ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Governor Larry Hogan on Thursday issued an executive order requiring vaccines for employees at four state agencies.
The order is effective September 1 and impacts 48 facilities associated with the State Departments of Health, Juvenile Services , Veterans Affairs, and Public Saftey & Corrections.
Those unable to show proof of vaccination by the deadline will be subjected to strict mask requirements and regular COVID-19 testing.
Despite his order only covering state owned facilities, Hogan urged the 227 other privately run nursing homes in Maryland to institute similar requirements, due to an uptick in infections among unvaccinated staff, which contributed to earlier outbreaks that severely impacted residents.
Although Maryland currently has the fourth lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in the nation, cases are continuing to creep up thanks in large part to the highly contagious Delta Variant.
The Delta Variant is said to be two to four times more contagious than the original strand of the virus. In Maryland it accounts for nearly 100 percent of newly sequenced cases.
To date, state health officials have identified only 3,836 confirmed COVID-19 cases (0.12%) among fully vaccinated Maryland residents.
Of those, less than 0.01 percent have been hospitalized and less than 0.001 percent have died, meaning the overwhelming majority who've been hospitalized or died from the virus have been unvaccinated.
"Those of you who refuse to get vaccinated at this point are willfully and unnecessarily putting yourself and others at risk of hospitalization and death," said Hogan. "You are the ones threatening the freedoms of all the rest of us, the freedoms not to wear masks, to keep our businesses open, and to get our kids back in school."
As of Thursday, 77.9 percent of Maryland adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine including 93.4 percent of seniors.
Hospitalizations continue to be down 83 percent from their peak with deaths having decreased by 94 percent.
Hogan reiterated he has no immediate plans to reimpose statewide mask mandates or other COVID-19 related restrictions.
"Mask mandates or shutdowns will not be able to eradicate the threat of the virus or this delta variant," said Hogan.
Local jurisdictions, privately owned childcare facilities, youth camps, and public school systems still can if they choose.
That was the case in Baltimore City. Just minutes before Hogan's press conference began, Mayor Brandon Scott reinstated an indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status, effective August 9 at 9am.
"The Delta variant is here, and it poses a serious threat to our unvaccinated residents,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa. “I’m speaking to you not just as the Health Commissioner but as a mother of a child that is too young to be vaccinated."
Baltimore joins Laurel as the first two cities in Maryland to reimpose such restrictions, although several public school districts, universities, retailers, and hospitals already have.
Laurel's mandate goes into effect at 8am on August 6.