Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said Wednesday that he is very concerned about the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in both the jurisdiction that he leads and throughout Maryland.
His remarks come the very day that the state’s COVID-19 related hospitalizations exceeded 2,000 patients and its positivity rate exceeded 19%.
Montgomery County currently has slightly more than 300 COVID-19 related hospitalizations and a positivity rate of about 15%
That Maryland’s largest jurisdiction has slightly better metrics that than of the state itself is likely due to the fact that it leads the state in vaccinations, with more than 95% of residents partially vaccinated and 83% fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
“Covid cases are surging. We are ending 2021 with the surging Covid cases at a level we have not seen since the beginning of the pandemic,” Elrich said at a virtual news conference.
“Our current case rate is 649.5 cases per 100,000 residents. This is eight times the case rate we were at at the start of the month. The Omicron variant is currently making up about 58% of our cases throughout the mid-Atlantic states,” he added.
The county executive said he is surprised by the recent spike in cases.
“This is a place where you do not expect to be, especially after the implementation of vaccines.”
Elrich said the recent spike hits “close to home,” as two members of his family recently tested positive for COVID-19 despite having received both the vaccine and a booster shot. Elrich said the two cases are both mild and the two individuals are quickly recovering.
Elrich joined the Maryland Hospital Association and fellow Democrats in calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to declare a state of emergency in response to the recent surge in cases and hospitalizations.
“This action would greatly help our hospitals in dealing with the surge.”
While Hogan has not declared a state of emergency, he provided an update on ongoing emergency actions on Wednesday morning.
“As we have been projecting, our statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations have now reached record levels and surpassed 2,000—a surge driven primarily by unvaccinated patients. It cannot be stressed enough that getting vaccinated and getting boosted are your strongest possible defenses against this virus and its variants,” Hogan said in a statement.
“With hospitalizations and deaths our primary focus, we have already taken a number of emergency actions in preparation for this surge. Earlier this month, we established a surge operations center to optimize bed capacity and fully utilize the alternate care sites we have kept in place. 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. 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,” the governor added.
Hogan said that he has mobilized the Maryland National Guard to step-up capacity at testing sites and that state officials are working hard to try to obtain more at-home rapid test kits.
And the governor reiterated that Marylanders should not panic.
“Again, this is not March of 2020. It’s important to use common sense and take precautions, but we have the tools, resources, and strategies in place to protect ourselves. We are closely monitoring this surge, and will continue to provide updates as additional actions are taken.”