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Baltimore - At the time of year that many Marylanders usually start making holiday travel plans, the consumer advocacy group, Maryland PIRG, is launching the “Home Safe for the Holidays” initiative. The campaign calls on Gov. Hogan to ensure Maryland reaches the testing levels needed to suppress the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) so that people can gather more safely over the upcoming holidays.
“The holidays are going to be different this year,” said Maryland PIRG director Emily Scarr. “We are all concerned about the consequences that congregating together could have on our health and the health of our families. The only way we can safely be together is if we dramatically increase testing in Maryland and we follow basic health protocols like mask wearing.”
Maryland PIRG is urging people to sign a petition to the governor urging him to commit to hitting the testing target that the Brown School of Public Health and Harvard Global Health Institute say is necessary to effectively suppress the virus. That testing target is 7 times as much testing as Maryland is doing now. Gov. Hogan should also commit to ensuring enough lab capacity to return test results in 48 hours or less, which is the time frame health professionals say is important for preventing isolated incidents from becoming outbreaks.
The federal government announced recently that it plans to deliver 100 million rapid tests to states. That’s good, but nowhere near the testing capacity we need. In August, Gov. Hogan took strong leadership in organizing a consortium with other governors to increase efficiency and reduce costs for states to expand testing and lab capacity; but months later, Maryland is still falling short on testing.
Massachusetts has hit its testing target, and Connecticut and Maine are also close to hitting their targets. In the absence of federal action, Gov. Hogan can follow the example of successful states to achieve our goal. The most important things states, like Maryland, can do to reach testing targets are:
- Increase testing availability and accessibility, and make sure information on testing is easily found online.
- Promote testing, especially if testing sites aren’t being maximized. State’s can do mobile testing in neighborhoods, community centers, high risk communities, etc. to proactively reach the public.
- Take other measures to limit virus spread like closing non-essential businesses until cases subside, enforcing statewide mask wearing, and practicing social distancing . The more measures we take to compliment testing as a suppression tool, the faster we will hit targets.
“Health professionals have been clear about what we need to do. We need enough tests, they need to be used widely, we have to aggressively test and trace, and we have to follow health protocols,” explained Scarr. “If we want to celebrate the holidays with our loved ones, safely, Gov. Hogan needs to rapidly increase the amount of testing we are doing in Maryland.”
For a more in-depth analysis of what we need to have a semblance of a normal holiday season, check out this blog from U.S. PIRG’s Public Health Campaigns Director Matt Wellington and Dr. Syra Madad, the senior director of the System-wide Special Pathogens Program atNYC Health & Hospitals.
Maryland PIRG is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
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