State, FEMA to Open Mass Vaccination Site in Charles County

A soft launch is planned for Thursday at a mass vaccination center at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The next site will be at a minor league baseball stadium in Waldorf. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland Medical System.

Maryland and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will open a COVID-19 mass vaccination site in Charles County in the next few weeks, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced on Tuesday. 

FEMA will provide more than 100 personnel, including vaccinators, and the Charles County Regional Medical Center has agreed to serve as the “clinical partner” for the site, Hogan said. 

The center will be located at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, home of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of baseball’s Atlantic League. The governor did not give an exact opening date for the site, but he said it would be in the coming weeks. 

Maryland’s third mass-vax site, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, will have a “soft launch” on Thursday, offering a couple hundred vaccines during its first days of operation. The site will offer 2,000 shots a day by next week, with the capacity to increase as the state receives more vaccines, the governor said. 

Charles County’s population is 50.1% African-American. When the FEMA site opens, all four of Maryland’s large-scale vaccination sites will be located in majority-non-white jurisdictions. 

The state is likely to open additional vaccination locations in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore soon, Hogan said. 

Montgomery, the state’s largest county, will not get one, the governor appeared to suggest. “It has the most vaccines. It has the most distribution points, and it has the highest percentage of people being vaccinated,” he said. “So it’s not as big of a problem as some of the other areas.” 

Hogan also announced new partnerships with the University of Maryland, Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University to more than double the state’s “surveillance” of coronavirus variants.

The screening will supplement work already being done by the Maryland Public Health Laboratory.

Several variants have already appeared in Maryland. Public health officials have said that illnesses caused by the variants are not more severe, but they are spread more easily.

“This enhanced capacity will enable us to screen and sequence over 10% of COVID-19 cases, giving Maryland one of the strongest surveillance programs in America,” Hogan said. “If Maryland were a country, it would rank sixth in the world in terms of the percent of cases being sequenced.” 

With most Maryland school districts preparing to bring at least some students back to the classroom next week, Hogan signed an executive order on Tuesday to “clarify” that children aged 6 and up are required to wear a mask in any part of a school where interaction with others is likely — including classrooms, hallways, gymnasiums, cafeterias and libraries. 

Hogan and the state’s schools superintendent have been pressing local systems to bring students back to the classroom by March 1. Unions representing teachers have resisted, citing health fears. 

“I’m looking forward to visiting school systems all across the state in the coming weeks, to thank all of the teachers, staff and administrators,” Hogan said. 

Hogan said there have been “increased” reports — he did not provide a number — of people falsely claiming to represent a local health department. The would-be scammers seek the call recipient’s credit card and Social Security numbers. 

Vaccines are free, the governor said, and people who receive such calls should report them to law enforcement. 

“Anyone who attempts to prey on innocent people in this life-and-death crisis will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said. 

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Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.