By Elizabeth Janney
For the second time in one week, Maryland has reached new levels of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
More than 2,000 coronavirus patients are being treated in Maryland hospitals, state health officials said Wednesday. With 220 COVID-19 patients added in the last day, hospitals statewide are treating 2,046 patients who have tested positive for the virus.
It is the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Maryland has seen since the pandemic began. Previously the record number of coronavirus patients was 1,952 on Jan. 11, before the COVID-19 vaccine was widely available.
Four hospitals in Maryland have declared disasters as COVID-19 patients surge. Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie, Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air and Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace have all declared hospital disasters and moved to “crisis standards of care,” meaning they will reduce surgeries, redeploy staff and streamline processes to enable their facilities to handle the demand.
As hospitalizations climb to new heights, the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day in Maryland has surged to a record level too.
In the last 24 hours, state health officials said 10,873 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Maryland.
That shatters the previous record, which was broken last week when the state reported more than 6,800 new cases and saw over 1,500 patients hospitalized with the virus, triggering the Maryland Department of Health to order hospitals to put their pandemic plans into effect.
The surge in cases comes weeks after the introduction of the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19, which was first reported in Maryland on Dec. 3.
Gov. Larry Hogan said the state was monitoring the surge.
“With hospitalizations and deaths our primary focus, we have already taken a number of emergency actions in preparation for this surge,” Hogan said in a statement.
On Dec. 17, the Maryland Department of Health ordered hospitals to make beds available and established a Surge Operation Center, and on Dec. 23, hospitals were given orders to put their pandemic plans into effect.
“Under a state health directive, hospitals are required to implement pandemic plans to suspend elective surgeries and manage their patient census. Whatever resources hospital systems have requested, we are providing,” Hogan said. “We have worked closely with our licensing boards to augment the healthcare workforce, and we have committed an additional $100 million for hospitals and nursing homes to address urgent staffing needs.”
Hogan urged people to use common sense and to get vaccinated and boosted.
“The booster shots provide the strongest protection against the highly transmissible Omicron variant,” Hogan said. “The most important thing Marylanders can do is get boosted now.”
A vaccine locator is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We have the tools, resources, and strategies in place to protect ourselves,” Hogan said in a statement Wednesday. “We are closely monitoring this surge, and will continue to provide updates as additional actions are taken.”
To meet the demand for COVID-19 testing, Hogan said the state began distributing 500,000 at-home rapid test kits through local health departments and BWI Thurgood Marshall International Airport last month and extended hours at state-run testing sites.
“I have mobilized the Maryland National Guard to stand up multiple surge testing sites, and directed state health officials to take whatever steps are necessary to acquire additional at-home rapid test kits,” Hogan said. “We have been calling on the federal government to do more to expand the availability of testing—including invoking the Defense Production Act—but as the president himself has acknowledged, those efforts have fallen short. Regardless, we will do all we can at the state level to further scale up testing operations.”
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