ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WDVM) — On Wednesday, just one day after Maryland’s 7-day positivity rate surpassed 5% for the first time in three months (and the same day the first confirmed case of the Omicron variant was found in the United States), new measures were put in place to protect the state’s residents from the new coronavirus variant of concern.
“While there are still a great deal of unknowns about the Omicron variant, our state will not wait to launch our preparedness efforts, and Marylanders shouldn’t wait either,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said during Wednesday’s press conference.
One new prevention effort includes expanded testing. The Maryland Department of Transportation will make rapid tests available at the international terminal of BWI airport to catch infections as soon as possible. And the Maryland Department of Health and the Board of Public Works are ramping up their surveillance efforts to detect cases of the mutation.
“Our hospital partners — the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins,” said Dr. Jinlene Chan, deputy secretary for the MDH, “they are sequencing every single positive that they get through their normal channels.”
But Gov. Hogan also stressed that vaccination is key. And while the state has some of the best immunization rates in the country (according to CDC data) and surpassed one million booster shots on Wednesday, the governor said that number needs to be higher.
“People have this false sense of security, like ‘well, I got my two shots, back last spring’,” said Gov. Hogan. “Well, it’s only about 50% effective now. So if you really want to be safe while you’re traveling and being with family, get the booster.”
Hogan said he isn’t looking to rush into more mandates at this time, but also said the situation is changing daily, and state officials will make decisions as they receive more information.
“I urge Marylanders not to panic. This isn’t the first variant we’ve seen, and it almost certainly is not going to be the last,” Gov. Hogan said.