Md. hospitals surpass 1,500 COVID-19 hospitalizations, triggering changes

Maryland hospitals will now cut back on non-COVID-19 procedures to free up beds and workers to handle the growing number of COVID-19 hospitalizations the state is seeing.

The state on Thursday surpassed a threshold of 1,500 coronavirus-related hospitalizations statewide, triggering additional hospital moves, as ordered by the Maryland Department of Health.

Current hospitalizations on Thursday are now at 1,505, 40 hospitalizations more than reported on Wednesday.

A state dashboard of COVID-19 cases for the state shows an additional 6,869 cases in the past 24 hours. The previous highest number was 6,218.

Over the past three days, Maryland has recorded more than 17,000 COVID-19 cases.

Under the state’s pandemic plan, hospitals will do the following:

  • Optimize existing bed capacity;
  • Adjust hospital capacity, such as bringing additional staffed beds into service;
  • Redeploy staff or alter staffing models;
  • Reduce non-urgent and elective procedures and surgeries;
  • Transfer patients to alternate care sites; and
  • Bridge idle clinical or administrative space online or convert other space for clinical care.

“Our projections now show that in the coming weeks, we could reach record levels of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Maryland, possibly over 2,000. We have been actively preparing for this scenario in coordination with all of our hospitals, and today’s actions are the latest step in that planning,” said Gov. Larry Hogan.

“With unvaccinated patients driving the strain on our health care system, we urge Marylanders to do your part by getting your vaccine or booster shot as soon as you can. We will continue to closely monitor this surge, and take additional actions as needed.”

In preparation for the surge, Maryland committed $100 million in emergency funding to address hospital and nursing home staffing needs.

Bob Atlas, the President and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association (MHA), said even before the current surge, hospitals were short staffed — a product of people leaving the field due to the pandemic, and a long-term shortage in the health care field. But a new wrinkle is making the shortage especially problematic.

“Sadly right now, we’re seeing a number of our hospital workers being tested as COVID positive,” Atlas said.

Atlas said he doesn’t have exact numbers, but said it has been discussed extensively in discussions with members on how extensive the staff shortages are, Altas said.

“The word unprecedented is repeated from hospital CEOs in different parts of the state,” he said.

Unlike a year ago, hospitals have the equipment needed to deal with the influx of patients.

“We have the space, we have the equipment, we have the PPE. We really need the people,” he said.

MHA represents 53 individual institutions and seven health systems, so they say they have 60 members in the hospital association.

And as Marylanders scramble to get COVID-19 tests, Atlas said one hospital executive reported that people showed up at the emergency room.

“Their emergency room was overflowing with people just wanting to get a COVID test before they go see family for Christmas.”

Maryland had been expected COVID-19 cases to peak in January.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. 

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Colleen Kelleher

Colleen Kelleher is an award-winning journalist who has been with WTOP since 1996. Kelleher joined WTOP as the afternoon radio writer and night and weekend editor and made the move to in 2001. Now she works early mornings as the site's Senior Digital Editor.

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