A growing number of Maryland residents in Montgomery County are getting vaccinated, but a Montgomery County official said Tuesday that “we are not there” in terms of herd immunity.
Roughly 35% of people across the state have some protection. And 20% of Montgomery County residents have been fully vaccinated.
Appearing before the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday, Earl Stoddard, the director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said he’d “love to see vaccination rates over 80%, which we still have a ways to go before we get there.”
“And the time frame to predict when we get to that point is a little complicated, because again, it’s … dependent upon the doses that we get in order to achieve that.”
Stoddard said it’s important for both the county and region as a whole to achieve that.
Montgomery County’s health officer, Dr. Travis Gayles, said data on the spread of the coronavirus should be getting more attention. He pointed to the current seven-day average test positivity rate, which has climbed to just under 6% statewide.
That’s up from 3.2% a month ago when Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan relaxed statewide coronavirus capacity restrictions at restaurants and other establishments.
“The governor’s office has recommended that the large driver of this (increase) is travel,” Gayles said. “That’s just not actually true.” Although travel may be partly to blame, Gayles added, “we are concerned that, again, the rapid reopening has contributed to this increase in cases.”
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Brian Castrucci, President and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, a public health organization, said of the disagreement over the cause of the increase in coronavirus cases: “If you reopen while there is still a respiratory virus circulating, that reopening, especially indoor dining and being in gyms and being in close contact, is going to drive cases. That’s factual. We knew that.”
Castrucci said that doesn’t mean states should go back to widespread shutdowns, but he added that spaces where people are in close quarters — including indoor dining and gyms — “should be closed for a little while longer, because we are so close.”
Meanwhile, vaccine doses have been steadily increasing, up to more than 10,000 weekly doses from 4,500 a month ago. The majority of the county’s doses is of the Pfizer vaccine.
Gayles said it’s important for people to preregister to get the vaccine.
Officials also discussed the soon-to-be mass vaccination site in Germantown, where approximately 25% of doses will be for Montgomery County residents.
Stoddard said the Germantown site is scaling up, with the goal to vaccinate 3,000 people per day. And he added that at some point, it will become a walk-up center.
Two more mass vaccination sites are opening this week: the FEMA site at the Greenbelt Metro Station and one at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Baltimore County.
More mass vaccination sites will open in Frederick, Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard counties.
In Maryland, 481 pharmacies are also providing vaccines with additional supplies from the federal government.
As of Tuesday, anyone 16 and older will be able to get a vaccine at any of the state’s mass vaccination sites.
By next Monday, April 12, all providers in the state will be required to allow vaccines for all Marylanders who are 16 and older.
Those 16 or 17 years old will only be able to use clinics that are providing the Pfizer vaccine, as it is the only one that is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for ages 16 and older.
Appointments for individuals in Phase 1 or 2 will continue to be prioritized.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan and Abigail Constantino contributed to this report.