Maryland’s hospitals are now reducing non-emergency surgeries that would require overnight stays.
The move comes as the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Maryland has more than doubled in the past month, surpassing the 1,200 mark.
On Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan announced the plans to make the changes in procedures at hospitals. Once the hospitalization numbers reach 1,500, hospitals will have to put their pandemic plans in place.
Robert Atlas, President and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association (MHA), said the jump in the number of COVID-19 cases in hospitals has been dramatic. In the past, he said, Maryland’s hospitalization rate was well below the national average. But that changed this week.
“The national average this week is 19 per 100,000 and we are at 18.9 per 100,000,” Atlas said.
According to the MHA, staffed hospital beds are 94% full, and the statewide average of COVID-19 hospital beds is at 16%.
When Hogan announced the plans to ensure that hospitals would be able to handle the number of COVID-19 cases being admitted on Wednesday, he urged residents to get vaccinated. Hogan repeated that message on Friday, when the number of hospitalizations exceeded the 1,200 mark.
“The vast majority of these hospitalizations are unvaccinated patients who remain at grave risk of serious infection, severe illness, and death,” Hogan said in a statement.
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Atlas also urged residents to get vaccinated and to get their COVID-19 booster shots. On Friday, the CDC expanded the recommendations for boosters to anyone 16 and older.
Hospital officials recommend anyone needing non-emergency medical attention avoid emergency rooms.
“Our hospitals are already doing everything that they can to take care of everyone who needs them,” Atlas said.
Instead of going to emergency rooms for non-life threatening conditions, Atlas said patients should call their doctors, take advantage of telehealth appointments and make use of urgent care centers.
With the growing burden on hospitals to handle COVID-19 cases, Atlas said, “If you go to a hospital emergency room for something that isn’t a serious or life-threatening emergency, you may be waiting an extraordinarily long amount of time.”
The spike in coronavirus hospitalizations comes near the second week of a data outage on the Maryland Department of Health website. While hospitalization data is up to date, information on case rates remains unavailable.
State health department spokesman Andy Owen wrote in an email Wednesday that “State cybersecurity experts are working to bring our systems back online at the earliest possible opportunity.”