“It’s a scary situation for everybody involved,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said at a Tuesday news conference. “We do see in the next few days us hitting a critical point.”
The governor said the number of people hospitalized in the state has increased 51 percent in the past two weeks, while modeling shows “the worse part of this entire crisis is still ahead of us in the next month or two.”
He said the state’s youngest victim of the pandemic was a 1-year-old boy. State health officials had previously said the child died Sunday, but other details haven’t been released.
Maryland in recent weeks has also recorded an increase in its coronavirus test positivity rate.
The seven-day average Tuesday was 7.33 percent, fueled in part by a surge in rural parts of the state. Somerset County on the Eastern Shore has a positivity rate of nearly 20 percent, while Garrett and Allegany counties in Western Maryland are approaching 15 percent.
The seven-day average number of new cases across Maryland, Virginia and the District on Tuesday was 4,775 infections — down slightly from a high of 4,989 recorded on Thanksgiving Day, but more than double the averages of early November.
Hogan said Tuesday that the state Department of Health is working with the Maryland Hospital Association to recruit medical personnel and support staff at the state’s hospitals. The facilities are in need of staff to provide screening, testing and treatment for coronavirus patients.
Maryland is asking universities to award academic credit to students willing to work at hospitals during the pandemic and to let graduating students receive early licensing.
Hogan said the state is also urging counties to redeploy school nurses to help at testing and vaccination facilities and for nursing homes to allow unlicensed workers to perform less critical tasks to “free up” nurses.
A new report from the Maryland Health Department shows the dire direction in which the state is headed. It found enough staff for 1,846 beds for coronavirus patients, and more than 85 percent of those beds were occupied.
Hogan on Tuesday asked hospitals to submit a “patient surge” plan, which includes a detailed strategy for increasing hospital bed and staffing capacities. The state Department of Health must receive the plans by Dec. 8.
There were 3,500 patients across Maryland, Virginia and D.C. hospitalized Tuesday with the coronavirus, up from 1,636 one month earlier. The number of virus-related deaths has also risen across the greater Washington region, with the seven-day average standing at 45 new daily fatalities, compared to 20 on Nov. 1.
Maryland is requiring hospitals to expand staffed bed capacity by 10 percent within seven days if 8,000 patients become hospitalized statewide. As of Tuesday, there were 6,816 patients in the state’s hospitals, including with the coronavirus and other illnesses.
A Nov. 13 modeling estimate from Johns Hopkins Medicine — which accurately predicted 1,400 coronavirus patients in Maryland would be hospitalized by Thanksgiving — outlined four scenarios for the winter surge and its impact on the state’s health-care system.
Just one model, called the “optimistic scenario,” predicts the state will have enough beds. It calls that scenario, showing a peak of 5,000 people hospitalized with the coronavirus around February, “highly unlikely” based on the rapid ascent of cases now.
A “moderate scenario” model predicts a peak of more than 8,000 patients by February, and a “pessimistic” one predicts 10,000. Maryland has about 10,000 beds statewide for all patients, and as of Wednesday, about half were available for coronavirus patients.
The “catastrophic scenario” predicted “peak hospitalization levels of about 15,000 patients, assuming no further modifications of [the public’s] behavior.”
As the Washington area stares down the beginning of a winter surge, officials across the region continue to urge residents who traveled during the Thanksgiving holiday to get tested. Hogan has emphasized the message of avoiding large crowds, wearing masks and getting tested.
He would not say if or when he might impose tougher restrictions, as some local officials have urged him to do. When asked, he said: “We’ll take them as we see fit.”
In recent weeks, the governor has ordered bars and restaurants in Maryland to close at 10 p.m. for dine-in service and reducing capacity allowed in retail stores, religious facilities, fitness centers, personal service facilities and bowling alleys to 50 percent. He also limited visits to nursing homes.
Before the holiday, Hogan announced an “all-hands-on-deck” effort to ensure that bars and restaurants adhered to restrictions. State police were directed to be a part of enforcement normally handled by local police and health departments.
The governor said the vaccine distribution will have a “slow takeoff,” much like testing efforts this spring.
He said the state’s first batch of the vaccine will include about 155,000 doses, roughly 50,000 from Pfizer and the rest from Moderna. “That’s a tiny fraction of what we need,” he said, noting that number would not cover half of the state’s front-line workers.
The Washington region on Tuesday reported 5,126 new coronavirus cases and 68 additional deaths. Maryland had 2,765 cases and 32 deaths, Virginia had 2,228 cases and 31 deaths, and D.C. had 133 cases and five deaths.
Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.