BALTIMORE (WJZ) — State’s top health officials are urging all employers to require covid vaccines.

It comes as the delta variant spreads among the unvaccinated. It now accounts for nearly 99 percent of all new cases nationwide — and here in Maryland, more than 850 cases were reported in the past 24 hours.

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For the first time since May, more than 600 people are hospitalized.

“I don’t see any other way through,” said Senator President Bill Ferguson.

It’s the latest push to get vaccines into more arms.

“What we really need is for employers to take charge,” said Maryland Secretary of Health, Dennis Schrader.

State health officials said they are not considering any widespread mandates. Instead, they’re urging businesses to drop the hammer.

“They have the ability to do that and it is disappointing that more haven’t done that and are basically saying you know well we prefer government control,” said Schrader.

Right now in Maryland,  60 percent of the population is fully vaccinated and 66 percent of all those 12 and up have received their first dose.

But as access to the vaccine increases, distribution drops off. The state went from a peak back in April of 65,000 shots distributed daily to now only 10,000.

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“It is hard to see how it changes without some sort of mandate in place or some basic requirement in some way,” said Ferguson.

Several local hospitals including Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland Medical System have already announced vaccines will be required for employees by the end of the summer.

“Please, please tell the health care providers it sets a terrible example if you’re telling people to get vaccinated and you don’t take precautions yourselves,” said Senator Addie Eckardt.

At True Chesapeake Oyster Company in Hampden, they’re requiring the shots not only for their employees but also for all guests.

“Our staff is fully vaccinated and we did lose a couple of staff members because of requiring vaccination of our staff but we also encouraged a couple of people,” said Zach Miller.

“We just felt like it was the right thing to do,” said Mills.

As fear still lingers for some, vaccines are the key to getting back to normal.

“People have to step up,” said Schrader

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All state employees including in prisons, hospitals, veteran centers and juvenile facilities also need to submit proof of vaccination or get tested regularly.

Kelsey Kushner