ANNAPOLIS, MD—Following the first confirmed U.S. case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, Governor Larry Hogan on Wednesday detailed Maryland’s preparedness efforts.
“The single most important thing you can do to maintain your immunity against this virus and its variants is to get your booster shot,” said Governor Hogan. “Throughout this entire year, we have repeatedly stressed that we are in a race between the vaccines and the variants. Because we are one of the most highly vaccinated states, we have been able to stay ahead of the virus, but we cannot become complacent, and we do need to remain vigilant.”
The South African doctor who first sounded the alarm on the Omicron variant of the coronavirus said that its symptoms are “unusual but mild” in healthy patients.
“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” Dr. Angelique Coetzee, a practicing doctor for 30 years who chairs the South African Medical Association (SAMA), told The Telegraph.
In Maryland, statewide preparedness for the Omicron variant includes the following:
Further Expanding Variant Surveillance
The State of Maryland continues to be among the national leaders in using genomic sequencing to track the various mutations of COVID-19. Through agreements with the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University, Maryland is now sequencing at nearly three times the level recommended by public health experts.
- Earlier today, the Board of Public Works approved an emergency procurement to acquire additional special reagents and supplies to further expand the state’s capacity to track and detect variants of COVID-19.
- The Board of Public Works also voted today to extend the state’s sequencing agreements with the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.
- Maryland health officials are also encouraging all of the state’s lab partners to immediately ramp up their surveillance efforts.
Making Rapid Antigen Tests Available at BWI Marshall Airport
National supply chain issues and increased demand have made rapid antigen tests increasingly difficult to find. In response, the governor announced additional availability of rapid antigen testing across the state.
- Last week, the State of Maryland made another 500,000 Abbott BinaxNow Ag At-Home COVID-19 test kits available across the state at multiple locations, including local health departments, libraries, and community centers.
- The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and the Maryland Department of Transportation will immediately make rapid antigen tests available at the international terminal at BWI Marshall Airport for the nearly 7,000 international passengers who arrive each week. MDH will also begin to make guidance available to travelers in multiple languages.
PCR testing remains widely available at more than 300 locations across Maryland. All Marylanders who feel sick or who are returning from travel are encouraged to get tested. To find the nearest testing location, visit https://covidtest.maryland.gov.
Wednesday’s press conference can be viewed below.