COVID spike prompts ‘disaster’ declaration at Md. hospital

University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health declared a “hospital disaster” and implemented crisis standards-of-care protocols at UM Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air because of a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

This move will allow hospital staff to streamline processes, modify surgical schedules, simplify documentation and redeploy staff as needed, the hospital system said in a statement Friday.

“Implementing CSC (Crisis Standards of Care) protocols allows the flexibility to increase access to care for those that need it most and enables the hospital to care for as many patients as possible with the staffing they have,” the statement read.

COVID-19 cases have increased by 458% across both UM-UCMC and University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace. UM-UCMC alone has seen a 733% increase, hospital officials said.

“While UM UCH may be the first in Maryland to formally implement CSC, they will not be the last,” said Dr. David Marcozzi, the University of Maryland Medical System’s COVID-19 incident commander and a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“It’s important our community understands the reality of what our hospitals are currently experiencing, how that may impact their care, and — most importantly — what steps they can take to help reduce additional burden on our hospitals,” said Marcy Austin, the interim health officer at the Harford County Health Department.

“Vaccination, including a booster for those who are eligible, masking, hand washing and testing are all simple steps everyone can employ now, that can have a profound impact on the trajectory of COVID-19 in the weeks and months to come.”

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Julie Gallagher

Julie Gallagher is a freelance digital writer and editor for She previously covered the 2020 election with CNN and has bylines in The Lily, WIRED, NBC Washington, The Baltimore Sun, Washington City Paper and more.

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