Testimony: COVID-19 Testing, Contact Tracing, and Vaccination Act of 2021

We’re calling on the General Assembly to swiftly approve this bill for more robust planning and goal setting for Maryland’s COVID-19 response including expanded testing, contact tracing, and vaccine distribution.

 | 
Emily Scarr
Maryland PIRG State Director

Author: Emily Scarr

Maryland PIRG State Director

(410) 467-9389

Started on staff: 2005
B.A., Vassar College

Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Recently, Emily helped win small donor public financing in Montgomery County, Howard County, Prince George's County, and Baltimore City; the Family and Firefighter Protection Act to ban flame retardants in children's products, furniture and mattresses; and, the Maryland Keep Antibiotics Effective Act to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms. Emily serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition, the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working, and the Maryland Tobacco Free Kids Coalition. She also serves on the Steering Committees for the Maryland Pesticide Action Network and Marylanders for Open Government. Emily lives in Baltimore with her husband, children, and dog.

This week we are supporting the COVID-19 Testing, Contact Tracing, and Vaccination Act of 2021, which is sponsored by Del. Pena-Melnyk in the House of Delegates and Sen. Rosapepe in the State Senate. Both chambers have hearings this week.

You can view our testimony here, or below.

HB836/SB741: COVID-19 Testing, Contact Tracing, and Vaccination Act of 2021
Tuesday, February 23, 2021: Health and Government Operations/Appropriations Committees
Wednesday, February 24rd, 2021: Finance Committee

FAVORABLE

Maryland Public Interest Research Group (Maryland PIRG) is a citizen funded public interest advocacy organization with grassroots members across the state.

COVID-19 is still raging across Maryland and the rest of the country. Before long, 8,000 Marylanders and 500,000 Americans will have died due to this deadly virus. 

We’re calling on the General Assembly to swiftly approve this bill for more robust planning and goal setting for Maryland’s COVID-19 response including expanded testing, contact tracing, and vaccine distribution.

Our Achilles’ heel when it comes to our nation’s COVID-19 response has always been a severe lack of funding and coordination. We saw this happen with testing infrastructure and now it’s the same story on vaccine distribution. 

The failure of our federal government has done the most harm, and states have been left to pick up the slack. While vaccination distribution is underway, most Marylanders are still months away from getting their shots. And we know resources will be needed to help harder-to-reach populations get their vaccines. Many will need a more individualized or localized approach to assure trust and to assist with the logistics of getting registered for the vaccine appointment and even getting transportation to the site. And although vaccines are rolling out, robust testing and contact tracing is still one of the best ways to protect everyone until broad swaths of the public are vaccinated.

Without additional legislation to help pay to combat COVID-19 and minimize its spread, tens of thousand more Marylanders will get sick, thousands more will die unnecessarily, and we will prolong economic and other damage to our state.

According to public health experts from the Harvard Global Health Institute and Brown University School of Public Health, Maryland is still not consistently meeting testing targets a year into the pandemic. We also need a stronger workforce of contact tracers, one large enough to trace all current cases. 

Increased funding and coordination of the state’s COVID-19 response will save lives and help us overcome this crisis and all the hardships that have come along with it. 

We respectfully request a favorable report.

Emily Scarr
Maryland PIRG State Director

Author: Emily Scarr

Maryland PIRG State Director

(410) 467-9389

Started on staff: 2005
B.A., Vassar College

Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Recently, Emily helped win small donor public financing in Montgomery County, Howard County, Prince George's County, and Baltimore City; the Family and Firefighter Protection Act to ban flame retardants in children's products, furniture and mattresses; and, the Maryland Keep Antibiotics Effective Act to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms. Emily serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition, the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working, and the Maryland Tobacco Free Kids Coalition. She also serves on the Steering Committees for the Maryland Pesticide Action Network and Marylanders for Open Government. Emily lives in Baltimore with her husband, children, and dog.