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Hogan: State will need thousands more health workers to battle virus

An expected surge in coronavirus cases has Gov. Larry Hogan and state health and hospital officials scrambling for as many as 3,000 additional workers.

Hospitalizations in Maryland, already at or approaching record levels, are expected to climb in the coming weeks as additional cases are expected following Thanksgiving and heading into Christmas. 

“It’s a scary situation for everybody involved,” said Hogan. “Our modeling has been pretty much on track. We do see in the next few days us hitting us hitting a critical point and we think it’s going to continue to get worse over the next at least several weeks.”

Hogan added that the state “is not near the peak yet and that the worst part of the entire crisis is still ahead of us over the next month or two.”

Overall, hospitalizations remain below the peak rate of the pandemic, 1,711 on April 30. The number of ICU patients is below the peak of 611 on May 10. These categories, however, have sharply increased since Sept 20.

Total hospitalizations in the state increased by 56 patients to 1,583, the most since May 10. The state is at nearly 93% of the peak total reached in the spring.

Total number of acute patients statewide increased by 50 people to 1,233 — the second consecutive day of a new high in this category. 

Total ICU patients increased by six people to 350. This is the most since June 11. The total number of ICU patients is more than 57% of the May 10 peak.

In anticipation of this surge, Hogan announced a number of initiatives to help ease the burden of hospital workers and potentially free up nurses and key medical personnel.

The governor called on local school systems to make available school nurses who have not been assigned to potentially work in testing and vaccination centers.

Hogan also called on state colleges to find ways to offer credit to students in science and health-related fields who could work in similar capacities.

New Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader says Maryland is in dire need of more health care workers to help battle the rising number of coronavirus infections in the state. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

New Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader says Maryland is in dire need of more health care workers to help battle the rising number of coronavirus infections in the state. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

“We’re expecting, initially, as the cases rise by a thousand or two thousand, that we will need upwards of 2-to-3,000 people,” said Dennis Schrader, who was named acting health secretary with the retirement of Robert “Bobby” Neall Tuesday. “So that’s why we’re making such a broad call because people are under stress already.”

The governor did not impose new restrictions.

“Today we’re focusing on the fact that our hospitals have too many people in them,” said Hogan.

To help relieve the stress on the health care system, the governor ordered hospitals to provide the state with surge plans by Dec. 8. 

The state currently has more than 6,800 total COVID and non-COVID patients in hospitals. 

Hogan said all hospitals will be required to increase their bed capacities by at least 10% within seven days of the state reaching 8,000 total patients.

Maryland recorded nearly 55,000 new coronavirus infections in November, the most of any month since the state reported its first cases in March.

Total infections since March crossed over the 200,000 threshold as the state reported 2,765 new infections in the last 24 hours — the third-most ever in the state for a 24-hour period.

Maryland also recorded 30 additional deaths, bringing the total to 4,516. The 512 deaths in November is the fourth most in nearly nine months and the highest number since June.

The rolling seven-day average for new daily cases increased Tuesday to 2,239, nearly identical to that of Nov. 24 and 19.7% higher than two weeks ago.

Tuesday is also the 28th consecutive day of 1,000 or more cases. Previously, Maryland had no more than five consecutive days of 1,000-plus new infections. The state has also recorded 19 consecutive days of 1,500 or more new infections.

Maryland also reported increases in new infections per 100,000 population to 34.44 per capita. This is the 21st day above 20 statewide and the 45th consecutive day above 10. 

The state’s reported rolling-seven day positivity rate grew to 7.33%. The single day positivity rate for Nov. 30 — the most recent date available — is 10.03%. 

“Let me be clear, there is no ceiling to this or at least one we do not want to test,” said Dr. David Marcozzi, COVID incident commander at the University of Maryland Medical System and a special adviser to Hogan on the coronavirus. “In other words, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths will continue to rise unless we take it on.”

Hogan said a pair of vaccines awaiting emergency authorization from the Federal Drug Administration are a reason for hope. Still, Maryland will receive a limited supply of the initial batch of vaccines, as few as 155,000, according to the governor.

The amount is not enough to vaccinate all of the state’s health care workers who are likely to be recommended for the first doses.

“That’s a tiny fraction of what we need,” said Hogan.

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