State Center, a mainstay for COVID-19 tests and vaccines in the Baltimore region during the pandemic, is slated to close Saturday, state health officials said.
The center on Preston Street north of downtown has been offering the COVID services for 16 months, but demand for services in the fourth year of the pandemic has waned, severe cases are down from the latest peak and the U.S. public health emergency is slated to end.
“This unprecedented public health emergency created a historic partnership that has helped thousands of Marylanders get the COVID services they need, without barriers of any kind,” said Dr. Laura Herrera Scott, the state’s new health secretary, in a statement.
“It is a testament to the amazing work that so many have done here that we are now able to transition COVID services back to local health departments and health systems, knowing that Maryland is in good hands with our medical professionals and local partners statewide.”
State Center has been offering tests, vaccines, the Paxlovid antiviral treatment medication, and KN95 masks. Tests and supplies will be offered at city and county health sites, doctor’s offices and pharmacies, though after the public health emergency ends in May and federal supplies run out, consumers may find they have to pay a share of the costs.
State Center has been operated jointly by the state health department, the University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins Medicine. The center was previously housed in the Baltimore Convention Center.
Officials said State Center has given more than 40,000 COVID tests and 12,000 vaccinations. About 160,000 tests and 137,000 vaccinations have been provided through the state’s task force set up to provide services during the pandemic.
Health officials say hospitalizations are down nearly 50% since the most recent high in January, and the department will return its main focus to other public health issues, such as substance use, mental health disorders and health disparities.
State figures show there are 413 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and more than 16,000 Marylanders have died from an infection.
The state referred Baltimore residents still in need of tests to the city health department clinics and other state partners, which includes pharmacies, listed in a state database. Those who want Paxlovid to reduce their COVID symptoms and chance for severe disease can call 410-649-6122.
“With the support of Baltimore’s two academic centers, this tireless team has become a national example of the ideal public-private partnership focusing on access and equity as well as education and scientific research,” said Dr. Chuck Callahan, director of the COVID operation that included State Center and vice president of population health for the University of Maryland Medical Center, in a statement.
Added Dr. Mindy Kantsiper, deputy director of the task force and associate vice chair for inpatient quality and safety at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, “Our motto has been ‘One Team. One Fight,’ and we know that our work will be remembered as part of Maryland’s response to the pandemic.”