Contradicting Locals, Hogan Says Montgomery ‘Mass-Vax’ Site Is Not a Done Deal

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and Prince George's County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) tour a new vaccination clinic at a church in Glenarden Tuesday. Pool video shot.

Montgomery County residents will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine at the Montgomery College campus in Germantown by the end of the month, the administration of County Executive Marc B. Elrich (D) announced on Tuesday.

County officials said the site will be unlike the state’s existing “mass-vax” locations in that it will be run jointly by the county and the Maryland Department of Health.

A short time after the announcement, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) called the officials’ disclosure “premature.” He said discussions are underway but that no final decision about a Germantown site has been made.

Dr. Earl Stoddard, the head of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, announced the news during a briefing for the County Council, sitting as the Board of Health.

He said the site will be run by the county, the state, Holy Cross Health and Montgomery College — and will become operational “in the coming weeks.”

“The goal is — from both the state and the county and other partners — to build the site out to be a 3,000-dose-per-day site,” he said.

Bethesda Beat was the first to report on the Germantown site.

The state operates three mass-vaccination sites — in Largo, Baltimore and Waldorf. A fourth will open in Salisbury on Thursday and a fifth will begin operation in Hagerstown on March 25.

With the supply of doses expected to ramp up significantly next month, Montgomery leaders said they were pleased that the residents of Maryland’s largest jurisdiction will be able to get a shot without having to travel long distances.

“This is more good news than we’re used to,” said Council President Tom Hucker (D).

Montgomery leaders have pressed the state for a high-volume site for weeks. Several of the hardest-hit coronavirus ZIP codes in the state were located in the county.

During the first three months of the vaccination program, Montgomery residents received three times as many doses at Six Flags in Largo as did residents of Prince George’s County, where the site is located.

Hogan said Montgomery is “doing really well,” with “the highest percentage of people being vaccinated.” According to the state, the county has received 17.7% of Maryland’s doses, the most of any jurisdiction.

According to a Maryland Matters analysis, Montgomery ranks eighth in first doses per capita, with 214 for every 1,000 people. The county ranks 19th in percentage of the population that’s been fully vaccinated (114 for every 1,000 people).

Asked about the Germantown site after touring a new vaccination clinic at First Baptist Church in Glenarden, Hogan said Montgomery officials jumped the gun in making their announcement.

“We’re in discussions with four or five different counties,” he said. “There has been no decision made. I think that was a little bit premature. But we’re certainly working with them.”

“I think we may have some further announcements about that next week,” Hogan added.

In an interview, Stoddard said the county was able to sell the Germantown site to the state because of its relative proximity to Frederick and Carroll counties.

“It’s right off I-270, making it accessible to a broader number of counties,” he said.

Another plus, he said, is the site’s size. “It’s also about having a site in Montgomery County that’s capable of scaling up when more vaccine is available.”

Stoddard said state personnel toured the Germantown site on Saturday. In conversations since, they offered tablets, agreed to help boost WiFi at the college in preparation for the opening, and provide American Disabilities Act-compliant equipment.

“We’re moving forward with planning the site with the state’s help,” he said. “And we’re appreciative of that help.”

Earlier this week, the House Appropriations Committee voted on an amendment to the state budget that would restrict $1 million from the Maryland Department of Health’s executive office until a report on the opening and operation of a vaccination site in Montgomery County is submitted to lawmakers. That amendment is included in the budget bill that will be presented to the House of Delegates on Wednesday.

Hogan, Alsobrooks tour ‘vaccine equity clinic’

During his visit to First Baptist Church of Glenarden, Hogan and Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) walked around the large repurposed recreational space where vaccinations will be administered.

Hogan said it will start with 200 doses per day, ramping up to 1,000 as supply increases.

The site will only serve residents of Prince George’s who fit the state’s eligibility requirements.

The county ranks last in the state in first-doses administered at 132 for every 1,000 residents. It also ranks last in people fully vaccinated, at 66 per 1,000, despite having had the state’s first mass-vax site, according to a Maryland Matters analysis.

Alsobrooks is a congregant at First Baptist, and she asked the state’s Vaccine Equity Task Force to open a clinic there.

“Thank you for hearing us,” she told Hogan. “We’re going to need this safe space, this church, this spiritual center, where people trust that they can get the truth.”

“It’s very different than going to a football field or going even to a grocery store parking lot. There’s something different,” she added.

Town hall meetings announced

The state Health Department announced on Tuesday a series of “GoVAX virtual town hall” meetings.

The events will be held in connection with Telemundo, a Spanish-language media conglomerate, and Radio One, a group of radio stations with large Black audiences.

They will feature medical professionals and “community advocates” who will answer questions and urge listeners to get vaccinated.

“These town halls enable us to provide information to Marylanders directly, while hearing from community leaders whom our citizens trust,” said acting Health Secretary Dennis R. Schrader. “By using these broadly accessible channels — especially as we reach more underserved and vulnerable Marylanders — we can ensure more people will get the information they need to take action and get vaccinated.”

The first town hall will be held in Spanish on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on Telemundo.

The second event will be held on Radio One stations on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

And the third will be held on March 30 at 6:30 p.m., also on Radio One stations

Data analyst Brenda Wintrode and Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.

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