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Baltimore-- Maryland PIRG is calling on Governor Hogan to hit the reset button on the state’s response to containing the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as cases and hospitalizations increase. More than 1,000 health professionals from Maryland and nationwide have now signed an open letter to America’s decision makers urging them to shut it down, start over, and do it right this time to contain COVID-19 and save lives.
“We applaud Governor Hogan for announcing a statewide mask mandate to protect public health from COVID-19,” said Emily Scarr, Maryland PIRG Director, “But because of Maryland’s positivity rate, delays in testing results, and increasing rate of hospitalizations, Maryland PIRG is urging Gov. Hogan to close non-essential businesses and limit restaurant service to take-out. If we want to prevent a surge of new cases, people should stay home, going out only if they work in an essential service, need to get food and medicine, or to exercise and get fresh air.”
These protocols should stay in place until the positivity rate, the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive, is at 2 percent or lower on average statewide. Health experts agree that’s low enough that they’d feel confident the current outbreak is under control.
Even still, once the positivity rate hits 2 percent or lower, the Governor should not start reopening again unless it meets the following criteria laid out by health experts:
- Enough daily testing capacity to test everyone with flu-like symptoms plus anyone they have been in close contact with over the last two weeks (at least 10 additional tests per symptomatic person). According to the Harvard Global Health Institute, Maryland has 75% of the testing capacity we need.
- A workforce of contact tracers large enough to trace all current cases.
- Enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep essential workers such as health professionals, emergency responders and grocery store clerks safe.
Federal support is key to helping states reach these benchmarks, and so far it’s been sorely lacking. That’s why Maryland PIRG is also urging the Trump Administration and Congress to provide a national strategy and resources for ramping up testing infrastructure around the country and ensuring that all essential workers get adequate PPE.
“Telling the hard truths and making the hard calls now will save more lives later. That’s why we’re calling on our leaders to rise up to the challenge. Half measures will only lead to more suffering,” finished Scarr.
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