Dear Fellow Marylanders:
Over the last two years, we have lost family and friends, colleagues and neighbors, while coping with countless other economic, social and emotional challenges brought on by the pandemic. We have been able to return to some normal activities safely, and our job market has bounced back at a record pace, but I’m writing today to tell you how important it is that we continue to take precautions to ensure no one else loses a loved one unnecessarily.
I thought President Joe Biden was on target this week when he spoke from The White House about the unimaginable losses our country has endured. He said:
“We’re at a new stage in fighting this pandemic, facing an evolving set of challenges. We have to double down on our efforts to get to – get shots in people’s arms, country by country, community by community; ensure we have reliable and predictable supplies of vaccines and boosters for everyone, everywhere; expand access globally to tests and treatments; and we have to prevent complacency.”
Complacency. At the very same time we are marking the grim milestone of 1 million deaths in this country from the coronavirus, unfortunately, we also need to warn against the danger of complacency.
As long as individuals are being hospitalized and dying from the complications of this virus, we cannot be satisfied with the result. There are a raft of reasons why our nation’s response to this public health crisis became so politicized from the start, allowing many across the country to purposely ignore public health advisories. However, for more than a year now, we have been on a positive trajectory out of this pandemic and we need to keep up the momentum.
I am thankful that many Marylanders have taken necessary precautions to mitigate the effects of this disease. More than 95 percent of Marylanders over 18 and 92.1 percent of Marylanders over 5 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines and boosters continue to be our most effective tool to combat the very worst effects of COVID-19, and I urge every eligible person to get vaccinated AND boosted.
This pandemic is not over. Our short attention span and complacency snaps back pretty easily, if we let them. New COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country with over 40 states, including ours, are seeing increases. Cases in Maryland have reached the highest levels since the initial Omicron wave at the beginning of the year. As of Friday, over 300 Marylanders were hospitalized with the virus.
We all have a part to play in keeping not only our families, but our local communities, safe and healthy. In addition to personal habits, like wearing a face mask indoors, washing my hands frequently and minimizing large crowds, I will keep pressing to ensure that Maryland and all of our states have the resources necessary to continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the health and wellbeing of our loved ones.
The American Rescue Plan, championed by President Biden and passed by Congress, allowed us to deploy quickly pandemic response and mitigation resources. We also saw the launch of innovative programs to expand access to testing, vaccinations, and treatments including the Biden administration’s Test-to-Treat Initiative, which works to allow individuals who test positive to receive COVID-19 treatments, like Pfizer’s Paxlovid, at a local pharmacy. In order to continue to ramp this up and sustain other programs, more funding is essential.
In March, the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services made it clear that a minimum of $22.5 billion of additional funding was necessary in the short-term replenish pandemic prevention programs. We have begun to see the negative effects of not acting to provide COVID-19 funds. The strain on our hospitals and health care providers and the uncertainty of how some states will provide care for uninsured populations are growing.
An ongoing public health crisis requires an ongoing federal response. If partisan gridlock in Congress continues to put the brakes on additional COVID-19 relief funding, the White House will be forced to further cut back on crucial aspects of its pandemic response. Without more funds, our nation will be unable to buy a sufficient number of next generation vaccines in the fall. This could mean that redesigned vaccines that target Omicron variant mutations to boost protection against the virus could be limited. Without these protections for the broader population, the United States could be more susceptible to future surges.
We cannot fight this pandemic alone. We have seen time and again over the last two years how quickly a variant or surge from one part of the world affects us here at home. Recently, the United States has seen the emergence of new subvariants of Omicron, BA.4 and BA.5, first reported in countries in Africa and Europe. While no more severe than the original Omicron variant, these new sub-variants are more contagious than previous versions of the virus. This is why, as we continue mitigation and prevention measures at home, we must simultaneously prioritize funding to distribute vaccinations across the world in order to prevent more and worse variants from emerging abroad and hurting us.
As we remember and mourn the lives of our loved ones, it is important we honor them by protecting ourselves and others from contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus. After more than two years, this is not an easy thing to ask. But as a community and as a nation, we cannot risk becoming numb to the suffering or complacent with our efforts. We must find a balance between getting back to our lives and being vigilant against this deadly disease.
Please, get vaccinated and boosted. Keep washing your hands regularly. Wear a mask. Stay safe. Thank you.