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Maryland Gov. Hogan activates National Guard to assist with vaccine rollout

The Maryland National Guard (Capt. Brendan Cassidy/The Maryland National Guard)

As Maryland embarks on what he called the largest and most important vaccination effort in the history of the nation, Gov. Larry Hogan reactivated the Maryland National Guard on Tuesday to help with the effort to end the coronavirus pandemic.

At an afternoon news conference from the State House, Hogan said the guard will provide logistical and planning support to state health officials, help set up mobile vaccination clinics and quickly respond to potential outbreaks at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

“We are very fortunate to have these elite citizen soldiers and airmen to call on,” Hogan (R) said, noting the guard’s previous help with building hospitals and transporting and delivering critical supplies during the pandemic.

The vaccination effort across Maryland began Monday with front-line health care workers among the first to receive them, and state officials announced Tuesday that all Maryland hospitals and nursing homes will receive their first doses of the vaccine within two weeks.

The news was delivered on a day Maryland surpassed 5,000 deaths due to COVID-19 and set an all-time high for coronavirus hospitalizations with 1,799 statewide, including 411 in intensive care.

Hogan also announced the state will receive a million more coronavirus tests through a partnership between a Korean company, LabGenomics, and the Frederick-based testing company CIAN Diagnostics.

Maryland on Saturday surpassed five million tests administered, and Hogan said that all 500,000 tests previously acquired from LabGenomics were used.

“These LabGenomics tests and these two great companies will continue to save lives and make a difference on the front lines here in our state,” he said.

Maryland’s initial batch of the two-shot vaccine from drug manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna is expected to be 155,000 doses, and it could ramp up to 300,000 by the end of the year.

Dr. Jinlene Chan, the acting deputy secretary for public health at the Maryland Department of Health, said every Maryland hospital will get a portion of the first batch.

Chan said the state health department is in the process of setting up an online dashboard that will indicate the number of vaccines that have been administered by county, age, race and other demographics.

She cautioned that it will likely take months before all Maryland residents are vaccinated. It will take almost a million doses to inoculate front-line health care workers, the staff and residents of nursing homes and all those who are prioritized to receive it in the first phase of the rollout, she said.

Within a matter of weeks, first responders, such as police, firefighters and EMTs, could begin receiving the vaccine, she said. Essential workers, including educators and childcare providers, are in the second phase of the vaccine rollout.

The second shot of the vaccine is supposed to be administered three weeks after the first with the Pfizer vaccine and four weeks later for Moderna’s.

“This is a momentous time for all of us in the course of this pandemic,” Chan said.

The death toll in Maryland due to COVID-19 stands at 5,039 after 61 more were reported Tuesday. That’s the highest number of deaths reported in a single day since May 12.

In Frederick County, the death toll stands at 155 after three were reported Tuesday.

There are now 239,362 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland, an increase of 2,401 from the previous day. New cases have topped 2,000 in every day of December so far.

The Frederick County case count stands at 8,966, which is 146 more than reported Monday.

Hogan said the start of the vaccine rollout represents a turning point in the fight against the virus and a “light at the end of a very long tunnel.”

“I want to ask Marylanders for their patience as we work hard to get the entire state eventually vaccinated,” he said.

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(c) 2020 The Frederick News-Post

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