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Gov. Larry Hogan tests positive for coronavirus

Maryland’s coronavirus data returned Monday after a cyberattack; positivity rate is 89% higher than two weeks ago

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan urges all eligible state residents, especially those with an underlying health condition or comorbidity, to get a coronavirus vaccine booster shot as soon as possible, during a news conference on Oct. 25 in Annapolis, Md. Hogan, a cancer survivor, announced on Monday that he had tested positive for the virus. (Brian Witte/AP)
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Gov. Larry Hogan, who is fully vaccinated and received a booster, tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday.

Hogan said he received a positive rapid test as part of his regular testing routine and was “feeling fine at the moment.” A more reliable polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test confirmed the earlier result late Monday.

“As the Omicron variant becomes dominant, I want to urge you to get vaccinated or get your booster shot as soon as possible,” tweeted Hogan, who said he was in quarantine, experiencing some cold-like symptoms. He plans to work from home the rest of the week.

Hogan is the most recent high-profile elected official to announce a breakthrough coronavirus infection. On Sunday, Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey said they had received positive coronavirus tests. They also had received booster shots.

Hogan’s positive test came as the state for the first time in more than two weeks — due to a cyberattack on the state Department of Health’s network system — reported information on its caseload, testing and positivity rate.

The system was attacked and its servers were taken offline Dec. 4. No data about the state’s caseload and testing has been available since. Other department services, including Medicaid eligibility and the recording of death and birth certificates, also were affected.

According to the latest data, Maryland is experiencing a stark rise in cases and the community spread of the coronavirus is at the highest level since May 2020. Hospitalizations are surging.

The updated dashboard shows Sunday’s seven-day positivity rate at 10.27. The last time data was available, the rate was 5.43 percent. The daily positivity rate Sunday was 15 percent. Not all of the information has been updated, for example, deaths still stand at 11,022 — the number it was on Dec. 4.

Beth Blauer, the executive director of the Centers for Civic Impact at Johns Hopkins University, said the lack of case rate and testing data has had “significant implications” on public health amid the holiday season.

Residents across the region and the country are feeling angst as they decide how to handle traveling and gathering over the next few weeks. Local leaders for the past two weeks have been basing their decisions on hospital trends and outbreaks at congregate facilities.

“They are continuously updating hospitalization data and vaccination data, but testing and cases are the places where we look to see these trends that are actually going to lead to further hospitalizations,” said Blauer, who has been tracking the state’s data. “They can be early warning signals that we need to make some of the harder decisions” about the economy and schools.

The current number of people who are hospitalized for covid-19 in Maryland has jumped to 1,345, the highest daily total since early February. The number is similar in neighboring Virginia, where there are 1,344 confirmed covid-19 patient hospitalized. Last week most hospitals in Maryland were near capacity levels, which triggered emergency measures including the cancellation of elective surgeries.

Hogan received the initial two doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine in January and February and announced his third shot was taken in August. Public health officials have said that vaccines and booster shots do not prevent contracting the virus, but they help to stave off the worst outcomes.

Hogan is a cancer survivor and has been in remission since November of 2015. He was diagnosed in June 2015 with an aggressive, late Stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Hogan, 65, is immunocompromised due to his past cancer diagnosis, which means he faces a higher risk of serious illness from the virus.

It’s unclear where Hogan may have been exposed to the virus or how many people he may have exposed to it later. Over the past several days, he has hosted a group of youngsters participating in a mentoring program at the State House; conducted a live in-person interview at Fox News Sunday, and attended a number of events at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Palm Beach, Fla.

Blauer said that part of the advantage for public officials, such as Hogan, Warren and Booker, is that they receive regular, routine testing.

“We know regular routine access to testing is one of the best mitigation strategies that you can deploy as an individual, unfortunately it’s not available to everyone,” she said. “The larger question is how can we expand who has access to testing.”

In the past several days, Maryland has seen a huge bump in demand for tests.

Montgomery County said Friday said it would no longer be able to take walk-ins at some county-run test sites; Howard County is trying to expand hours at its PCR test sites after demand more than doubled last week, causing wraparound lines at some locations; and Anne Arundel County has purchased 100,000 at-home test kits to make up for their limited capacity to offer PCR tests.

Maryland in November said it would distribute 500,000 at-home test kits statewide, but several counties have said this supply is insufficient and sought to procure their own at-home test kits from sellers — with varying results.

Anne Arundel in October bought a batch of 100,000 of its own test kits through a vendor, but in December had to send 79,000 of them back because they were intended for distribution in Europe and did not have English-language instructions. The county is waiting on replacement tests, which should arrive next week, officials said. Montgomery has been waiting more than two months for its order for 24,000 at-home test kits from Abbott, the company that sells BinaxNOW tests, said county assistant chief administrative officer Earl Stoddard. Despite numerous inquiries, Stoddard said, the company has not provided a timeline for delivery.

During Hogan’s appearance on Fox, he was asked if he was expecting to make any major changes, possibly lockdowns, as the state’s hospitalizations spike. He said he anticipated the “worst surge we’ve seen in our hospitals throughout the entire crisis” in the next three to five weeks but had no plans of imposing new restrictions.

“We’ve got hospitalizations up 150 percent over the past two weeks, and we’re taking steps to try to provide more support for our hospitals,” he said. “We’re not anticipating any lockdowns at all. We’re not considering that.”

Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, said contact tracing is underway. Staff members who are deemed to be close contacts are isolating and getting tested out of an abundance of caution, he said. As of Monday afternoon, no staffers had received positive results.

While masking is required in public areas of the State House, they have not been required on the second floor, where the governor and his staff work.

Rebecca Tan contributed to this report.