“We need to reach people who, in part because of lies and misinformation, have resisted the vaccine so far,” Chair Shane E. Pendergrass (D-Howard) and Vice Chair Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s) wrote to Maryland Health Secretary Dennis R. Schrader and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Thursday. “Those two numbers need to be the ones Marylanders see. . . . The message we need to convey is: Unvaccinated residents are dying from covid.”
The state’s dashboard provides a swath of information by age, race, gender and demographics, but it does not provide a breakdown based on vaccination status.
The lawmakers noted published reports and tweets from state officials that 100 percent of the covid-19 deaths in Maryland in June were of unvaccinated residents and that 95 percent of the new cases were of people who had not been inoculated. But, they said, there was no data showing that on the state website.
Maryland is seeing a rise in cases, with 309 new covid-19 cases reported Tuesday, the sixth consecutive day of more than 200 daily cases in the state. Hospitalizations, cases per 100,000 residents and the state’s positivity rate are slowly creeping up, and state officials have said that the more contagious delta variant has become the dominant strain.
“I just believe it may be convincing to some segment of the population to get vaccinated,” Pendergrass said in an interview. “Some people respond to a lottery that has money attached. But some people might respond to being scared that they are going to die. Seems like you should give people the facts. This is about transparency.”
Health Department spokesman Charles L. Gischlar said in an email Tuesday that “the department is working on the new cases, hospitalizations and deaths (vaccinated vs. unvaccinated)” and “plans to make them available on the dashboard soon.”
This is not the first time Maryland officials have released additional information after calls for more data to be made available publicly.
Last year at the height of the pandemic, a group of lawmakers, concerned about health inequities, pressured the state to release racial data for the coronavirus, including cases by Zip code and hospitalizations and death by race. That data has since been used to identify and target resources to areas and populations hardest hit by covid-19.
Pendergrass and Peña-Melnyk had written two letters to Schrader over the past two months. After the initial letter on June 3, Pendergrass said she was told that the state was reviewing the request.
Schrader responded to the second letter Friday and made references to the state’s efforts to reach the more than 1 million residents who are unvaccinated, including social media campaigns, television ads and partnering with trusted community leaders in areas with low vaccination rates. But he did not say that the data would be made public.