Governor Larry Hogan held a press conference on July 22, 2020, at 5 p.m. in the State House. The focus of the press conference was Maryland’s COVID-19 response and Maryland’s school plans for the fall. He was joined at the press conference by Dr. Karen Salmon, State Superintendent of Schools and Fran Phillips, Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services at the Maryland Department of Health.
- The Governor said 139 days ago Maryland confirmed the first cases of COVID-19 in the State. It has been 125 days since the first death in Maryland from COVID-19. The peak of pandemic in Maryland was April 17. It has been 68 days since Maryland lifted the stay at home order and 49 days since Maryland entered stage 2.
- Maryland’s COVID-19 metrics remain low and stable. However, states in the region and around the nation have seen troubling spikes in COVID-19. As an example, Arizona’s testing positivity rate is 24%. The national positivity rate has nearly doubled over last six weeks. Maryland’s positivity rate is down to 4.49%, a decline of 83% of the April 17 peak.
- Maryland has seen dramatic improvements in positivity rate in most large jurisdictions in State. Baltimore County is 5.7%, Baltimore City is 6.3%, Montgomery County is 3.3%, Prince George’s is 5.8%, and Howard County is 4.0%.
- The Governor said Maryland has a cautious and data-driven approach. However, the Governor said there are concerning signs. Positivity rate among Marylanders 35 and under is rising. It peaked on May 5, but has not dropped as fast as other age groups and recently has experience a slight uptick. Positivity rates for those 35 and over peaked on April 17. The gap between younger and older Marylanders is as big as it has ever been, said the Governor.
- The Governor is concerned that there is a slight uptick in hospitalizations. There are 505 total hospitalizations today, which is an increase. The peak was 711 on April 30. Younger patients are part of this slight uptick. The number of Marylanders in ICU is steady. There are 137 ICU beds, a 178% drop from peak. Maryland remains prepared for future spike in hospitalizations.
- The Governor said as Maryland tests more, the gross number of cases increases. Maryland surpassed one million tests today. There are roughly 20,000 or more a day currently. 20 of 24 jurisdictions have met goal of testing at least 10% of their populations.
- He is concerned about shortages and delays in testing that many states are experiencing. Concerned that the Trump Administration in Washington, D.C., is seeking to cut funding for testing. Today the Governor led his 46th call with fellow governors (Governor Hogan is head of the National Governors Association) on the need for Congress to act quickly on federal relief for states. A bipartisan NGA statement urged the U.S. Senate to include state stabilization funding in next COVID relief legislation.
- The spike nationwide has increased demand of testing facilities. There are 220 testing sites statewide in Maryland, but some testing sites are seeing delays in results of up to 10 days.
- Maryland, however, has contingency plan, according to the Governor. 89 days ago Governor Hogan announced that Maryland acquired test kits from a South Korea company and this continues to be the centerpiece of testing strategy. Also, last month, Maryland’s signature State lab at the University of Maryland Baltimore was created and it is ready to do in-house testing. Maryland is able to turn around results for these South Korean-acquired tests in 24-48 hours. This supply will carry Maryland through end of November. However because of nationwide outbreak it may require Maryland to utilize the stockpile twice as fast. Maryland will be able to acquire more Lab Genomics tests (South Korean company), however.
- Testing and contact tracing are keys to defeating this virus. Maryland contact tracers are contacting COVID-positive people and have been successful in reaching 75% of cases. Some Marylanders, however, are not answering the phone or refusing to cooperate in contact tracing efforts. The Governor pleaded that all cooperate in these efforts.
- Maryland is closely monitoring regional spikes and continues to advise Marylanders to refrain from traveling to areas of rising positivity. Anyone who does travel to another state with a spike should self-quarantine and get tested.
- Governor Hogan said this crises is not over and said Marylanders are still safer at home. He is still advising Marylanders to work from home, limit yourself to outside activities, stay six feet apart, avoid public transportation, wear masks and avoid larger gatherings.
- Maryland’s economy is open, recovering, and performing better than many states. The Governor said at the Board of Public Works meeting it was announced that Maryland has retained its coveted AAA bond rating. Another positive sign is that unemployment in Maryland is nearly 30% lower than most states in U.S.
- The Governor said his administration has given local governments the discretion to do what they think is best, but urges local leaders to enforce health orders that businesses enforce mask rules. He reiterated that for restaurants to be open they must follow health guidelines, including social distancing, no large gatherings and that mask-wearing is enforced.
- The Governor continues to be concerned about possible resurgence of the virus. He will follow advice of doctors and experts and will not hesitate to take statewide action if necessary. At this time, the State does not intend to close businesses.
General Election Voting
- The Governor said he was concerned about lack of progress of State Board of Elections to prepare for upcoming November elections in Maryland. Governor Hogan said on June 2 the state held primary election with limited in-person polling places and mail-in voting, but there were rampant programs with late or incorrect ballots or long lines at polling places. Following these problems, many demanded full review, but State Board was unable to come up with a consensus or recommendations for changes to law.
- The Governor said the issue is now mired in partisan politics. Maryland, said the Governor, is followed the advice of national experts on voting in elections. Governor encouraging Marylanders to vote by mail (you must request a ballot – Marylanders will be mailed applications to all registered voters) or vote early. Additionally, to avoid lines, more polling locations will be open in Maryland rather than a limited number of voting locations seen in the primary election.
Plans for Maryland’s Public Schools
- Since putting out their recovery plan for education in May, Dr. Salmon has met with key stakeholders to collaborate on safe and effective recovery plans for Maryland’s public schools. Many jurisdictions have already met the August 14 deadline to announce county school opening plans to review by State.
- Salmon said the imminent safety of students and faculty is the utmost priority. In March, it was imperative for the State to close all schools due to coronavirus. Schools can now choose to open for in-person instruction for students. Some systems are already planning to be all virtual and some are using a hybrid approach.
- The State has set a series of “guardrails” for schools systems, including following CDC guidelines for safety, adhering to state health official protocols by addressing an outbreak, and meeting equity and justice benchmarks.
- Money is allocated to address technology and broadband initiatives in rural areas of the State through the federal CARES Act. A total of $255 million has been committed to educational priorities from federal CARES Act funding.
- The hope is these approaches lead to more in person school learning in due time. Dr. Salmon again urged all to follow health safety guidelines to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
- Salmon acknowledged the difficulty that parents will have coordinating virtual learning with their schedules, but it confident that in person learning can return if the combined effort of all Marylanders is strong.
- Governor Larry Hogan’s July 29 COVID-19 Press Conference
- COVID-19 Resources: Baltimore Region’s School Opening Plans
- COVID-19 Resources: Planning for a Safe Reopening
- COVID-19 Resources and Helpful Websites
- Mayor Young Announces Temporary Suspension of Indoor Dining at Bars and Restaurants
- Baltimore County Health Department Directive and Order for Face Coverings in Indoor Public Spaces, July 23, 2020
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