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COVID-19 in Maryland

Hospitals to Increase Bed Capacity, Limit Elective Procedures as COVID-19 Cases Surge

A nurse treats a patient with coronavirus in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Leonardtown on May 1, 2020. As the state faces another surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, hospitals are taking steps to maintain enough capacity to treat patients. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Hospitals will begin to limit elective surgeries and increase the state’s staffed-bed capacity as Maryland surpasses 1,200 COVID-19-related hospitalizations, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced Friday.

Noting the high level of transmissibility of the omicron variant, Hogan continued to urge hesitant Marylanders to get vaccinated.

“​​The vast majority of these hospitalizations are unvaccinated patients, who remain at grave risk of serious infection, severe illness, and death,” the governor said in a statement Friday morning. “Initial studies indicate that higher levels of immunity from booster shots do provide more protection, which makes it more important than ever that every single Marylander who is eligible for a booster shot should get a booster as soon as possible.”

The hospital surge comes on the heels of a cyberattack that targeted the Maryland Department of Health that ​​disabled the agency’s computers, leaving it unable to fully update the state’s COVID-19 dashboard and Marylanders in the dark about the full scope of the virus’ reach.

According to the dashboard, data reflecting the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is up to date. The number of COVID-related hospitalizations has increased dramatically recently, rising from just over 500 hospital patients in early November to 1,204 on Friday.

Earlier this week, Maryland Health Secretary Dennis R. Schrader issued an amended directive requiring hospitals to:

  • Balance out the number of people receiving inpatient care for COVID-19 vs. those receiving care for other reasons;
  • Establish monoclonal antibody infusion treatment programs; and
  • Update their emergency pandemic plans to reflect an increase in staffed medical-surgical and ICU bed capacity and submit those plans to the health department.

Pandemic plans are to go into effect once the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations reach 1,500.

“Hospitals have and continue to do everything within their power to work to stem this latest COVID surge,” Bob Atlas, president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association, said in a statement Friday morning. “They are already doing many of the actions noted by Gov. Hogan and will continue to stretch to support their communities as best they can.”

Dr. David Marcozzi, the COVID-19 incident commander for the University of Maryland Medical System, said Wednesday that they had seen a 187% increase in COVID-19 related hospitalizations over the past month. He attributed the sharp increase to the omicron variant, which Marcozzi said the state is “only beginning to feel the impact of.”

“For patients, this surge means longer waiting times right now in emergency departments as we focus on caring for the sickest patients first,” he said in a statement. “The best way Marylanders can support the state’s health care system during this surge is by getting vaccinated, ensuring they receive a third dose, and by following other guidance including masking, social distancing and frequent testing.”

Marylanders 16 years or older who received the Pfizer vaccine and those 18 and up who had the Moderna vaccine are eligible to receive booster shots six months after their second dose. Adults who received the Johnson&Johnson single-dose vaccine may get boosted two months after being inoculated.

Initial vaccination is open to all Marylanders 5 years and older.

“The bottom line: if you are unvaccinated, get vaccinated,” said Hogan. “If you are vaccinated, get your booster shot.”