Maryland could have 1,800 confirmed COVID-19 cases by April 2, according to projections discussed by state Health Department officials.
Those same officials are warning that cases will continue to increase on a daily basis and may not subside until midsummer.
“By around April 1 or April 2, we’ll probably be over or right around the 1,800 mark for positives (tests) and hopefully we won’t be above 1,000 hospitalized,” said Webster Ye, director of government relations for the Maryland Health Department.
As of Friday, Maryland reported 774 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up 194 from just a day earlier. The state also recorded its fifth COVID-19 related death.
Ye made his comments earlier this week during a state Board of Elections meeting, where it was decided to limit the April 28 special election to an all-mail election. Three jurisdictions are scheduled to elect a successor to the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Gov. Larry Hogan called for the board to hold a special election on April 28 but to delay the statewide primary to June 2. The board is expected to come up with a plan for the June election at a meeting on April 2.
Ye said it is likely the state will still be in the throes of combating the rate of infections and hospitalizations.
“Realistically, we believe we’ll be in a very serious situation on June 2,” said Ye, adding that the goal is “trying to avoid a complete national lockdown and a breakdown of social order to some degree.”
“Maryland is more or less tracking in the middle of the pack of all 50 states with respect to the coronavirus infection and the rate of increase,” said Ye. “New York is way above and Nebraska is way below. We’re expecting this to be peaking probably around the 4th of July. That’s probably when it hits the worst, and it will peak. If that happens, we’ll have done our job because we will have slowed down the hospital capacity demands.”
Maryland is already preparing for a worst-case scenario with a plan that includes the use of the Baltimore Convention Center and adjacent Hilton Hotel as well as a $20 million proposal to build 100 modular hospital buildings that could house 30 patients each. The use of college dorms is also a possibility if the medical system becomes overwhelmed.
Nationally, about 25 percent of those hospitalized because of the virus require intensive care, including extra medical staff and a ventilator.
Currently, the state has 396 intensive care beds and 2,000 vacant beds overall and slightly more than 1,000 ventilators, according to Ye.
“At some point in the next two months, the public health folks at (Johns) Hopkins and University of Maryland are predicting this will last for months not weeks and that we will likely be closer to exhausting the state’s hospital capacity,” Ye said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to slow that rate of increase so that we’re able to care for people in the state’s hospitals and not have to resort to the convention center.”
Additionally, the state is struggling to keep up with the demand for personal protection equipment, such as masks. Ye said the state has less than 200,000 in its stockpiles. Also in short supply are ventilators and test kits.
“We’re not getting much resupply from the feds,” he said.
Currently, Ye said, the number of state cases is “tracking (infection) trend lines pretty closely.”
“If people don’t pay attention and the infection keeps growing, we’ll be above the trend lines,” said Ye. “We don’t want to be New York or New Jersey or Michigan, basically.”