ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Maryland will mandate all hospital and nursing home staff to get vaccinated by Sept. 1 or submit to regular testing. Governor Larry Hogan made the announcement during a news conference Wednesday at the State House focused on protecting the vulnerable during the latest COVID-19 surge.

“Not every hospital has taken action and some continue to have far too many unvaccinated healthcare workers needlessly exposing their vulnerable patients,” Governor Hogan said.

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Joe DeMattos, president of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland, said the governor’s mandate will save lives. “We have much, much farther to go because in a handful of skilled nursing and rehab centers and in hospitals, we have staff vaccination rates closer to 40 percent,“ DeMattos said.

The Maryland Hospital Association told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren that most hospitals do require vaccines. “On June 9, two and a half months before the governor’s mandate, Maryland hospitals took this step to ensure the safety of their patients, employees and communities. Virtually all hospitals in Maryland have instituted a mandate or stated an intention to require COVID-19 vaccination for all employees,” the group said.

Hospitalizations are almost five times what they were one month ago. On July 18, 131 people were hospitalized in Maryland. That number rose to 630 on Wednesday. The governor said there is still adequate capacity.

The governor said he will increase fines and other penalties for nursing homes that fail to report vaccination data.

Hogan also called on the federal government to fully approve vaccines and allow them to be used on children from ages five to 11 as school begins. Currently, only those 12 and older can be vaccinated.

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“We are being told that this approval is still months away, but that is simply not soon enough,“ Hogan said.

He said the lack of full FDA vaccine approval is “the most significant hurdle to reaching those who are still hesitant.”

He also called on federal regulators to immediately allow booster shots for seniors and other vulnerable people. “They’ve already said they’re going to do it, but they are going to wait until September, and our question is why?”

The governor said once boosters are approved for everyone, the state will not go back to mass vaccination sites.

Right now, Maryland is not mandating vaccines for all state employees. He said he has no plans to reinstate an indoor mask requirement.

“We haven’t been talking about indoor mask requirements at all. Being 80% vaccinated we think is a good step. If we get the rest of the people vaccinated, hopefully, we won’t have to revert back to some things from a year ago when we didn’t have vaccines,” Governor Hogan said.

He noted 100% of all new coronavirus infections that have been sequenced in Maryland are the Delta variant.

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