Maryland state senators butt heads over COVID mandates

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WDVM) — Maryland’s Department of Health and Gov. Larry Hogan has stirred up controversy following the declaration of the 30-day state of emergency.

While the governor and his team have been incredibly vocal about their support of vaccines, they have taken no measures to institute a statewide mandate for the shots or even for masks. And despite reinstating a mask mandate inside state-run buildings, Hogan remained firm in his belief that there is no benefit in bringing forth any statewide mandates.

But Maryland hospitalizations continue to climb in the state, and most of those beds — according to state data — are filled with unvaccinated residents. Many of the vaccinated patients are unboosted.

During Wednesday’s Vaccine Oversight Work Group meeting, Maryland’s secretary of health, Dennis Schrader, said that forcing people to get vaccinated or wear masks is counterproductive to the organization’s goals.

“We are attempting to create a culture of education,” said Schrader. “And we want to persuade people, not force them. And by persuading them, it will change the culture — now culture change … takes a while.”

Some senators disagreed with the secretary’s stance, with one senator even asking how many more Marylanders need to be hospitalized or die before the state issues a mandate.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic, our hospitals are being flooded out right now, and I don’t think we have the time to wait on changing culture,” said Sen. Clarence Lam (D) of Maryland’s 12th district.

Another senator, however, praised the MDH’s method, saying she has received calls from constituents who agree that mandates would be ineffective.

“We have a lot of varying opinions and thoughts and beliefs about this whole virus and its impact, the effectiveness of the vaccines,” said Sen. Addie Eckardt (R) of Maryland’s 37th district.

According to CDC data, over 81% of Maryland adults were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, but less than 43% of those adults have received a booster dose.

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