MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD. (WJZ) — Two new cases of the dangerous South African COVID—19 variant have been confirmed in Maryland.

Those diagnosed are both residents of Montgomery County who have recently traveled.

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“We are awaiting further information, but at this time it is suggested these cases were linked to travel and not community transmission,” said Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles.

Governor Larry Hogan tweeted “contact tracing is underway, and close contacts are isolating.”

 

Last week, one case of the South African variant was found in the Baltimore area. That person had not traveled.

“It’s even more important that we are exercising all of the things that have kept us safe so far,” Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren.

The strain is more contagious though not necessarily more deadly. Vaccines may not protect as well against it.

This comes as some Maryland lawmakers are frustrated at the slow vaccine rollout. They grilled Maryland’s Acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader about the allocation of vaccines.

Local health departments say they are getting a fraction of the doses they were receiving last week. Some said the vaccine is being redirected to pharmacies and mass vaccination sites and local officials are worried they will not be able to honor appointments for second doses.

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“All of the county health departments that have this capacity are frustrated to hear that the doses are being diverted elsewhere,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman.

Pittman said his health department received 3,400 doses this week compared to 5,000 last week.

Howard County received 66 percent of the doses the state allocated the week before.

“If you do the math in our county, it doesn’t add up,” Pittman said.

Anne Arundel County plans to make more doses available for teachers next week.

 

The county executive said he would not personally get the vaccine until educators get it first.

In Baltimore City, people had to be turned away from their first-dose appointments at the BCCC vaccination site because they were made using a link that was only for people making second-dose appointments.

 

“If you have a first-dose appointment in the month of February at the Baltimore City Community College site, it is not a valid appointment, unfortunately. Again, this month, we are only doing second-dose vaccinations,” said Dr. Dzirasa.

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.