Gov. Larry Hogan Tuesday unveiled a series of new measures the state is taking to prevent Maryland’s hospitals from being overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.
The state has seen a 51% increase in COVID-related hospitalizations over the past two weeks.
“Today in partnership with the Maryland Hospital Association and hospitals across the state we are taking a series of additional actions to further mobilize additional medical staffing to battle this COVID-19 surge,” Hogan said at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis.
Hogan called on Marylanders with health care experience to volunteer their services.
“We are currently in need of people with clinical backgrounds to work at our hospitals and vaccination clinics across the state…we are also contacting those individuals who have signed up for the Maryland Medical Reserve Corps. We are also requesting that all Maryland universities and colleges immediately develop emergency policies and procedures which will award academic credit to students who are willing to serve in health care during this pandemic.”
Hogan urged colleges and universities to allow health care students who are in their final semester and have met graduation requirements to be “eligible for an early exit and expedited testing and licensing requirements” so that they can more quickly begin work in the health care field.
Hogan said that “effective immediately” hospitals are “required to submit a surge plan, which includes detailed strategies for the expansion of hospital bed and staffing capacity adjustments.” Hospitals are required to submit the surge plans to the Department of Health by Dec. 8, Hogan said.
Hogan said hospitals should begin to make “emergency” preparations.
“Hospitals should begin making adjustments on an emergency basis, including adding or redeploying staff, reducing non-critical elective procedures, particularly those that require a bed or a ventilator, and transferring patients to other appropriate facilities.”
There are 6,816 Marylanders currently hospitalized, Hogan said. When that number reaches 8,000,”all hospitals will be required to expand their staffed-bed capacity by at least 10% within seven days of that trigger,” the governor added.
At Tuesday’s news conference Hogan noted that Health Secretary Robert Neall’s retirement is effective today and announced that Neall will be replaced by Dennis Schrader, who is the Department of Health’s chief operating officer.
Hogan did not announce any new restrictions on Tuesday.
There are 201,135 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Tuesday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, and 4,516 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is at 7.33%, which is well above CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted nearly 4.5 million COVID-19 tests.