2021 | Coronavirus

UPDATED: Hogan says Montgomery County’s claim that it will have mass vaccine site is ‘premature’

Earlier in day, county official announced that site would be at Montgomery College

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Pictured are Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses from the initial 100 delivered to Montgomery County officials on Dec. 23.

Photo from Montgomery County

This story was updated at 10:24 a.m. on March 16, 2021, to include additional background and at 4:06 p.m. to reflect Gov. Larry Hogan’s statement. It was also updated at 5:10 p.m. to include a response from Dr. Earl Stoddard.

After months of pushing state health officials to place a COVID-19 mass vaccination site in Montgomery County, local officials said Tuesday that they received approval for a site at the Germantown campus of Montgomery College.

But Gov. Larry Hogan called the news that a site will be placed at the campus “premature.” He told reporters Tuesday afternoon that no decision has been made and that multiple counties are under consideration for the next site.

Dr. Earl Stoddard, executive director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, announced the news during a briefing with the County Council on Tuesday morning.

He said the state, county, Holy Cross Health, and Montgomery College will work together to build out a site on the campus. Unlike other mass vaccination sites that are completely state-run, the Montgomery County site will be a partnership with the state, he said.

The site will be built out over the next couple of weeks and is expected to administer 3,000 vaccine doses per day, seven days a week, according to Stoddard.

But Hogan said later in the day that none of that has been confirmed and he expects to have more news next week.

Reporters asked Hogan about the Montgomery County plan after he toured a Maryland Vaccine Equity Task Force vaccination clinic in Prince George’s County.

He said the state is in discussions about a site with four or five different counties.

“There has been no decision made,” he said. “I think that [announcement] was a bit premature, but we’re certainly working with them. We’re going to make decisions by next week and we’re going to let the counties … know.”

Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, wrote in an email Tuesday afternoon that the state “will make an announcement when there’s an announcement to be made.”

The Maryland Department of Health, the Maryland National Guard, and Holy Cross Health visited the Germantown campus on Saturday.

In a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon, Stoddard said he and other county officials were a “bit surprised” to hear Hogan’s statements regarding the site.

“I think there’s a bit of miscommunication or semantics going on because functionally, we met with the state this morning and we’re meeting with them again tomorrow. They’re offering us logistic support,” he said. State officials offered on Tuesday morning to help boost WiFi, acquire laptops, and work on maps.

Stoddard said he was not sure why Hogan characterized the situation the way he did, but maybe Hogan wants to make the announcement himself.

“I’m happy with what the state has done for us and this site,” Stoddard said. “I’m not looking to get into an argument with the governor. … They’re offering us not just advice, but actual physical, logistical support – tangible stuff. I think they’re just – the wording or characterization is different.”

Stoddard said the site will potentially open next week or the week after, but will start at a small scale of about 250 doses a day.

The doses will steadily increase as the state receives more vaccine doses from the federal government, with a goal of reaching 3,000 doses a day by April 15, Stoddard said. There’s a chance that won’t happen if the doses aren’t available.

Stoddard told the council on Tuesday morning that other community-based, mobile and county clinics will continue to operate and administer vaccines.

County officials received a briefing on Tuesday about how to use the state’s mass vaccination site scheduling program. State officials will make additional site visits to the college.

“The positive news is that the state has given us the go-ahead and they will be actively supporting us with real logistical support to get this site up and running,” Stoddard said. “They are going to recognize it as a partnership site with the state as we build it out.”

The state previously declined to consider adding additional mass vaccination sites until all six of its planned sites were open.

The state has already opened sites at Six Flags America in Prince George’s County, Baltimore Convention Center, M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, and Regency Furniture Stadium in Charles County.

The remaining two sites are Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in Salisbury, opening no later than Thursday, and Hagerstown Premium Outlets, opening on March 25.

The state launched a preregistration system for mass vaccination sites on Saturday. Eligible residents and workers can preregister at covidvax.maryland.gov or by phone through the state’s COVID-19 vaccination support center at 1-855-634-6829.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.