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Howard Community College named COVID-19 vaccination site as county ramps up to start Phase 1B

Howard Community College will be the next COVID-19 vaccination site, beginning Monday, county officials announced Tuesday.

At a news conference, County Executive Calvin Ball said the addition of the community college as a site will allow the county to vaccinate an additional 1,500 people per day once vaccines are received from the state.

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The county is now estimating it will be to provide 10,000 vaccines a week at Howard Community College and 3,000 a week at the Howard County Health Department.

“Accomplishing this expansion required the addition [of] staff to support the effort,” Health Officer Maura Rossman said. “To do this, we are drawing upon our own [health department] staff and working with partners like Howard County government, the Medical Reserve Corps, Howard County Public School [System] and, if needed, the National Guard, amongst others who will serve in a variety of positions required to run a mass [vaccination] clinic.”

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This past weekend, Howard County Health Department reported its 200th death related to COVID-19, just as numbers are beginning to stabilize after a holiday peak. The Maryland Department of Health reported the county’s weekly positivity rate is 6.65% and the weekly new-case rate is 31.98 per 100,000 as of Tuesday.

The site announcement comes as Howard plans to move into Phase 1B on Monday and begin vaccinating individuals over the age of 75.

The county estimates there are 20,000 adults over the age of 75 in Howard. Phase 1B also includes teachers, child care professionals and those in congregate living facilities. So far, Ball said, 12,700 individuals who are in Phase 1B have pre-registered to receive the vaccine.

Ball announced last week that the county was working to get those age 75 or older to complete an online questionnaire providing contact information for Phase 1B to begin efficiently. Every eligible person who completes the survey will be added to a list and receive a email with appointment and registration information in the following 10 days.

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As of Tuesday, the county has vaccinated more than 7,000 individuals in Phase 1A. Ball said the county would use 100% of its current vaccination allocation, a total of 7,600 doses, by Tuesday evening. There are 15,000 people in Phase 1A, the county health department has said.

“It is important to remember that the number of vaccinations that we are able to give is totally dependent on the amount of vaccine delivered to us,” Rossman said. “We remain in a position of uncertainty about how much vaccine we will receive in a given delivery each week.”

Since the vaccine became available in December, Howard County has requested 14,600 doses and received 52% of that request, Ball said.

As the county ramps up vaccine efforts, Rossman said it plans to add two additional sites to help vaccinate school staff and educators for pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

The health department is the only county agency currently working to vaccinate individuals in Howard, Rossman emphasized. The state is working to vaccinate individuals at nursing homes, assisted living and group homes for the developmentally disabled by state-contracted retail pharmacies.

At the news conference, Howard County General Hospital Interim President Shafeeq Ahmed also announced that the hospital, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins Medicine, started vaccinating patients who are 75 years or older Tuesday.

Howard County Public School System Superintendent Michael Martirano also provided updates on the school system’s vaccine effort and said the system has developed prioritized grouping as the county enters Phase 1B. The county has been in 100% virtual learning since the pandemic first closed schools in March.

There are four tiers to the vaccine effort within the school system: nurses and health assistants; staff working in-person, such as custodians and food and nutrition staff; all school-based staff, including current substitute teachers; and all other non-school-based staff.

Martirano said each staff member would receive an emailed link to sign up for their vaccination.

“Until we get our county metrics at the level that are acceptable, we will be unable to provide the kind of face-to-face support that our students deserve and our educators want to provide,” Martirano said.

This week, school nurses and health assistants will receive training on how to administer the vaccine, Martirano said. Those individuals will also receive vaccinations as part of their training.

“I must reiterate that this plan and all plans moving forward will be solely dependent on availability of the vaccine in Howard County,” Martirano said.

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