COVID In Maryland: April 26, 2021 (Evening Update)
NICOLE BAKER: Key metrics keep dropping. Maryland sees the lowest number of daily COVID cases in about a month. And our positivity rate continues to fall, but now there's a new problem to tackle. Thanks for joining us for the news at 5:00. I'm Nicole Baker.
DENISE KOCH: And I'm Denise Koch. The big issue now facing Maryland, vaccine hesitancy. Officials are working to build the public's trust in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine which has again been cleared for use in Maryland.
NICOLE BAKER: WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren is live for us at M&T Bank Stadium with new reaction tonight. Mike.
MIKE HELLGREN: Nicole. Denise. Baltimore City's Health Commissioner reiterated this afternoon that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe, but a new national poll shows a lot of people are still wary of it.
- I just got vaccinated. Super excited!
MIKE HELLGREN: More people got the Pfizer shot at M&T Bank Stadium, as 58.6% of Maryland adults have received at least one dose of vaccine.
LARRY KORYCKI: If you can get one shot and perhaps save your life for the rest of what you have left of it, then why not.
MIKE HELLGREN: Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine is now available again in the state after being put on hold for 11 days over a handful of rare blood clots nationwide. Many tell us they are still confident in J&J.
ROBIN PALMER: I am a female in the age group that was of concern. So I would have paid attention to the possible symptoms, but I know the odds were astronomical that any individual would have been affected.
MIKE HELLGREN: But a Washington Post ABC News poll finds most Americans who have yet to be vaccinated won't get Johnson & Johnson, and do not believe it's safe.
LETITIA DZIRASA: The Johnson & Johnson vaccines known and potential benefits outweigh its known potential risks, however women younger than 50 years old, should be aware of this rare but increased risk of this adverse event.
MIKE HELLGREN: Also, according to the Washington Post, Robert Kramer the CEO of Emergent BioSolutions, the company that ruined millions of doses of J&J at its Baltimore plant, cashed out $10 million in company stock before it plummeted in value. Emergent says the trade was pre-planned and they conformed to the highest ethical standards.
DAVID BISHAI: I would take J&J for me and for my fam--
MIKE HELLGREN: As Maryland works to overcome vaccine hesitancy statewide, Harford County has one of the highest positivity rates. About 2% higher than the Maryland average.
DAVID BISHAI: It has become normal to get the vaccine and the more we spread that it's the right thing to do and it is what we do to protect each other.
MIKE HELLGREN: And he is also taking a proactive approach. When he found out that some parents in Harford County were planning private prom gatherings, he arranged for students to get tested. More on that at 6:00. At M&T Bank Stadium, Mike Hellgren, WJZ.
NICOLE BAKER: All right, Mike. Thank you. Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott is making some plans to guide houses of worship on how to safely reopen during this pandemic. It is there a new partnership with Johns Hopkins University and Medicine.
BRANDON SCOTT: The partnership will involve two components: a virtual educational session and one on one guidance to help Baltimore Faith Institutions comply with the city's public health mandates, learn about best practices, and receive resources.
NICOLE BAKER: Now, in addition to that, a pilot program will also pair health professionals with faith-- faith institutions. These health professionals will then perform building walkthroughs and provide individualized guidance to interested houses of worship about safety protocols.
Meantime, President Joe Biden expected to announce some new mask guidance tomorrow. Sources say he will update the mask mandate when outside. A study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases found that less than 10% of COVID-19 infections studied actually happened outside, however several states, including Maryland do still have outdoor mandates in place.
DENISE KOCH: Well, as Mike Hellgren just mentioned, vaccine hesitancy is becoming the latest coronavirus challenge as supply is outpacing demand in some communities. A new CBS News poll shows more than one in five Americans say they will not get the vaccine, and another 18% are unsure.
ANDY SLAVITT: I encourage people to talk to their doctors. Talk to people you trust. To talk to your pharmacist. Don't listen to politicians. Don't listen to Senators. Don't listen to me. Talk to the people in your life, who you trust.
DENISE KOCH: Overall, the majority of Americans say they will get vaccinated or they have already received at least one dose. And doctors say it is important not to skip that second dose for the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine.