Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said the 30-day state of emergency will help prevent hospitalizations and deaths after the state hit a record-high of 3,057 COVID-19 hospitalizations, an increase of more than 500 percent from seven weeks ago.
“The truth is that the next four to six weeks will be the most challenging time of the entire pandemic,” Hogan told reporters at a briefing, pointing to projections of hospitalizations reaching more than 5,000 in the coming days.
The surge comes despite 92 percent of all adults in Maryland getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Omicron, the new variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, is driving the wave. Omicron breaks through the protection from vaccines, according to studies and experts, infecting just as many vaccinated people as unvaccinated people in some areas.
However, most people requiring hospital care for COVID-19 continue to be unvaccinated, data show.
Maryland health officials are still encouraging everybody to get a vaccine, asserting it is the best way to keep people safe.
Unlike some other states, Maryland does not make clear which patients with COVID-19 are actually in hospitals for other reasons. New York became one of the latest to make the change this week, after President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said it was important to distinguish between a child who is hospitalized because of COVID-19 or who tested positive for COVID-19 after being admitted to the hospital.
According to hospital reporting to the federal government, 83 percent of inpatient beds in Maryland are in use, but just 29 percent of the beds in use hold COVID-19 patients.
Hogan also issued two new executive orders, the first letting the state’s health secretary order patients transferred between hospitals as necessary and enabling the Maryland Department of Health to establish alternate care facilities to care for patients outside of hospitals.
The other order is aimed at easing staffing issues by allowing professionals with inactive licenses to practice without needing to get their licenses reinstated. It also authorizes graduate nurses to work at any healthcare facility and people with licenses from other states to work in Maryland.
Additionally, 1,000 members of the Maryland National Guard were mobilized to assist state and local health officials in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, with duties including supporting testing sites.
“Our Guard members are always ready to help the neighbors, families, and friends in their communities where we live and work,” Major Gen. Timothy Gowen, Maryland’s adjutant general, told reporters.
“All of the emergency actions that we’re taking today are to keep our hospitals from overflowing, keep our kids in school, and to keep Maryland open for business,” Hogan said.
The governor opted against issuing a statewide mask order but he has allowed local officials to impose masking requirements, and many counties already have orders in place.