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Convention center site opens as hospitalizations, testing increase

Maryland opened its field hospital at the Baltimore Convention Center on Sunday as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to grow in the state.

Cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus grew to nearly 19,500 on Monday. The number of people tested in the state has increased significantly over the past week.

An additional 139 people were hospitalized for the disease Sunday, which was low for a week that saw more average daily hospitalizations than the previous week.

The new field hospital in Baltimore will treat recovering COVID-19 patients who do not require an intensive care bed or a ventilator. It is being run jointly by Johns Hopkins Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical System.

Initially, the field hospital will take patients from Johns Hopkins Hospital, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and the University of Maryland Medical Center’s downtown and midtown campuses. Later, patients from other city hospitals could be admitted.

The field hospital joins expanded capacity elsewhere, including at the University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center, which opened 135 new beds last week.

The expansions come as new hospitalizations for the disease vary day by day but show an upward trend. Over the last week, an average of 155 people per day have been hospitalized, up from 148 new hospitalizations per day over the previous seven-day period.

Maryland reported 139 new hospitalizations on Monday morning, down from 202 the day before.

Gov. Larry Hogan has said that a sustained decline in hospitalizations is among the indicators to be taken into account in deciding when to ease statewide restrictions, which have been in place for nearly a month.

As the number of hospital beds in the state grows, the number of staffers will have to grow with it. To that end, the University of Maryland School of Nursing announced Monday that it had approved early graduation for select nursing students who were scheduled to graduate next month.

“We are very pleased to partner with key Maryland health care systems to support them in meeting their needs for nursing personnel during this incredibly critical time,” Jane Kirschling, the school’s dean, said in a statement. “The UMSON students opting into our early-exit option are well prepared and fully equipped to make a major contribution through their service as nursing graduates.”

The school said that 151 students qualified for early graduation and that it had worked with leaders at the University of Maryland Medical System, Johns Hopkins Medicine, MedStar Health, Holy Cross Health and Shady Grove Adventist to place the nursing students.

The state has significantly expanded its testing capacity over the past week.

Maryland reported new results from 8,311 tests Monday — the most since the outbreak began — including 906 positive cases. Over the past week, the state has received an average of 4,797 test results per day, up from 2,843 per day over the previous seven-day period.

As those numbers have started to increase, the percentage of people testing positive has begun to decline. Just 10.9% of the new test results were positive, less than half of the rate of positive results a week ago.

The state announced plans Monday to continue expanding the number of  testing sites, with the vehicle emissions inspection sites in Owings Mills and Prince Frederick to be added to existing testing sites at Bel Air, Columbia, Glen Burnie, Waldorf and White Oak vehicle emissions inspection locations. Counties and hospitals are also offering tests.

Testing remains limited to people who have a health care provider’s recommendation for a test.


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