April 2, 2022
This week, my Aunt told me about her neighbor in Bethesda who recently lost her life to COVID. It was a distressing reminder that we are not out of the woods. As much as we want to get back to the way things were, we can’t just yet. Please continue to wear your masks and keep physical distance. Cases are on the rise, and we are in a race against the variants to vaccinate the population.
Today, Maryland has vaccinated 29.5% of the population with at least one shot and 16.6% are fully vaccinated. In Montgomery County, we are ahead of the state average, having fully vaccinated 18.3% (33.4% with at least one shot). Statewide, 75% of the population over age 65 has been vaccinated.
Yesterday Governor Hogan opened up pre-registration at state vaccination sites to all ages. To pre-register, click HERE or call 1-855-634-6829. In the coming days, there will most likely be an announcement moving up the eligibility dates for ages 16-55.
Montgomery County also opened up pre-registration for everyone 16 and older. To sign up with the County for a vaccine appointment, click HERE.
Case Rates Up Nationally and At Home
COVID cases in Maryland are up 50% since March 3. These new cases are largely among younger people, with the highest increases in the Baltimore area. However, Montgomery County has also seen increases, with 127 new cases reported Thursday. After five days straight with no COVID deaths earlier this week, Montgomery County sadly reported four deaths each on Wednesday and Thursday. Please note that while 75% of people over 65 are vaccinated, that means a full 25% of vulnerable seniors are not yet vaccinated. That number is even higher among people with pre-existing conditions under age 65. So please, mask up and use precautions to reduce the spread.
Spring Break Travel
The CDC announced today that fully vaccinated people have the green light to travel. However, please be cautious if you are traveling over Spring Break or Easter weekend to areas with higher COVID transmission rates. State guidance recommends if you do travel, please get tested upon your return.
No Co-Pays on Monoclonal Antibody Therapy Coverage
Last week the Maryland Insurance Administration required health insurance carriers to waive all cost-sharing (including copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles) for the administration of monoclonal antibody therapies, including Bamlanivimab and the combination of Casirivimab and Imdevimab. The FDA issued an emergency use authorization for these therapies for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adult and pediatric patients who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19. Monoclonal antibody treatment is recommended by the National Institutes of Health after a study found the treatment resulted in a 70% reduction of hospitalization or death. In Maryland, 5,149 patients have already received this treatment (leading to an estimated 99 avoided deaths and 242 avoided hospitalizations).
Schrader Nomination Moving Forward
The Senate Executive Nominations Committee voted 17 -1 with one abstention to recommend confirmation of Acting Secretary Dennis Schrader to lead the Maryland Department of Health.
April and May Expectations
As usual, the springtime will be much better than the winter. Our doses from the Federal government have been significantly increased. Our distribution networks have been expanded. Over the past seven days, Maryland administered an average of 59,115 shots a day. This morning, the FDA approved changes to Moderna's vaccine that will allow more doses to be pulled from each vial and also authorized the use of a different vial that can provide 15 doses each. These changes and the increase in supply promised by the Federal government bode well for an expected accelerated vaccination timeline, with everyone eligible by April 27, but likely sooner.
If you are already vaccinated, see what you can do to help a friend or neighbor. Here’s a link to my VACCINE RESOURCE PAGE. Many people still find this process daunting and overwhelming, so if you can, please lend a hand, offer to help find an appointment, or offer a (masked up) ride to a vaccination site.
Believe it or not, within a few months we will reach a tipping point statewide where we have more vaccine than demand, and we will have to increase our efforts at outreach and education. We are already seeing this phenomenon in certain parts of the state.
Volunteers are needed to staff in-person vaccine outreach events in vulnerable communities to distribute fliers, answer questions and help with pre-registration efforts. Volunteers with language skills are especially needed. The events will follow COVID safety protocols. There are also opportunities to volunteer with food distribution, join the medical volunteer corps, and volunteer virtually. For more information, visit the Montgomery County Volunteer Center website.
Additional Mass Vaccination Sites
Soon we will have 12 state mass vaccination sites, and one mass vax site run directly by the federal government. The Montgomery College Germantown site opened this week and will switch to state doses next week. The County and State are still in negotiations about what percentage of doses will be reserved for County residents. It will be somewhere between 7%-25% of doses.
On April 7, a FEMA-operated site will open at the Greenbelt Metro Station. This site expects to vaccinate up to 3,000 people a day from targeted zip codes in Maryland, DC, and Virginia.
Week of April 5 - Timonium Fairgrounds becomes a state site
Week of April 12 - Frederick Community College & the Navy Stadium in Annapolis
Week of April 19 - Ripkin Stadium in Harford County
Week of April 26 - Columbia Mall in Howard County
Anyone 16+ can pre-register for appointments at the state-run mass vaccination sites. Here is my RESOURCE LIST for links to these and other vaccination opportunities at the County Health Department, local hospitals, and pharmacies.
Equity in Access
Last week I shared my concerns about the wide disparities in vaccination rates across the state that roughly align with property values (the vaccination rate varied from 3.9% to 29% fully vaccinated). This week the state announced more strategies aimed at closing these gaps.
Every county in Maryland will be required to submit to the state a local equity plan by April 5th. (Montgomery County led the state with their equity plan). In addition, FEMA trailers arrived in Maryland this week and will be deployed into targeted communities with vulnerable populations and low vaccination rates. The State and the County will also begin workplace vaccination programs at targeted workplaces and sectors where virus spread is likely.
(No Appointment, No Problem)
Today, the Salisbury state site will open a no-appointment/walk-in line. More no-appointment lines will be opening soon at other state sites. Pre-registration and scheduling appointments are still recommended, but this is a handy alternative if you have time to wait in line.
The Governor is ordering Senior Centers open. Before they open they will hold vaccination clinics to ensure maximum safety for our seniors participating in programming.
Vaccine Appointments for the Homebound
The phone number to call to set up a vaccine appointment if you or your loved one is homebound is 240.777.2982
With Pfizer’s announcement this week of successful trials in older children, everyone is asking, “what about the kids?” As of today, children 16 and older are eligible for Pfizer shots. Sometime in late spring or summer eligibility may open up for 12-15-year-olds. I’m awaiting this eagerly for my fourteen-year-old son. Younger children will likely be eligible in the fall or winter after safety trials are completed. The federal government has issued an order allowing children to receive vaccinations at pharmacies and clinics, as well as through their primary care providers. When vaccines become available, all of these avenues will be available to parents who choose to vaccinate their children.
Happy Passover, Easter, Spring Break, or whatever you celebrate!