The state will soon require all of its nursing home and hospital staff to show proof of vaccination against the novel coronavirus or alternatively face routine testing, Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday.
Said employees will need to receive their first shot by Sept. 1.
“The Maryland Department of Health is immediately instituting new vaccination protocols for all of the employees at our 227 nursing homes across the state,” Hogan said at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis. “Every nursing home employee will be required to show proof of vaccination. If they are unable to they will be required to submit to regular ongoing Covid screening and testing.”
The governor added: “We will be redoubling our enforcement actions for nursing homes that do not comply with state health department protocols and/or which persistently fail to report their vaccination data.”
Penalties for non-compliance include the doubling of fines and increased civil enforcement actions, Hogan said.
While most of the state’s nursing homes have successfully implemented vaccine mandates for their staff, some have not and that that is simply “unacceptable,” Hogan said.
The same is true for vaccination mandates for hospital staff, with the state’s major medical systems having taken the lead and some of the smaller medical systems still lagging behind, Hogan noted.
“Not every hospital has taken action. And some continue to have far too many unvaccinated health care workers, needlessly exposing their vulnerable patients in hospitals to COVID-19 and the Delta variant. Eight full months after vaccines have been available to health care workers, this is simply not acceptable.”
In preparation for the anticipated September rollout of COVID-19 booster shots, which the CDC recommends for all people who are fully vaccinated eight months after they have received their second dose-the state has set up a pilot program to better assess immunity levels, Hogan said.
“We launched a new antibody testing program for nursing home residents all across the state in order to ascertain their current levels of immunity. This pilot program includes 500 residents of nursing homes from across Maryland. And it will provide us with critical data for booster shots.”
Hogan emphasized that he believes the booster shots should be made available now for use in elderly and immunocompromised patients and said his administration will continue to push the federal government for a more speedy rollout.
There are 482,581 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Wednesday morning, according to the Department of Health, and 9,686 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is 4.92%, which barely falls within CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted nearly 11.7 million COVID-19 tests.
About 80% of the people in Maryland have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 56% of the people in the state have received both doses of the vaccine.
Nationally, about 52% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, which makes Maryland the sixth most vaccinated state.