Maryland hospitalizations for COVID-19 have sharply increased over the last week, underscoring hospitals’ needs for equipment and supplies and to protect their health care workers.
Since the state first began reporting the number of people who have ever been hospitalized for the disease caused by the coronavirus, those numbers have nearly quadrupled, from 132 last Thursday to 522 Wednesday morning.
Gov. Larry Hogan has warned that the situation in Maryland, Virginia and Washington could soon approach what is happening in the New York City area, where some hospitals are being overwhelmed.
In Maryland, needs for equipment are growing.
“Hospitals are starting to see an uptick in cases,” Bob Atlas, president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association, said in a statement. “The most critical challenge they are facing is acquiring ventilators, in addition to the ongoing need for more (personal protective equipment) and testing supplies. Coordination around scarce resources is a statewide public-private effort. We hope to see more substantial federal support soon.”
As COVID-19 hospitalizations grow, more health care workers will also come in contact with people who have contracted the disease. In New York, scores of providers have become sickened and some have died after becoming infected.
Part of the equation is ensuring workers have enough of the personal protective equipment, which includes masks, gloves and gowns. Hospitals have been getting some help on that front as organizations have donated from their supplies of safety equipment and some manufacturers have ramped up their capabilities to produce supplies.
But it is also important to know who has the disease.
The University of Maryland Medical System, which runs 13 hospitals in Maryland, has expanded testing in its system on a limited basis. Testing can now be done at The University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore Washington Medical Center, St. Joseph Medical Center, Charles Regional Medical Center and Capital Region Health.
That testing is only available for patients who meet strict testing criteria that include showing symptoms. Health care workers who show symptoms can also be tested.
The UM system has also taken other precautions. Before clocking in for work employees must confirm that they are not experiencing two or more flu-like symptoms.
The employees who report two or more symptoms are told to go home.
“As our staff across UMMS continues to combat the spread of COVID-19 in our community, maintaining a strong and healthy workforce is the foundation of our response,” Michael Schwartzberg, a system spokesman, said in a statement. “The safety of our staff, along with our patients, remains our top priority. We are incredibly fortunate to have providers across the System who continue to demonstrate leadership, compassion and care during this unprecedented healthcare challenge.”
Hospitals have also severely limited who can visit patients in the hospital as they hope to keep contact between the infected and the well to a minimum.
Most hospitals in the state now say patients can have no visitors except for under limited circumstances, including end-of-life visits. When visitors are allowed, patients are often limited to just one visitor.