COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the decline in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Hogan said all of the state's current health data shows "encouraging trends," with many key metrics consistently declining.
The state is now 15 days into a 30-day state of emergency Hogan enacted to address the rapid rise in cases due to the omicron variant of the virus. At the start of the emergency order, Maryland's positivity rate peaked to more than 29%. It's currently down to 18%, Hogan said. The case rate has also reduced.
Hospitalizations peaked on Jan. 11, with more than 3,400 people in hospitals throughout the state, but have now declined for the past eight consecutive days, Hogan said. Currently, more than 2,900 people are hospitalized, which marks the first time Maryland has had less than 3,000 hospitalizations since Jan. 2, he said. Hogan noted that patients are recovering quicker and being discharged from hospitals sooner in the current surge.
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However, state health officials do expect the number of deaths to continue to rise as the death rate typically lags behind the other metrics by a couple of weeks, Hogan said.
"Sadly, the majority of deaths continue to be people who are unvaccinated," Hogan said. He urged Marylanders to get vaccinated and boosted.
The governor also announced plans to distribute 20 million N95 and KN95 masks at local health departments, state testing sites, schools and nursing homes.
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Maryland residents can now get those face masks free of charge at local health departments and at state-run testing and vaccination sites, Hogan said.
In addition, the state is launching another round of antibody testing in nursing homes, which will help determine whether it is necessary to move forward with a potential fourth vaccine dose for vulnerable residents.
On Monday, Hogan's administration plans to introduce the Health Care Heroes Act as emergency legislation to address workforce shortages in health care facilities.
Earlier Thursday, Hogan announced on social media that his wife, First Lady Yumi Hogan, tested positive for COVID-19 and had mild symptoms.
Hogan, who wore a KN95 mask at the news conference, acknowledged the difficulties families can experience trying to not to contract the virus when someone in their home tests positive.
"Trying to isolate and keep everybody safe is really hard. On the one hand, we're lucky because the governor's mansion is a pretty big place to spread out. I know my wife had me locked in a room for 10 days and was dropping food outside the door. … Now I'm doing the same thing for her," Hogan said.
"Even if you're not symptomatic, making sure you don't pass it on to other people is really important. It's why, you know, even though I've got two negative tests, I'm still wearing a mask while I'm talking to you here today because that's what the protocol is," he said.