ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Following warnings by the World Health Organization that the COVID-19 Omicron variant poses a high risk of infection surges across the globe and the first confirmed U.S. case, Governor Larry Hogan today detailed Maryland’s preparedness efforts and continued to urge all eligible Marylanders to get a booster shot as soon as possible.
“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.”
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 covidtest.maryland.gov.
Booster Shots Urged to Maintain Highest Level of Immunity. As the State of Maryland begins to see the anticipated seasonal uptick in some key health metrics, the most important thing Marylanders can do is get vaccinated or get a booster shot.
With data showing waning immunity after six months, all Marylanders age 18 and older are urged to get a booster shot for additional protection against the virus. Marylanders who receive their booster dose in the next 10 days will be fully protected by Christmas.
To find a clinic, visit covidvax.maryland.gov or call the state’s multilingual call center, available seven days a week, at 1-855-MD-GOVAX (1-855-634-6829).