Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has announced a 30-day state of emergency to combat the current COVID-19 crisis in the state, where projections show that hospitalizations could top 5,000.
“From day one of the crisis. I have told it to you straight, and so the truth is that the next four to six weeks will be the most challenging time of the entire pandemic,” Hogan said in a news conference Tuesday morning.
“Our newest projections, as of today, show that COVID hospitalizations could reach more than 5,000, which would be more than 250% higher than our previous peak of 1,952 last year.”
In response, Hogan said he had enacted two executive orders, the first giving Maryland’s Health Secretary authority to regulate hospital personnel, space and supplies.
That order allows the Maryland Department of Health the authority to establish additional alternate care facilities to assist hospitals and nursing homes and address staffing shortages. In doing so, it will permit certain health care workers in Maryland to practice outside the scope of their licenses.
During the state of emergency, Maryland will also allow “interstate reciprocity for health care licenses, inactive health care practitioners to practice without needing to reinstate their expired licenses and will authorize graduate nurses to provide full nursing services at any health care facility,” Hogan said.
The second executive order authorizes the governor to “augment” the state’s emergency medical services (EMS), which the Hogan says is overwhelmed by the current wave of COVID patients.
“We are mobilizing 1,000 members of the Maryland National Guard to assist state and local health officials with the state’s emergency pandemic response,” Hogan said. “Approximately 250 members of the guard will be deployed to support COVID-19 testing sites across the state, including at hospitals and skilled nursing facilities and to assist with patient transport as needed.”
Hogan said, in addition to current state-run sites, the National Guard would assist in the opening of 20 additional testing sites outside of hospitals in order to keep up with current testing demand and “divert people away from visiting hospital emergency rooms just to get a test.” Maryland is opening 20 new hospital-adjacent testing sites across the state.
Maryland also is authorizing booster shots for 12- to 15-year-olds.
Hogan said he was scheduled to participate in a call with the White House on Tuesday. He said he would urge President Joe Biden’s administration to increase the distribution of monoclonal antibodies, rapid COVID-19 tests and antiviral pills.
Hogan said people need to get back to taking stronger precautions as the omicron variant of COVID-19 surges by “avoiding crowds, keeping your distance, washing your hands and yes, wearing the damn masks.”
The governor also said that he is “doing fine” after testing positive for COVID-19 last month. Hogan said he had a 10-day “staycation” in isolation in the basement of the governor’s residence, where he worked and kept in touch with staff.
“For me, it was like a pretty bad cold, and that’s because I was fully vaccinated and boosted,” Hogan said, as he continued urging the unvaccinated to get shot and for eligible people to get boosters.
The governor also said he received monoclonal antibody treatment early on.
Hogan concluded his remarks by repeating an appeal for Maryland residents to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“The single most important thing that you can do to protect yourself, your family and your fellow Marylanders from this virus and its variants, is to get fully vaccinated and to get a booster shot,” Hogan said.
“Throughout all of 2021, nearly 75% of those who tested positive for COVID-19 in Maryland were people who had not been fully vaccinated. Nearly 84% of all our COVID hospitalizations for the entire year were people who were not fully vaccinated. And more than 84% of the more than 4700 additional Marylanders who died from COVID-19 last year, were not fully vaccinated. These are not opinions or judgments. These are indisputable facts.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.