CUMBERLAND — Maryland health officials believe access, convenience and education will motivate more folks to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Although 76.2 percent of people age 18 and older across the state have gotten at least one vaccination, pockets of unvaccinated folks remain.

"We have to continue to make the vaccine accessible," Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader told the Cumberland Times-News Monday.

Last month, 100 percent of COVID-19 deaths, 95 percent of new cases and 93 percent of hospitalizations were in people that had not been vaccinated against the virus.

The disease, especially as its delta variant becomes more prominent across the country, threatens unvaccinated folks.

"My biggest concern is that they are at serious risk for getting COVID," Schrader said.

So far, there have been roughly 90 cases of the delta strain in Maryland.

"We expect over the next couple of months, because it's ... twice as infectious as the alpha variant, that it will start to spread among the unvaccinated, and then that in and of itself could create new (COVID-19) strains," he said. "So we're monitoring that very closely."

Maryland's health department is working with Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and the state's lab to track COVID-19 variants.

"Our understanding at the moment is that both the Pfizer and Moderna two-shot regimen is still very effective in combatting the variants that we've seen so far," he said. "The key is to get as many people vaccinated as possible."

The state is offering mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics that can be requested by groups including nonprofits via an online form at governor.maryland.gov/govaxmobile/.

"We'll come and help," Schrader said.

COVID-19 and kids, workplaces

Mississippi health officials last week reported several children with COVID-19 were being treated in intensive care units, and some of them required ventilators.

While vaccinations are not available for children under age 12, Maryland health officials are examining data that pertains to COVID-19 cases in young kids.

"We are actually doing a survey now," Schrader said. "We monitor all the new (COVID-19) cases by age, but we're doing a deeper dive."

Meanwhile, as many companies across the country reopen, they ponder whether to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

"We are encouraging businesses to use the authority that they already have," Schrader said.

Local COVID-19 figures

Frederick County reported seven new coronavirus cases Tuesday, bringing the local pandemic total to 19,916. There were no new local deaths on account of the virus, leaving the death toll at 334. The county's seven-day positivity rate was 1.13 percent. Three people in Frederick were hospitalized with the virus as of Monday, the most recent date for which data was available.

The News-Post staff added Frederick County's latest coronavirus figures to this report.

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