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(Feb. 12, 2021) Gov. Larry Hogan announced last Thursday the release of more than $123.2 million in funding to support Maryland’s local health departments, including resources for ongoing covid-19 vaccination activities.

“As the state begins mass vaccination, and continues to expand the distribution network of vaccinators, county health departments will play a critical role in our focus on hard-to-reach areas and underserved populations,” Hogan said. “I want to thank and extend my appreciation to all of the vaccinators who are working around the clock to serve the community.”

The funding to each jurisdiction is based on their populations in proportion to Maryland’s total population. The awards will be made on a reimbursable basis with oversight by the Maryland Department of Health. 

Worcester County will receive $982,756 in covid-19 funding.

In addition, Hogan’s administration will submit a supplemental budget request to the General Assembly that supports county health departments for deficits related to closing their self-supported fee-for-service clinics. If this funding is approved, the Maryland Department of Health will award the funding as a grant to the local health departments where they will be required to substantiate their deficits, according to a press release from the governor’s office. Worcester County would receive $557,826.74.

At this time, Maryland is receiving just 12,000 doses per day from the federal government.

Last Friday, the state opened a series of mass vaccination sites to serve eligible residents, with the first of these set to open at the Baltimore Convention Center and Six Flags America in Prince George’s County.

Atlantic General Hospital has received slightly more than 5,065 doses of the vaccine so far after receiving 1,000 Moderna second doses for three of its clinics this week, said Sarah Yonker, director of marketing for the hospital.

 Community members in Phases 1A, 1B and 1C have received about 3,250 of those doses. The hospital has 319 staff members who have completed Pfizer and 219 who have completed Moderna. Another second dose Moderna clinic took place on Thursday.

Currently, the hospital is offering covid-19 vaccine clinics for targeted risk groups every week in the main lobby by appointment only. 

“We are focused on age 65 and up,” Yonker said. “We do have selected targeted clinics for particular groups in the 1C and up as needed, such as educators.”

Last week, 457 doses of the vaccine were administered through the clinics.

Online registration is required through the state of Maryland’s covid-19 vaccine scheduling website, marylandvax.org

Photo identification is required at the appointment. Patients and community members are advised to arrive no more than 15 minutes prior to their appointment.

For more information about how to register for a vaccine clinic, visit agh.care/vaccine or call the coronavirus vaccine information line at 410-641-9272. 

In Worcester County, 8,456 people have received the first dose, or 16.18 percent of the population. Meanwhile, 2,111 people have received the second dose, or just 4.04 percent of the county population.

As of Thursday, the Worcester County Health Department has received 3,200 first doses and administered 3,009 of them. This week, the health department held clinics at the Worcester County Recreation Center in Snow Hill and Northside Park. The Snow Hill clinic was a mix of first and second doses, while the Northside Park clinic was for first doses, said Travis Brown, the public affairs officer for the health department. Clinics scheduled for next week will be for second doses.

The Worcester County Health Departments hosts vaccine clinics at the Worcester County Recreation Center in Snow Hill on Tuesdays, West Ocean City Park and Ride on Thursdays, the Elks Lodge in Pocomoke on Fridays and the Worcester County Health Department facility in Snow Hill on Saturdays when doses are available.

Last week, the health department updated how it registers individuals for the vaccine clinics. There is now a single central waiting listing that includes all clinics operated by Worcester Health. To register for this waiting list, call 667-253-2140.

Individuals are advised to leave a phone number, so they can be notified when an appointment time becomes available based on eligibility. 

The number that will show up when the Worcester County Health Department Covid-19 Vaccine Call Center calls you back, will come up as 410-632-1100 or 410-632-1016.”

The call center will request the following information: first name, last name, email address, phone number, age, first dose or second dose, Phase 1C eligibility, any underlying health conditions, and county and state of residence.

The Ocean City Fire Department has joined the Worcester County Health Department to assist in administering the vaccine. Battalion Chief Rick Koch has been designated as the liaison between the fire department and the health department to distribute the vaccinations based on availability. 

During a presentation to the Ocean City Mayor and Council on Tuesday, Fire Chief Richard Bowers said the Fire and EMS Division paramedics received training from the Worcester County Health Department to assist in the administration of the vaccine.

“We developed a plan to host clinics, which included vaccine handling and storage, maintaining vaccine supplies and allocations, we met the requirements of the state mandated software system, and a vaccine program communication plan was developed and then, of course, we had to monitor what we were doing and how we were doing it with the health department,” Bowers said.

Ocean City Firefighter/Paramedic Steven Twilley said most of the public is currently receiving the Moderna vaccine.

“It requires two shots 28 days apart, but actually you can wait longer than that. You can actually wait up to 42 days to get that second shot,” Twilley said.

Koch added that the Ocean City Fire Department’s supply of the vaccine comes from the health department. It does not receive vaccines directly from the state’s allocation. He said the fire department received 100 doses for this Thursday’s clinic.

Koch said the vaccine vials are typically overfilled, so the Ocean City Fire Department can receive 11 to 12 doses from each vial.

“Right now, the county is in Phase 1C of their vaccination priority group,” Twilley said. “We’re still doing a majority of 1Bs.”

With a goal to offer at least one clinic per week, Ocean City paramedics are hosting clinics in the community room at Northside Park on 125th Street and the Worcester Street Police Substation. As of Tuesday, the Ocean City Fire Department has hosted 11 clinics with the next clinic on Thursday.

Ashley Miller, the deputy communications manager for the Ocean City Police Department, said all employees who received the first dose have completed their second dose. The vaccines are administered by the Ocean City Fire Department. 

As for the Berlin Police Department, Chief Arnold Downing said eight officers and three staff members have received their second doses of the vaccine.

Through the federal long-term care program, CVS and Walgreens are conducting vaccination clinics at Maryland nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Participating CVS pharmacies, including those in Ocean City, will begin to administer vaccines to eligible populations on Friday.

Patients must register in advance at CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app. People without online access can contact CVS customer service at 800-746-7287. Walk-in vaccinations without an appointment will not be provided.

Giant, Walmart, Safeway and Rite Aid pharmacies have also joined the state’s vaccine distribution network in critical areas.

For vaccine information and resources, visit covidlink.maryland.gov.

As of Thursday, Worcester’s covid-19 positivity rate was 6.05 percent, a decrease from 6.67 percent last week. That’s still higher than the state’s rate of 5.08 percent.

Worcester has confirmed 66 new cases since last week. This brings the county’s total cases since March to 3,169.

The Maryland Department of Health reported Berlin and Ocean Pines had 1,286 and Ocean City had 802.

Worcester has recorded 87 deaths from covid-19.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 10 patients with coronavirus were in Atlantic General Hospital – seven in the medical/surgical unit and three in the intensive care unit, Yonker said.

Hospital personnel have cared for seven patients who have come off a ventilator. Atlantic General has discharged 228 coronavirus patients who are recovering.

In the meantime, public health officials are encouraging anyone who feels sick, or who may have had contact with someone who is to get tested. All Worcester County residents, employees and their children 8 years and older who are experiencing covid-19 symptoms are eligible for testing.

People who suspect they may have the virus should call their primary care providers or the health department. The Worcester County Health Department has a hotline Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to determine if a person should be tested. Call 410-632-1100, select option eight and then press one.

The Worcester County Commission on Aging at 4767 Snow Hill Road, in Snow Hill, Maryland 21863, offers drive-through covid-19 testing on Wednesdays from 1-3:30 p.m. by appointment only. Testing dates are scheduled for Feb. 17 and Feb. 24.

Worcester County Health Department offers drive-through covid testing at the Pocomoke Health Department site, 400 Walnut St. # A, Pocomoke City, Maryland 21851, by appointment only for adults 18 years and older Mondays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Testing is available on Feb. 15 and Feb. 22.

In addition, the health department offers drive-through covid testing at the West Ocean City Park and Ride at 12848 Ocean Gateway in Ocean City by appointment only on Thursdays from 1-3:30 p.m. Testing dates are scheduled for Feb. 18 and Feb. 25.

Additionally, Saturday hours for covid-19 testing have been expanded at Atlantic ImmediCare urgent care clinic on 10th Street. Individuals can now get a test between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays. No appointment is necessary. Weekday hours for walk-in testing continue to be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Because of high demand for testing, anyone planning to arrive after 2 p.m. during the week is asked to call ahead. The testing clinic can be reached at 410-289-0065.

Rapid tests are available for patients experiencing two or more symptoms of the coronavirus. Exposure to someone with covid-19 is not a factor for rapid testing. If a patient does not meet the criteria to have a rapid test, they can still have the standard test. Turnaround time varies from 48 hours to five days.

For more information, visit www.agh.care/COVID19. 

To track Maryland cases, visit coronavirus.maryland.gov/.

Marylanders are also encouraged to sign up for additional updates by texting ‘MdReady’ to 898-211. 

To report a restaurant or bar for not following safety guidelines, call the county environmental health department at 410-352-3234.

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