Hogan (R) said the Guard will help to ensure vaccines are distributed across the state in the coming weeks. As more vaccines become available, it will help to set up mobile vaccination clinics, he said.
“While we still have several months of difficult struggles ahead of us, this is a turning point, a light at the end of a very long tunnel,” Hogan said in a news conference.
Vaccinations began this week in Maryland, Virginia and the District, with the first shipment of doses reserved for health-care workers, first responders and nursing home residents. But not enough doses are expected in the first shipment to fully inoculate that cohort, prompting worries that other populations will be left out in subsequent shipments.
On Tuesday, Maryland’s top schools official urged the Hogan administration to make teachers and other school employees a top priority when the state begins administering vaccines to essential workers.
In a letter sent to the Maryland Health Department, State Schools Superintendent Karen B. Salmon said educators should be given priority among essential employees so children can return to school — either through hybrid or full in-person instruction — as campus closures lead to lower academic achievement and emotional stress.
Maryland’s next round of vaccines already gives high priority to elementary and secondary school teachers, along with school staff and child-care providers. Salmon sought assurances that the group will be at the front of the line, possibly ahead of public transit workers, food delivery workers and construction workers who also are considered “essential.”
“I know there are many factors influencing the distribution of the coronavirus vaccines, but the safety and education of our children demand immediate attention,” Salmon wrote to Jilene Chan, Maryland’s acting deputy secretary for public health. The letter was dated Dec. 10 but made public by Salmon’s office Tuesday.
One day earlier, advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities called on local officials to move those individuals higher on the priority list, especially if they live in group homes.
Virginia expects to receive 70,000 doses during the first shipment, while Maryland will receive 50,000. The District expects to receive 6,500 doses, which would cover only a fraction of the 85,000 health-care workers in the city.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has lobbied the Trump administration to allocate vaccines according to where high-priority recipients work instead of where they live.
Virginia officials pitched in on that front, promising to send the District 8,000 doses to cover health-care workers who live in the state but work in the nation’s capital. Maryland also expects to provide the District with 8,000 doses for its residents who work in D.C.’s health-care system.
“My heart really goes out to our front-line health-care workers, those who have come out every day, 24 hours, and working on weekends to take care of those across the commonwealth who have been infected,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said Tuesday while watching medical workers receive their first round of vaccines at a Sentara health-care facility in Norfolk.
Northam cautioned that, even with the arrival of the vaccines, people need to remain vigilant about wearing masks and practicing physical distancing.
“We want to get back to our near-normal. We want our children to be back in school. We want business to be up and running,” Northam said.
But the region has been slammed by the virus in recent weeks, and most of the public is several months away from seeing a vaccine needle.
On Tuesday, the seven-day average of new coronavirus-related deaths in D.C., Maryland and Virginia was at its highest level since the late spring, reaching 74.
The region recorded 5,862 new infections Tuesday, part of what public health officials say has been a post-Thanksgiving holiday bump after families and friends from different households gathered to celebrate — often without wearing masks.
With pandemic fatigue in effect, epidemiologists expect another surge after the December holidays.
Jesse Goodman, a professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, said a spike in hospitalizations is putting a strain on doctors, nurses and other employees at medical facilities.
In Maryland, the seven-day average number of people hospitalized with virus-related illnesses Tuesday was a record 1,729. Virginia’s weekly average was 2,128, also a record, while D.C. hospitalizations reached an average of 223, the highest since mid-June.
“Seeing the emotional toll that the virus puts on patients and their families is taking a huge amount out of our health-care workforce,” Goodman said. “It’s not totally different from people fighting a war.”
In Maryland, vaccines are expected to be distributed to nursing home facilities by next week.
State health officials said the CVS and Walgreens pharmacy chains plan to set up vaccination clinics at nursing homes.
Meanwhile, local health departments will administer vaccines to first responders, including police officers, firefighters and EMS staff.
Hogan also announced a public outreach campaign to ease the concerns of Maryland residents who are wary about the safety of the vaccines.
Meanwhile, local officials continue to battle the virus’s increasing spread.
In the District, Attorney General Karl A. Racine’s office announced Tuesday that it forced a local gym chain to comply with the city Health Department’s requirements for mask-wearing and physical distancing.
An investigator in Racine’s office who visited the Urban Athletic Club’s Shaw location six times saw “multiple gymgoers exercising without masks within six feet of others,” Racine’s office said. The gym’s staff also did not properly sanitize equipment and failed to enforce other health guidelines related to the pandemic, the office alleged.
Urban Athletic Club did not respond to a request for comment.
In Montgomery County, where more than 20 percent of hospital beds are occupied by coronavirus patients and new daily infections have climbed past 460 in recent days, county leaders added tougher restrictions.
An executive order to reinstate some shutdown restrictions issued last month by County Executive Marc Elrich (D) went into effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday after the County Council unanimously approved the action.
The order prohibits indoor dining, reduces capacity for retail stores to one customer per 200 square feet and caps indoor and outdoor gatherings for nonprofessional sports to 10 and 25, respectively.
Several residents argued during the meeting against approval of the order, including parents who said limits on youth sports would harm their children. But county officials said that without additional restrictions, hospitals are likely to reach full capacity in January.
“I do not enjoy having to make these decisions,” said County Council member Nancy Navarro (D-District 4). “Unfortunately, I think this is exactly what we have to do in order to address these numbers, in order to address these trends.”
The effectiveness of that effort could dictate when Montgomery County schools reopen.
On Tuesday, county schools officials extended their timeline for bringing the first groups of students back into classrooms, to Feb. 1.
The school system previously had aimed to have small groups of special education students back by mid-January.
The new plan — which is contingent on health conditions in the county — would bring back more than 18,600 children in kindergarten through third grade, along with some students in special education and career programs, officials said.
Dana Hedgpeth, Gregory S. Schneider, Michael Brice-Saddler and Donna St. George contributed to this report.