ANNAPOLIS (WJZ) -- Halfway into an Omicron-driven state of emergency, Gov. Larry Hogan praised Maryland's declining COVID-19 case rate and hospitalizations but warned residents "we're not out of the woods."
The state's cases have dropped by 42% over the last two weeks, second best in the country, and hospitalizations have fallen back below the 3,000-patient mark following eight straight days of decreases, Hogan said Thursday.
Maryland's positivity rate peaked 15 days ago at 29.98%, but is now down to 18%.
But the governor said the next 10 to 14 days will be critical in the state's fight against the recent surge in the virus, and he advised Marylanders to continue masking, avoiding crowds, staying home if they're sick, and getting tested, vaccinated and boosted to slow the spread.
"Even though we have been able to attain considerable drops in the metrics, and they're continuing to drop, they're still much higher than they had been or where we need to be," he said. "We will continue taking actions every single day to combat this surge."
Hogan wore a mask during the duration of his Thursday press conference, which came hours after he announced his wife, Yumi, had tested positive.
"Even if you're not symptomatic, making sure you're not passing it on to other people is critically important," he said. "It's why, even though I've got two negative tests, I'm still wearing the mask while I'm talking to you here today, because that's what the protocol is."
The Omicron variant is four-to-five times more transmissible than earlier variants of the virus and now accounts for 95% of lab-confirmed cases in the state, the governor said.
And while most of Maryland's metrics are trending in the right direction, the number of residents who die from the virus is likely to increase in the short term, Hogan said, noting the death rate typically lags behind cases and hospitalizations.
"Sadly, the vast majority of deaths continue to be people who are unvaccinated which is why we're continuing to urge Marylanders to get vaccinated or to get boosted as soon as possible," he said.
Starting this week, state health officials and healthcare workers from the University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins University will conduct antibody tests at nursing homes across the state to determine if a fourth vaccine dose is needed for seniors.
The state is also working to distribute 20 million N95 and KN95 masks, including 3 million masks to schools. The judiciary has already received 250,000 masks, Hogan said.
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