Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday that all residents age 16 and older can receive a coronavirus vaccine at any of the state’s mass vaccination sites starting Tuesday.
Mr. Hogan also said that all vaccination providers, public and private, must make all adult residents vaccine-eligible by April 12 as the state enters Phase 3 of its vaccination rollout plan.
“Appointments for any remaining individuals in Phase 1 or Phase 2 will continue to be prioritized,” the Republican governor said. “And Marylanders 16 or 17 years of age will only be able to utilize clinics that are providing the Pfizer vaccine, as it is only one that is currently approved by the [Food and Drug Administration] for ages 16 and over.”
Phase 1 includes residents 65 years old and older and those who reside in an assisted living facility, health care providers, first responders and essential workers. Phase 2 includes residents who are 55 or older and those who are 16 or older with an underlying medical condition.
The announcement comes as Mr. Hogan is facing scrutiny and criticism from Democratic lawmakers over a recent audit that shows he did not follow protocol when he used state funds to buy $9.46 million worth of faulty COVID-19 tests from a South Korean company last April.
A report released last week by the state Office of Legislative Audits found that the governor’s Korea-born wife, Yumi Hogan, helped him in the purchase of 500,000 tests from LabGenomics. The purchase did not follow state procurement regulations, and the tests were defective, requiring the state to spend an additional $2.5 million for replacements.
Asked about the audit, Mr. Hogan downplayed it as “complete nonsense.”
“The report was partisan nonsense,” he said. “We used every single one of the 500,000 kits, and I wouldn’t change a single thing. I don’t really care what those legislators have to say.”
Meanwhile, COVID-19-related hospitalizations and cases have been on the rise statewide since Mr. Hogan expanded capacity limits to 50% for commercial businesses roughly three weeks ago.
Hospitalizations have more than doubled since the restriction rollback on March 12, rising from 765 to 1,165 as of Monday. The seven-day daily case positivity rate also has increased, from 3.73% to 5.79% during the same period.
Health officials recorded 1,669 new cases on Sunday, the highest number since January.
A reporter asked Mr. Hogan about the uptick in hospitalizations.
“Almost none of it has to do with restaurants and bars, although there’s breathless coverage about ‘we shouldn’t have opened anything,’” he said. “But most of it is still family gatherings, and working outside the home — mostly in offices — and travel.”
Asked how other states’ coronavirus metrics affect his reopening decisions, Mr. Hogan said the metrics “do not appear to have anything to do openings.”
He pointed to the high case rates in New York, which he said “has got most things closed,” and Florida, which has “got everything open.”
“We’re less than the national average, we’re less than the regional average, we’re better than all the states to the north, but it’s not great, I mean, [ours are] not going down the way it was,” he said.
In the District, Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday she expects to ease capacity limits for events and businesses on May 1, as long as coronavirus health metrics remain at a safe level.
“We know that we can expect to see some increases in cases this month, but with vaccination and continued safeguards, we expect that later into the spring that those cases will come down,” the mayor said during a press conference.
Weddings, special events, regional business meetings and seated conventions will be able to operate at 25% capacity on May 1, she said. A city-issued waiver, however, will be required for events with more than 250 people.
Indoor and outdoor public pools will be able to reopen at 50% capacity, and outdoor splash pads can operate without a capacity limit. Outdoor sports races can also resume at 50% capacity.
Seated live entertainment venues will be allowed to operate at 25% capacity, with a maximum capacity of 500 people. Live music will be permitted “near” outdoor restaurant seating.
Movie theaters will also be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity. Additionally, indoor recreation centers and libraries will be able to operate at 50% capacity.
Museums, galleries, exhibits, and nonessential retail businesses will be permitted to operate at 50% capacity indoors and outdoors.
School graduation and award ceremonies also will be permitted, and the mayor said further guidance on these activities will be provided next week.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.