Apr 28, 2021
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 28
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan held a press conference on April 28, 2021 to provide coronavirus updates. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Larry Hogan: (00:01)
Good afternoon. Joining me today from the Maryland Department of Health are Secretary Dennis Schrader and Deputy Secretary for Public Health, Dr. Jinlene Chan. Today marks 419 days since we confirmed the first cases of COVID-19 and declared a State of Emergency in Maryland, in response to the worst global pandemic in more than a century. It has been a long and difficult year, but thanks to the hard work, the sacrifices and the vigilance of the people of Maryland, each day now brings us closer to, the light at the end of this very long tunnel and to a return to normalcy in our everyday lives. Today, Maryland will surpass another milestone with more than 4.5 million vaccines administered. We have now vaccinated nearly 85% of all Marylanders over the age of 65, and more than 60% of all Marylanders 18 years and older. Maryland is vaccinating at a faster rate than the nation and faster than most other states.
Larry Hogan: (01:17)
As a result, our state also continues to see significant improvements in our health metrics with the biggest drop in new cases and the lowest transmission rate in the country Maryland’s case rate per hundred thousand has dropped 33% over the past two weeks. Our positivity rate has now dropped below 4% to 3.89% from a peak in January of 9.43, and a peak last year of 26.83 COVID hospitalizations are dropping across all regions of the state and are down 44% from the winter peak. Just a few months ago, we continue to conduct COVID surveillance testing at one of the highest rates in the country and sequencing for Corona virus variants at one of the highest rates in the world, allowing us to quickly track trace and stop emerge emerging outbreaks with these consistent improvements in our health metrics, declines and hospitalizations, positivity rate, transmission rate, and our incredibly fast pace of vaccinations.
Larry Hogan: (02:35)
Today, we are able to take additional actions to continue our health and economic recovery. Today I’m announcing that effective immediately, we are lifting the outside mask mandate. Masks and face coverings are no longer required outdoors in the state of Maryland. Lifting this emergency order is line with the new CDC advisory guidance yesterday regarding masking, and it follows the advice of our team of public health experts, as well as the advice of national health leaders, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield and Dr. Scott Gottlieb among others, all of whom agree that the risk of transmission outdoors is very low, especially for those who’ve been vaccinated. Although it is no longer a state mandate, if you are not yet vaccinated, public health experts still strongly recommend that you immediately get vaccinated, and that until you do, that you should continue to be cautious and continue to wear masks, especially when you cannot be physically distanced. Face coverings are still required for Marylanders at all large ticketed venues, as well as indoors at all public and private businesses across the state, and when using public transportation.
Larry Hogan: (04:01)
Effective this Saturday May 1st, all restrictions will be lifted for outdoor dining. Standing service may resume outdoors at bars and restaurants, and all restrictions related to outdoor dining capacity and distancing will be lifted. For the time being, until more people are vaccinated, seated service and physical distancing requirements will remain in place indoors at bars and restaurants across the state, and individuals who are not vaccinated should continue to be careful. As we have stressed from the very beginning, outdoor activity is much safer than inside activity. As the weather gets warmer, we’re encouraging Marylanders to move as much of their activity as possible to outdoors. As our vaccinations continue to expand, and our health metrics continue to improve, we expect to be able to take additional actions in the weeks ahead and to a return to a sense of normalcy. However, I want to stress once again, that the fastest way to put this pandemic behind us once and for all is for every single eligible Marylander to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Larry Hogan: (05:21)
As I have been saying for months, that we will hit a point where we are no longer constrained by supply, and thanks to the a 11,400 people working on this massive effort around the clock and all the Marylanders who’ve been following the public health experts to go out and get vaccinated we have now reached that point. We are now entering the next phase of our vaccination campaign. To make the vaccine as easily accessible as possible to everyone, everywhere our more 3000 points of distribution have now been expanded to 611 pharmacies and over 200 doctor’s offices. Our Equity Task Force has now completed over 200 missions and is adding dozens of clinics each week, including a clinic they’ll be opening at Morgan State University on Friday. We have 12 mass vaccination sites open and fully operational all across the state and our 13th and final site in Howard County is opening Friday at the Mall in Columbia, and is anticipating a record opening day of 1000 vaccinations.
Larry Hogan: (06:33)
To make it even easier to get vaccinated, beginning Saturday May 1st, we are transitioning to direct scheduling for all the mass vaccination sites. At the end of the day tomorrow, we will no longer require any preregistration. By the end of the day Friday, everyone that has been in our system as a pre-registrant will have already been contacted for an appointment. So, beginning Saturday, all eligible Marylanders will be able to go on online and immediately book an appointment by visiting COVIDVax.Maryland.gov, or by calling the state’s multi-lingual vaccination support center at 1-855-MDGOVAX. If you prefer, you’d rather avoid the appointment process altogether, it is now possible to just walk up or drive through at nine of our mass vaccination sites. You’ll be able to immediately get vaccinated without an appointment. If you require additional assistance in getting vaccinated, especially if you are homebound or need transportation through our No Arm Left Behind initiative, you can contact our call center, provide your information, and we will directly connect you with a vaccinator.
Larry Hogan: (07:50)
In addition, we are reserving large blocks of appointments for university students and major employers across the state. All college students in Maryland are encouraged to begin the vaccination process immediately here in Maryland, even if you may end up getting your second shot in your home state. If you have already been vaccinated, thank you for doing your part, and please encourage your friends and family to immediately get vaccinated as well. If you have been on the fence or have been waiting to get vaccinated, now is the perfect time to finally go out and get your shot. These vaccines are safe. They’re clearly effective, and they’re widely available everywhere across our state. If you’re an individual who does not intend to get vaccinated, we want to make sure that you understand that you are still in danger of hospitalization and death. Unvaccinated people, including younger people are continuing to be hospitalized.
Larry Hogan: (08:57)
Without a vaccine … I mean, with a vaccine, you are much safer now. But without a vaccine, you continue to be at risk. After all we’ve been through over the last year, I know that Marylanders are very eager to return to normal. I know that I am, but please remember that we’re all truly in this together, and if we can pull together just a little while longer, together we will bring this pandemic to an end. With that, we’d be happy to take some questions.
Speaker 2: (09:32)
[inaudible 00:09:32] mask order. Does the local government have the authority to exceed stricter mask guidelines than the state or is-
Larry Hogan: (09:40)
The state law always has given local governments the ability to have stricter … they can’t ignore the state requirements, but they can always be stricter. I wouldn’t advise that because this is the advice of the CDC and the state.
Speaker 2: (09:54)
Governor Hogan, I just wanted to clarify, you’re rescinding the old order, but does that mean if you’re not vaccinated it’s also okay not to wear a mask-
Larry Hogan: (10:02)
Yeah. We don’t have any way of, we’re not going to be … I know the CDC guidance was vaccinated people can go outside and take off their masks, but unvaccinated can’t. We’re just strongly advising as they are. But our order, we can’t check IDs to check to see if you’ve been vaccinated or not. It’s like, you’ve had plenty of time to get a vaccine. You can get one anywhere. Everybody who’s been vaccinated can no longer continue to be held back because of the few who are refusing to.
Speaker 5: (10:34)
Governor, I’m wondering also about the questions about local restrictions. We’re seeing some jurisdictions continue to wait it out to see what you were doing the mask requirement. What’s your message to those who are still waiting [inaudible 00:10:44] to take off their masks [inaudible 00:10:48]
Larry Hogan: (10:48)
It’s our opinion, and it’s the opinion of the federal government that they should be able to take off their masks outside.
Speaker 6: (10:50)
Governor, you talked about the fact that there will be perhaps future reductions and restrictions. What are the, what’s the combination of benchmarks that you’re looking for in order to get back to something that looks a little more like pre-pandemic normal?
Larry Hogan: (11:01)
Well, we’ve had several weeks of really great metrics and continual declines, which is terrific. But, we want to continue to see that continue for a couple of more weeks. We also have had, thanks to the great work of all the folks that have been working on the vaccine effort, we’ve made tremendous progress there, but we’ve still got folks we need to get vaccinated. So, I think we continue to get more people vaccinated, we continue to see the numbers go down, we’ll be getting a lot closer to the end.
Speaker 6: (11:26)
What could Maryland look like by July 4th?
Larry Hogan: (11:28)
Hopefully, it’s going to look a lot like, not like last July 4th, but maybe July 4th before.
Speaker 7: (11:34)
Governor, the CDC [inaudible 00:11:37] reiterated yesterday that if you’re vaccinated you should still stay in small groups even if you don’t have your mask on. Is that something that you’d like to reiterate to Marylanders, because if they hear that the mask mandate is [inaudible 00:11:48] they’d be saying, “Take it off, even in big groups.”
Larry Hogan: (11:51)
If you’re together with a group that is all vaccinated, there’s very little to no risk, especially if you’re outside. But unfortunately, not everybody is. So, you have to be really careful if you’re going to meet in large groups, if you’re, the folks that are not vaccinated are still at risk.
Speaker 8: (12:06)
Governor, are we at the point now where the supply is outpacing the demand?
Larry Hogan: (12:10)
Not yet, but I said, where we’ve now entered that new phase, I said, we would get to that point where right now, the demand is sort of matching the supply. But very soon, I mean, we’re starting to get to the point where, we’ve been talking about this since January that we, originally, we had huge demand, no supply. The supply started to catch up. We built the infrastructure and we’ve been cranking four and a half million shots. Now that, when you hit 85% of people over 65, we’re running out of people. We’re trying to find them, where are they are. They’re not going to mass vax sites. When we’re at 60% of the entire adult population, we’re starting to be, we’re more than halfway there. So, there’s going to be less and less people, and we’re doing more pulling in rather than just pushing that out.
Larry Hogan: (12:53)
We’re going to continue to do that until we can get every single person that wants one and gets one. But, there’s no question. That’s why we’re able to now not have pre-registration. We didn’t have enough vaccines to schedule appointments. We had to pre-register so that when a vaccine became available, you could then schedule an appointment. Now we have plenty. We’re opening up no-appointment-necessary lines, and we’re opening up more points of distribution. It’s a lot easier now to get it from your doctor or your pharmacy, so there’s less demand on the mass fax sites. We’re still getting quite a bit of traffic through them though. So, we’re going to continue to keep those open for awhile and continue to, but we’re going to probably, we’re not going to have to have probably every day of the week. We’re probably not going to have same hours. We’ll gradually wind them down until they’re no longer needed.
Speaker 8: (13:40)
As far as the getting kids back in school, the head of the State Teacher’s Union told us yesterday that the state is strong- arming them, essentially in getting back to school. Any reaction to that?
Larry Hogan: (13:50)
I don’t really have a reaction to that. I mean, I know that the State Board of Education voted unanimously yesterday to require 180 days of in-person instruction, and they’re going to have to follow that.
Speaker 8: (14:08)
Governor Hogan, Pfizer is [inaudible 00:14:08] as young as 16 years old now. Is there a timeline on what potentially what that [inaudible 00:14:13].
Larry Hogan: (14:12)
That’s a great question. I don’t know if you want to talk about Pfizer and the timeline. I know that we had a discussion and we … You want to-
Dennis Schrader: (14:19)
If I could just say two words.
Larry Hogan: (14:22)
I think it’s towards the end of June is the latest, but-
Dennis Schrader: (14:23)
Yes, sir. Yeah. Well, we’re tracking on it. We’re planning for its eventuality. We’re just, but as the Governor said, probably the end of June early July.
Larry Hogan: (14:33)
Yeah. That’s going to be another tremendous effort when we can get the 12 to 15 year olds. The vaccine has been working very effectively. Pfizer is a little more difficult to work with because it’s the one that requires the deep freeze and you have to have 1000 doses, so not quite as easy to use, but that’s the only one that’s going to, that’s submitted for the approval for the younger kids. It could be any time, but I think people thought at least by the end of June, that would happen.
Speaker 10: (14:58)
Governor Hogan, we talked [inaudible 00:15:02] about vaccine hesitancy, people with concerns. I’m starting to see vaccine obstinacy, people who are just flat out refusing. There not even questions, and we’re seeing this reluctance among males, among Republicans, among some white people. What’s your message to those people who currently have zero plans to [inaudible 00:15:22]
Larry Hogan: (15:23)
Well, we have, again, we’re not experiencing the same problem that they are in most parts of the country. We have one of the best vaccination rates. We never anticipated we could possibly get to 85%, which is where we are on the 65 plus. We’re already at where people thought was the peak. All the national polls said maybe 60% wanted to get vaccinated. We’re already done with 60%. We still have a lot more to do. We’ve been working on vaccine hesitancy since last December. We’ve been running commercials targeted at different groups and community leaders. We continue to, the Biden administration followed us with a similar federal program, but we’ve been running nonstop television commercials and print ads and online, trying to convince people. We’re still telling those folks, there’s some reluctance, not nearly what it is in the rest of the country, but we still have a few groups, pockets of folks in a number of different communities. We’re trying to do everything we can to convince them because they’re not going to be safe until they get vaccinated.
Speaker 10: (16:19)
Governor, you mentioned outdoor restaurant restrictions lifting as well. Is there a target date for when you’d like to see the indoor restaurant restrictions [inaudible 00:16:28]
Larry Hogan: (16:29)
I’d like to get them done as soon as possible. I know that these small business owners have been really struggling for quite a while, but we want to make sure that we’re safe. So, we just have a little more work to do. We’re cleaning up, but right now we still do have these variants, which are virulent. We are still seeing some younger folks going into hospitals, and it’s just not as safe inside as it is outside. So, we’re going to continue to take a look at it, but my desire would be to get everything back to normal, as soon as we can get people done with the vaccines.
Speaker 11: (17:00)
Speaker 12: (17:01)
Sorry. On the White House visit to the M&T mass vax site tomorrow. Do you know why that site was picked. Do you plan to be there or any members of your administration?
Larry Hogan: (17:11)
I do plan to be there. We’re looking forward to welcoming the Vice President to M&T Stadium tomorrow. I think it was picked because it’s a perfect example of a very well run vaccination center that we’re very proud of. It’s also part of our equity effort in Baltimore City, and we’re cranking out a lot of vaccines there. I don’t know that there’s a better one in the country, so we’re going to be proud to show it off to her.
Speaker 12: (17:35)
Okay. Thank you.
Larry Hogan: (17:36)
Speaker 12: (17:36)