work with “vulnerable” populations will soon be required to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus or face a bevy of health-related workplace restrictions, Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday.
“After consulting with our team of public health experts and consistent with our science-driven and data-based approach, today we are instituting new vaccination requirements for state employees who work in congregate settings dealing with our most vulnerable citizens,” Hogan said at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis.
The governor added: “This includes state employees in 48 different facilities, including health care facilities of the Maryland Department of Health, and facilities of the Department of Juvenile Services, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
The state employees who work for those agencies will be required to show proof that they are vaccinated or else they will be required to wear masks and submit to routine COVID testing, Hogan said.
The new rules will go into effect on September 1, the date by which proof of having had at least one dose of the vaccine must be demonstrated, Hogan said.
The submission of “false proof” of vaccination will be met with “disciplinary action,” Hogan said.
Hogan urged the owners of the state’s more than 200 nursing homes to institute similar vaccine requirements for their employees.
Hogan noted that while the Delta variant is wreaking havoc in many states, particularly Texas, Florida, and Louisiana, Maryland is weathering the storm pretty well because the state’s high vaccination rates are keeping hospitalization rates at a manageable level.
For example Howard County continues to lead Maryland in vaccinations with more than 80% of its residents fully vaccinated, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
And the state is not currently considering imposing any new COVID-related restrictions, Hogan said.
“The state is not imposing any new restrictions or mandates at this time. Mask-mandates or shutdowns will not be able to eradicate the threat of the virus or this Delta variant. The purpose of those mitigation measures last year, when there was no vaccine or any kind or widespread testing or PPE, was to save lives and keep hospitals from overflowing.”
Several school districts, including that of Howard and Frederick counties, have announced that they will require students and staff to wear masks for all indoor activities for the upcoming semester. Baltimore City just this afternoon announced that next week it will reinstate mask-wearing requirements for all indoor venues.
Hogan implored Marylanders who have not yet gotten vaccinated to do so immediately.
“Just get the damn vaccine!”
There are 471,334 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Thursday morning, according to the Department of Health, and 9,622 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is 3.64%, which is within CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted nearly 11.4 million COVID-19 tests.
About 78% of the people in Maryland have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 55% of the people in the state have received both doses of the vaccine. And Baltimore City will
Nationally, Maryland ranks No. 6 among states with the highest percentage of fully vaccinated residents, according to the CDC.