A post-Thanksgiving surge in COVID-19 cases—driven in part by the Omicron variant—are pushing hospitalizations in Maryland back up to levels similar to early 2020 and last winter’s surge. Current hospitalizations exceeded 1,500 this week, more than tripling the numbers in one month and surpassing those during the initial Delta variant surge in early fall.
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On Tuesday, after announcing he tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated and receiving a booster dose, Gov. Larry Hogan warned hospitalizations may continue to rise.
“Our projections now show that we could reach levels of COVID hospitalizations in Maryland, possibly over 2,000. While we do expect that to peak in mid- to late-January, that is typically around when we also have the peak of the flu season, causing additional strain on our health care system.”
In an effort to bolster the state’s response to incoming hospitalizations, Hogan announced $100 million in emergency funding to “address urgent staffing needs” at hospitals and nursing homes.
$50 million will go towards the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission to address staffing shortages at hospitals, while the other half will aim to expand COVID testing, vaccine distribution, and treatments such as monoclonal antibodies in nursing homes.
Hogan also authorized the Maryland National Guard to provide additional personnel to expand COVID testing sites and hours of operation.
Immediate, short-term funding was a priority for Maryland hospitals, who are facing significant workforce shortages, according to Maryland Hospital Association (MHA) Chief External Affairs Officer Nicole Dempsey Stallings. However, MHA Vice President of Communications Amy Goodwin added that people should stay mindful and reduce any further strain on the hospital system.
“It’s really important that people remember to wear masks, keep their distance, wash their hands, get vaccinated, get boosted, and that they also don’t use their emergency departments for non-life threatening issues.”
As part of a Maryland Department of Health (MDH) order issued last week, hospitals were required to submit updates to the department including their emergency pandemic plans that would “outline how hospitals will maximize staffed medical-surgical and ICU bed capacity.” Now that hospitalizations have surpassed 1,500, hospitals will be required to implement their various plans.