Governor, Greenbelt mayor clash at mass vaccination site opening event

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Mayor Colin Byrd (D) traded barbs during an event to celebrate the opening of the FEMA-run mass vaccination site Wednesday at the Greenbelt Metro.

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During a set of speeches at a news conference Byrd criticized the state's initial efforts at vaccine equity saying that Hogan improperly blamed people of color for being hesitant to take the vaccine.

"The state has chosen on many occasions to scapegoat people of color across the state as people who simply do not want the vaccine," Byrd said.

Byrd also said Hogan's recent lifting of capacity limits at restaurants and other businesses has contributed to rising cases of the virus since a stark drop off after the winter holidays.

Hogan urged Byrd to wrap up his speech and then a state official later tried taking the microphone from the Greenbelt mayor.

READ MORE: Maryland COVID-19 cases rising among younger people

When Hogan was later asked about the mayor's comments he responded.

"I would disagree with every word that he said," said Hogan.

Maryland did have a rocky rollout in terms of the gap between Black and white residents. The percentage of Black residents vaccinated was just 17 percent about a month ago, well below the 30 percent who make up Maryland's Black population.

Hogan blamed hesitancy among people of color for the initial unequal rollout of the vaccine in Maryland, although recent polling from Goucher College does not support that.

The poll found that among Maryland residents who say they will wait to get or not get the jab, 31 percent are white and 36 percent are Black, a small difference.

READ MORE: COVID-19 vaccination site opening at Greenbelt Metro Station in Maryland

In the last month the state has worked to increase equitable distribution coming much closer to closing the gap with Black people making up 23.1 percent of the share of known people vaccinated, fourth in the nation, according to Bloomberg.

In a statement a spokesman for Hogan added in part, "'s easy to spot problems, but it takes talent to solve them. Maryland ranks 4th in the nation for vaccinating the African-American population, and we look forward to building on this progress."