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Gov. Larry Hogan gave an update on coronavirus vaccinations in the state.
- Yes, sir. Yeah, with each other, right.
- Misspelled? No, you're misspelled. Yep, yep.
- Well, we know our names.
DENNIS SCHRADER: Yeah. [LAUGHS] All right. Thank you, everybody, for coming today. I wanted to start by introducing everybody standing behind me. Of course, we have our governor, who's going to be speaking shortly. I did want to recognize that Senator Salling, and Delegate Metzger, and Delegate Long. Thank you for being here today. Very much appreciate it.
We also have Joe DeMattos Where's Joe? Joe, you can come on back up here. Come on, Joe, up here. And Joe is the president of Health Facilities Association of Maryland. We have Ms. Edwina Bell, who is Director of Nursing at Saint Elizabeth Rehab and Nursing Center. Ms. Leslie Ray, division director at Brookdale Senior Living and Lifespan Network member-- board member, I'm sorry. And I also wanted to recognize Lenny Attman and Gary Attman Thank you for being here today.
So with that, I'm going to turn it over to our governor, who has been a tremendous leader. He pushes us every day, and he's way out front. And that's why the state's doing as well as it is. Let me introduce Governor Hogan.
LARRY HOGAN: Thank you, Dennis.
Well, thank you all very much. That was quite a warm welcome inside there. I appreciate you getting the opportunity to thank some of our frontline health care heroes. And it's great to be here with all of you.
Thank you, Secretary Schrader. I just want to first of all start off by thanking you FutureCare Northpoint for hosting us here today. And I'm pleased to have their president and CEO Gary Attman here with us. And Lenny Attman, it's wonderful to see you, Lenny. It's great to have all of our delegation who do such a great job in Annapolis representing this area here with us.
I'm happy to have Joe DeMattos, who is the president of HFAM, and all the other leaders from nursing homes throughout Maryland and long-term care facilities who are joining us here today. This Thursday marks the beginning of National Nurses Week, and I want to begin by just taking a moment to thank every single one of our selfless and courageous Maryland nurses, along with all the other health care workers.
Over the past year, the challenges these heroes have faced have been immense, unprecedented, and truly inspiring. And these men and women, these frontline health care heroes, they really are the definition of Maryland Strong. And I want to thank every single one of them for their incredible service to our state.
Last spring, for states across the nation, nursing homes became ground zero in the fight against COVID-19. And after consulting with our industry leaders, Maryland became the first state in America to issue strong guidance to state nursing home facilities to work with them on instituting strict infection protocols and to limit staff travel in order to protect our most vulnerable citizens. We further bolstered the mitigation and suppression efforts at Maryland nursing homes, directing all staff who interacted with residents to wear PPE. We launched a statewide strike teams which became an example for the rest of the nation to bring triage, emergency care, supplies, and equipment to overburdened nursing homes.
We were also one of the first states in the nation to require universal testing for nursing home residents and staff. Then, Maryland was one of the first states to activate the federal long-term care vaccination program, prioritizing the staff and residents of our nursing homes and our long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities. Through that program, we have already held at least three vaccination clinics at every single one of more than 1,900 nursing home assisted living facilities across the state.
As of today, Maryland has administered a total of more than 4.9 million vaccines statewide, and 85% of Maryland seniors over 65 and 62% of all Marylanders over 18 have been vaccinated.
The effects have been profound, and nursing homes are a perfect example of that. Outbreaks in our Maryland nursing homes fell by more than 65% from their peak just this winter, and allowing-- we allowed, on March 1, safe indoor visitation at nursing homes to resume. And they've made incredible progress.
The federal long-term care vaccination program that helped us to facilitate all of those vaccines is wrapping up and coming to an end, but we are now instituting a new plan to ensure that vaccines continue to be readily available to everyone who lives and works in our nursing homes. As part of our No Arm Left Behind initiative, we have activated state mobile vaccination teams to conduct additional clinics at Maryland nursing homes. State health officials are currently working directly with providers to conduct more than 30 clinics every week across the state, including right here at FutureCare Northpoint, where more than 34 staff and residents are being vaccinated here today.
We're also immediately expanding a vaccine confidence effort, which is aimed at encouraging the remaining nursing home workers to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves and those that are in their care. In addition, to provide full transparencies to families and the public, today, we're issuing an order that requires all of these facilities to report vaccination data for residents and staff on a weekly basis. And that information will be posted weekly on a public dashboard to the Department of Aging, and which will be posted in each facility.
Today, I'm also announcing $12 million in new funding to support community-based vaccination initiatives with our hospitals. This funding will be dispersed through the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission and will be directed to 10 hospital systems across the state to allow them to do more work with community partners, including local health departments, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and others, to increase Marylanders' access to vaccines, especially in vulnerable, underserved, and hard-to-reach communities.
As I've repeatedly stressed for weeks now, the fastest way to get back to normal is to get everyone vaccinated. Yesterday, we announced a new financial incentive program for state employees to get COVID-19 vaccines, and I'm strongly encouraging our friends in the nursing home industry and in our hospitals to offer similar incentives for our frontline health care workers. With more than 3,000 points of distribution all across the state, direct scheduling is now available at mass vaccination sites everywhere, and a call center operating seven days a week in over 200 different languages is now easier than ever to find and get a vaccine.
And those who are not vaccinated will continue to be at risk of infection, hospitalization, and death. So if you are not yet vaccinated, please get your vaccine immediately to keep you, your family and neighbors safe and so that we can put this pandemic behind us once and for all and get back to life as normal. Thank you.
DENNIS SCHRADER: And now we'll ask Joe DeMattos to come forward and make some remarks.
JOE DEMATTOS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Well, Governor, you and I were together on December 23 when the first vaccines were put in the arms of Marylanders in need. It doesn't get old, does it?
LARRY HOGAN: No, it sure doesn't.
JOE DEMATTOS: Would you have imagined that we had 5 million doses, almost 5 million doses in people's arms right now?
LARRY HOGAN: I was hoping.
JOE DEMATTOS: Well, listen, I just want to thank you very much. Governor Hogan, where's Secretary Schrader? Where'd he go? Secretary Schrader, Delegate Long, Delegate Metzger, and Senator Johnny Ray, thank you so much for being here along with our distinguished guests. I want to thank everybody for coming forward to FutureCare Northpoint. I'm going to give a special Thanks to Lenny and Gary Atmann for all they do not, just for FutureCare, for Maryland, but for the community at large. I want to thank you very much for all that you do. Thank you.
I want to give special thanks to Ryan, the administrator here, and Pam [? Gall, ?] the director of nursing, also known as the sergeant-major or Northpoint.
Give her a big round of applause.
You know, I want to thank all of you for what you've done. Whether you're a health care hero, in the media, in the General Assembly, or in the public at large, for all that you've done to support our health care heroes in this once-in-100-year fight against COVID-19. The truth is that we are winning the fight, and we are in a much better place thanks to your leadership, governor, and your team than when we were when we met with you in March of last year.
I would really be remiss if I didn't also thanks my friends, my trusted partners, my colleagues, Kevin Heffner from the Lifespan Network and Allison Ciborowski for Leading Age Maryland. Please give them a big round of applause.
And in a moment, you're going to hear from my friends, Leslie Ray and-- and I'm blanking on Elizabeth's name. I mean, on Edwina's name. It's a moment from Leslie Ray and Edwina, who I've met a bunch of times but just blanked on the name once, really from the perspective of our front line health care heroes. And I would ask you to give them a big round of applause as well.
Edwina Bell from Saint Elizabeth. It comes back in your brain. So I want to end by saying this, Governor, specifically to you, and specifically to Dennis Schrader, the Secretary. You know, I didn't know quite what to expect on December 23 third we got those first vaccines going. And we've traveled so far between now and then. But the reality is that we've got so far to go still.
And as the governor says, the biggest thing that anybody can do to get to some sense of normalcy is to get that vaccine into your arm as quickly as you can. So I want to say this-- stay positive, test negative. Get the shot in the arm just as soon as you can.
And I want to say to you, Governor Hogan, we appreciate you having Secretary Schrader back in that job. His team has been great. And I want you to know that as you announce this new initiative to support vaccination in our sector and in health care across America, that we are fully committed to this endeavor. Thank you very much, Governor.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
DENNIS SCHRADER: Thank you.
JOE DEMATTOS: Sorry, Ms. Bell. I had a blank moment.
DENNIS SCHRADER: Thanks, Joe. Next, I want to bring forward Edwina Bell to make some remarks.
EDWINA BELL: Good afternoon. We at Catholic Charities St. Elizabeth Nursing Center know firsthand how important it is to get vaccinated and to encourage others to do the same. Our team has been together throughout this program dealing with the effects of the virus, which includes not only acute illness, but also the lingering effects of prolonged isolation. We know that decreased contact with loved ones, family, and friends leads to accelerated physical and cognitive decline and higher incidence of depression. At Saint Elizabeth, we've witnessed this first-hand, and we will continue to witness these adverse outcomes as long as we have fought to limit and, in some cases, restrict visitation.
When we had our first vaccination clinic onsite, there were a good number of staff who were agreeable to take the vaccine, but there were a good number of who did not want to. However, watching their peers who took it without hesitation led to twice as many staff members agreeing to be vaccinated, proving that demonstration can be the most powerful motivation.
I participated in that first vaccination clinic. I felt it was important for me to do so not only as a health care professional, but also as the daughter of a parent in long-term care. Our time apart over the past year has been hard on both of us, and getting vaccinated is how I get back to him.
At St. Elizabeth, we continue to encourage and we continue to educate as we strive to get all staff members and all elders vaccinated, because we know that vaccinations are the only way we are going to get our residents back to the interactive environment that they thrive in. Thank you.
DENNIS SCHRADER: Thank you, Edwina. Now we'll ask Leslie Ray to come forward and share her thoughts.
LESLIE RAY: Good afternoon. I've been vaccinated, so I'm pretty sure I can take this off, thank you, right?
DENNIS SCHRADER: Yeah, that's what the governor says.
LESLIE RAY: The governor said it, so I'm going to do what he tells me.
- It this a small crowd?
LESLIE RAY: I don't know. Is it?
- We're still 6 feet.
LESLIE RAY: 6 feet apart. Listen, thank you all for having us. Thank you, Governor Hogan, very much, and to your whole administration. And to supporting the GoVAX campaign, it is critical and crucial to our history. Vaccination to the senior industry equals hope. Vaccinations equals hope.
As I said, I'm Leslie Ray, and with Brookdale Senior Living. I'm also supporting and representing Lifespan. We have nursing homes and assisted living all across, not just here, that we're going through this. I have to talk louder; there's a truck behind me. But as he said, the vaccinations are important to us in our own personal ways.
And so, you know, I thought I would share a story, that I have a property. We have a property in Prince George's County. And I'm so pleased to say that we have 99% vaccination rates with our seniors. And I am even happier to say that as of today, we are 93% vaccinated with our staff.
Now, that wasn't always like that. So it took a while. So we got to thinking, you know, our staff had concerns, and questions, and reservations, but our residents didn't, and they were more than willing to get vaccinated. So we said to ourselves, what can we do to bridge this gap?
Because if you work in senior living, what you know is that we are here because we love our seniors. We love their stories. We admire their courage. Their wisdom is what we live off of.
So we decided to have a campaign, and it was ask your elders. So we set out to ask the elders, why are you getting vaccinated? And I'm a little scared, so help me. Help me do that.
And so I'll share stories of the lady I had with us. And she shared a story that, as she was a young girl, she was greatly affected-- and her family and friends-- with polio. And you know, she saw the sadness of it and the struggles. She grew up, she had children, and thanks to vaccination, her children didn't need to go through that. And so she admires and respects the science. She's glad for the vaccinations.
And so she stopped right there, and she looked at all of us, and she kind of did this. And she said, don't be a scaredy cat. Get vaccinated. I did.
And so I say to everyone, you know, I'm encouraged by all the health care workers. They inspire every day, working through a pandemic. But like she said to us, Don't be a scaredy cat; get vaccinated. That will bring us hope. Thank you.
DENNIS SCHRADER: That closes our formal remarks for today. I'll turn it back to Governor Hogan. If there are any questions? Oh, are you--
LARRY HOGAN: No, that's all right.
DENNIS SCHRADER: Oh, OK.
LARRY HOGAN: Sorry. I want to thank all of the folks that are up here behind me and all the team that's doing such a wonderful job. And then, with that, we'll be happy to answer a few questions.
- Governor Hogan, there are reports that the FDA is poised to approve the Pfizer vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds as early as next week. When that green light comes, will Maryland immediately expand eligibility?
LARRY HOGAN: We will. We had a call with the White House earlier today and multiple meetings with our internal teams to discuss this over the past few weeks and-- again, this morning and yesterday. So we're completely ready and prepared for that and anxiously awaiting. As I mentioned earlier, we're really making our way through. We started with-- we started, as Joe said, our very first shot was given at a nursing home. We started with our nursing homes and hospitals. We're now done 85% of all those older folks. We're now at 63, I think, percent of all people over 18.
So the next step, we've got a lot of our 16 and 17-year-olds now done in the high schools. And now, the next step is these 12- to 15-year-olds. As soon as that thing is approved, we're going to be ramping up. We think there is, what, about 1/2 a million of those?
DENNIS SCHRADER: 455,000.
LARRY HOGAN: 455,000 more adolescents that will be eligible. And we'll be ready to proceed with them right away.
- And if I may follow up, on the same call, I understand, governors were told about this, the reallocation of the doses. But I have not yet heard what the bar is for being low-interest or high-interest. Where does Maryland come in?
DENNIS SCHRADER: So it was sort of reported a little bit differently. The way the thing came out was that the states did not need more could order less than their allocation. Everyone's going to be given the opportunity to get 100% of their allocation. We're not going to see increases like we have in the past. It's going to stay the same for the next several weeks before. It may actually drop off after that because everybody's getting so many done.
But if a state does not need more or can't use more, then they can order less. And that will go into a pool that will be reallocated to states that do need more. We anticipate utilizing our full share and getting 100% of the doses. And I think most states will do that as well. But they sent more flexibility now.
- OK, thank you. Governor--
LARRY HOGAN: Oh, sorry. Go ahead.
- You go first. I'll go after you.
- Go ahead, go ahead.
- Vaccine information is still a challenge for many jurisdictions. Does your office plan to announce any new efforts to combat this?
LARRY HOGAN: Well, we've had strong efforts to overcome the disinformation campaigns that are all over the place on social media, and that's an ongoing battle. That's a big part of the hesitancy. And right now, as we've done-- we've done such a huge percentage of people who want the vaccine, we now have two groups left. People that are sort of ambivalent, that say, well, I'm not sure if I want it or not. Or, maybe I'll get it eventually, but I don't see the need. And then, there's another group that says, I'm not interested. I don't want to get it. And we've got to get everybody convinced in order to stop this thing and get back to normal.
- Governor, the Ravens are hoping to have a full stadium for their first game this fall. What are your thoughts on that?
LARRY HOGAN: I think it's a great idea. We'd love to get a full stadium as soon as the season gets back, too. That's fully within our plans. And I have a meeting with Dick Cast today to talk about just that. I know it's what the whole NFL is looking to do, and the president said he wanted to get things back to normal by the 4th of July. So football season, obviously, starts after that. And my plan is to get things back to normal by Memorial Day, which is coming up pretty soon.
- If I may follow up on that, because we saw that the president said he wants to get 70% of Americans at least one shot by July 4. What's your thought process on that? Do you want to--
LARRY HOGAN: We'll be way ahead of that. We're already at nearly 65% of everybody that's eligible. So some states may have difficulty; we will not.
- So Governor Hogan, can I ask an off-topic question related to the city and crime? We're in a serious surge right now. We've had six homicides since Saturday. Have you had any conversations with the mayor about it? And what more could the state be doing right now?
LARRY HOGAN: Well, we've had a number of discussions internally with our entire team, and we're very concerned about the increase in violent crime in the city. It's got three main root causes. Number one, we're not doing anything about the violent repeat offenders and all the people that are committing the gun crimes over and over again. Two years in a row, we had legislation that would address that. It passed the Senate both times, an overwhelmingly Democratic Senate, and both times, the house killed it with the help of the Baltimore City delegation.
So number one, we have to get tougher laws. Number two, we can't defund the police, which is the mayor's plan. We've got to invest more in our police. And number three, we have to have a prosecutor that's willing to prosecute crimes.
- There you go.
- Governor, on a follow-up to that, police in the city are investigating what they believe is a possible hate crime involving two Korean women. This is one where there's video out there surfacing. Have you watched that video?
LARRY HOGAN: I have watched the video. I actually have a loose connection with this in that my youngest daughter, Julie, who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a guy who I know well, her good friend that she went to school with who's from the Baltimore area, is best buddy with their mom and aunt. This guy was on television last night talking about.
So I saw it before it hit the news. My daughter shared it with me from her friend. I was outraged. It's just another example of these-- this violent outbursts and attacks on Asians all across the country. We had another one in New York. It was pretty hard to watch, with the two, you know, elderly older women being smashed in the head with a brick, or a cinderblock?
You know, we're going to get to the bottom of this. We already have the State Police working in junction with the city to investigate. I've already talked to Rob Hur, who's setting up our Hate Crimes Task Force-- former US Attorney. And I'm sure we're going to hear more about this. It's probably going to get a lot more attention.
- Governor, following up to the crime right now, does the city have to wait until next year for the legislative session? Or what can the state do right now?
LARRY HOGAN: Well, the city needs to just do a better job of focusing on crime. It seems to be the last thing that they're concerned about, and they need to come up with a real plan. I've been very disappointed in their efforts so far.
- Can I ask a question? Can you step in and do something?
LARRY HOGAN: No, we can't step in. We don't have the ability to do that. I mean, people say, should you send in the National Guard? The National Guard is not the right ones to be policing the streets of Baltimore. We need the Baltimore City Police Department policing the streets, and we need the prosecutor to prosecute them.
- Governor, do you think the state of Maryland might be able to receive additional doses, that we might have the demand to receive additional doses on this reallocation?
LARRY HOGAN: If we did-- I don't anticipate that we will at this point, because you know, as you're winding down and getting to the end of this, we're going to have plenty of doses. And we're going to be searching for No Arm Left Behind and going into every community just to get those last few. Kind of we're going to be batting cleanup, and we're going to be winding down our mass vax sites, and we're going to be letting physicians, and our mobile units, and our Equity Task Force be out in every community. But if we did need more, there will be more available. But I don't anticipate that.
- Thank you.
- Thank you.
- Thank you.
- Thank you.