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As more vaccine doses arrive, infection rate going up, too

"Somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-75 days, theoretically, every adult that ... wants a first dose could get a first dose," says Senate President Bill Ferguson, shown in a 2020 interview. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

“Somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-75 days, theoretically, every adult that … wants a first dose could get a first dose,” says Senate President Bill Ferguson, shown in a 2020 interview. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Maryland is expecting more than 450,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine as soon as next week as part of an increase in shipment to states from the federal government.

State officials are expecting larger shipments at the very same time Maryland and other states are experiencing increased cases and hospitalizations. Acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader told members of the Senate Vaccination Oversight Work Group Monday that by May the number of doses arriving weekly could approach 560,000.

“These are the projections based on discussions with the federal government of what they’re going to give us,” said Schrader. “We’ve been building the capacity between all our channels, we’re very confident that we’re going to use all of it.”

Schrader said he believes that the state through its increasing network of mass vaccination sites around the state as well as partnerships with pharmacies and local health departments can administer 50,000 doses per day.

Currently, nearly 1.7 million people have received a first dose in Maryland. Schrader said the goal is to get to roughly 4.8 million of the state’s roughly 6 million people.

“Somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-75 days, theoretically, every adult that … wants a first dose could get a first dose,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson.

Schrader agreed but acknowledged access and transportation could continue to be an issue.

“We’re going to be very aggressive about it,” said Schrader, in his last meeting with the work group before he was scheduled Monday evening to appear before the Senate Executive Nominations Committee.

Ferguson pinned Schrader’s confirmation chances on how well the state administers its vaccination program. A rocky start and concerns about inequitable access for minority communities led Ferguson earlier this month to declare Schrader’s confirmation in jeopardy.

Speaking to reporters last week, the Senate leader said he believed the situation was improving and promised the acting secretary would get a vote before the General Assembly ends in April.

Despite the increase in vaccines, Sen. Clarence Lam, D-Howard and Baltimore counties, raised concerns about rising cases, positivity rates, and hospitalizations. Hogan in early March announced an easing of restrictions though he kept in place requirements for social distancing and masks.

“I’m concerned that we’re reopening faster than we can vaccinate,” said Lam.

Monday marked the sixth straight day of 1,000 or more new cases, a number not seen since Jan. 27-Feb. 1.

Just days after Hogan’s announcement, the state hit a recent low in its rolling seven-day number of average cases per day at 757. As of Monday that average climbed back to 1,195 per day. Total hospitalizations are now back about 1,000. The state positivity rate, cases per 100,000 population, and ICU patients have also increased.

Schrader declined to specify what might trigger a tightening of restrictions.

“It’s been fairly flat in terms of its growth,” said Schrader. “We don’t want to overreact. We’re monitoring it very carefully but it’s generally been the younger population that has been getting sick.”

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lamented the growing cases nationally and what she called a “recurring feeling that I have of impending doom.”

Walensky noted the similarities between the current trajectory of cases in the United States and what happened in several European countries earlier this month. She called for a recommitment to sound public health practices.

“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope, but right now I’m scared,” she said during a White House COVID-19 briefing Monday.

 

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