In hopes of getting Maryland’s K-12 students safely back in their classrooms as soon as possible, the state will provide nearly 1 million COVID-19 tests to both public and private school systems-starting now and lasting through the end of June-Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday.

“This testing program will include both rapid antigen tests and full diagnostic testing and will be available to any public or non-public schools that want to launch a testing program or that want to supplement an existing testing program,” Hogan said at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis.

Hogan added: “We are also offering an unlimited supply of PPE to all schools and we are distributing more than $1 billion in funding to help more children get safely back into the classrooms.”

Hogan, who has implored local school boards to develop plans to get students back in the classroom by March 1, noted that as of today 22 of the state’s 24 school systems have either already developed such plans or have resumed in-person instruction.

The governor cannot order schools to return to in-person instruction as state law stipulates that that decision lies with each individual school system.

At Thursday’s news conference, Hogan said that today his administration is sending a letter to the federal government asking for better coordination with states regarding the allotment of vaccines being distributed to pharmacies and other medical facilities.

Hogan implored the federal government to send more “damn vaccines” to Maryland. Hogan noted that about 2 million Marylanders are currently eligible for vaccination but that the state only receives about 11,000 does each day. Hogan also noted that just because someone is eligible for vaccination that does not mean that a vaccine is always available.

Hogan said that Maryland is making progress in vaccine distribution, noting that the number of vaccines administered has improved 770% over the past six weeks and that an average of 26,211 doses are being administered each day.

Last week Maryland ranked 45 out of 50 among states in vaccine distribution.

Hogan said the M&T stadium mass vaccination site will open on Feb. 25 and that mass vaccination sites in both southern and western Maryland will be open next month.

Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) in a statement on Thursday implored Hogan to prioritize Prince George’s County residents for vaccination appointments.

“Maryland’s disorganized and fragmented approach to vaccinations has left counties like Prince George’s scrambling and residents frustrated. Our state consistently lags behind the rest of the country for vaccinations and Prince George’s County is far behind other jurisdictions. The current approach is not working and demands a course correction.

“I remain deeply concerned that state vaccine supplies are not being equitably distributed, putting the populous Prince George’s County at a default disadvantage. Additionally, while the opening of the mass vaccination site at Six Flags is welcome news for Prince George’s, unclear directions have pitted residents from neighboring counties against each other as they fight for limited appointments. The Governor’s decentralized strategy is not meeting the needs of our residents.”

In an exclusive interview, earlier this week with Brown graded Hogan a “D” for the state’s vaccine rollout as well as the state’s unemployment problems that has left thousands of taxpayers waiting months for a state check.

Hogan told reporters Thursday that Gen. Janeen Birckhead, who is the head of the state’s Vaccine Equity Task Force, will take the lead in monitoring vaccine distribution progress in historically marginalized communities.

There are 367,865 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Thursday morning, according to the Department of Health, and 7,288 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is at 5.08%, which is slightly above CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted more than 7.3 million COVID-19 tests.

Maryland has distributed 1,252,200 COVID-19 vaccines. That includes 587,180 (9.712%) first doses and 197,990 (3.275%) second doses.

This article originally appeared in on February 11, 2021.

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