Delegation urged to lobby for mass vaccination site in Frederick County

Steve Bohnel, The Frederick News-Post, Md.
·4 min read

Feb. 23—County Executive Jan Gardner and Board of Education President Jay Mason told the Frederick County delegation Monday the county is exploring a potential mass vaccination site in the county.

Mason asked the county delegation to send a letter to Dennis Schrader, acting secretary of health for the state's Department of Health, in support of a mass vaccination site somewhere in the county. Del. Karen Lewis Young (D-Frederick), chair of the delegation, supported that request.

Mason said two possible sites were the Frederick Keys stadium or the Frederick Towne Mall. But Gardner said in an email late Friday she "had no interest or intent to contact the property owner" of the mall versus the Keys stadium, which is owned by the city.

The Board of Education wants to vaccinate more county teachers "as fast as possible," Mason said in a phone interview Monday. Many have driven around the state looking for any open appointments, which is not convenient, he added.

Gardner (D) told the delegation she has had preliminary discussions with Frederick Mayor Michael O'Connor about using the Keys' stadium, Nymeo Field At Harry Grove Stadium, as a vaccination site. She also has contacted Gov. Larry Hogan's (R) office about such a site in the county.

Vaccine supply remains an issue, but a county delegation letter supporting a mass vaccination site wouldn't hurt, Gardner said. County officials could open up to seven clinics countywide, but there isn't enough vaccine to do so, she added.

"Vaccine is the bigger problem, but I certainly support the idea for generating a request for a mass vaccine site in Frederick County," Gardner said.

O'Connor confirmed in a brief interview Friday he talked with Gardner last week about using the Keys' stadium as a mass vaccination site. The proximity to two interstates and availability of parking makes it a strong contender, he said.

Having a mass vaccination site in the county somewhere would be a boost to its residents and overall region, Gardner said.

"This would be convenient to our residents as well as to people in the surrounding area," Gardner wrote in an email. "Currently the mass vaccination sites have benefitted from the re-allocation of vaccine doses to these locations and in the near term this would prove beneficial as well."

Sen. Ron Young (D-Frederick) supported the idea of a letter and said he would notify Schrader of the mass vaccination site request. He added, however, it was more likely a mass vaccination site would open in Hagerstown.

"I know [state officials] are going to look for a more central location in western Maryland, and we're at the far end of it ... but I'll still advocate for one here," Young said. "And there isn't any reason that as vaccines increase ... that we can't have a bunch of them. At some point, we need to get that stuff out as fast as we can get it out."

Mason said he understood the argument for Hagerstown, but still felt Frederick County was a good location for the region.

"If they chose Hagerstown we would accept it, but I think having one in Frederick allows some of our friends in Carroll County, Howard County, Montgomery County to also utilize this site," Mason said. "We're centrally located ... I think with our population, and our needs, we would be a good fit for the location."

O'Connor said wherever the site is opened, vaccine supply remains a main issue.

"I don't think of it as a competition, in that the state should be working with local governments across Maryland ... in whatever form or fashion that may take," O'Connor said.

BOE bill tabled

The delegation agreed to table any decision on a bill that would create a special election process for the Board of Education.

The proposal, which Gardner and County Councilman Steve McKay (R) introduced to the delegation last year, would create that process if a Board of Education seat is vacated at least 30 days before the campaign filing deadline in a midterm or general presidential election year.

Delegation members were generally supportive of the proposal but spent more than 10 minutes discussing it, including a part that noted the candidate with the "next highest vote total" would win a partial-term seat. McKay and others said special elections return the decision to the voters instead of an overall appointment process by the county executive and county council.

The delegation ultimately tabled voting on the bill until language could be clarified.

"I understand the intent ... but if all of us are having trouble understanding it, what's the general public going to do?" Senator Young said. "It's got to be written in clearer legal words."

Staff writer Katryna Perera contributed to this report.

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