For the first time since May, more than 1,000 people in Maryland are hospitalized with COVID-19, according to state data.
Bed occupancy increased more than 18% across the state in the past week. And hospitalizations jumped by more than 100 people within 48 hours, to 1,027 Friday. The increase in hospitalizations likely can be traced to the surge in coronavirus infections detected in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday and comes as the omicron variant has begun spreading across the U.S.
The full scope of the surge is unclear because the Maryland Department of Health has not been able to fully update its coronavirus data after a cyberattack forced the agency to take its website temporarily offline. The department has not updated surveillance data related to new cases and deaths — or the state’s positivity rate and testing volume — since last weekend. Only hospitalization and vaccination rates have resumed being reported.
The uptick in hospitalizations spurred Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to urge hospitals to make sure they are prepared for COVID surges.
“Maryland has begun to see an uptick in our key health metrics, and we are increasingly concerned by the sharp rise in hospitalizations, which have doubled over the last three weeks,” Hogan said in a news release. “State health officials are taking these additional actions as we continue to use every tool at our disposal to help Maryland hospitals have the resources they need to respond to this and future hospital surges.”
The Republican governor directed hospitals to update their existing emergency plans by Dec. 15 to make sure hospital bed capacity is maximized.
He also asked hospitals to create community-based and in-home monoclonal antibody infusion programs to treat infections. The programs would be funded by Health Service Cost Review Commission grants.
State health officials also are urging the Maryland Board of Physicians, Maryland Board of Pharmacy and Maryland Board of Nursing to issue temporary licenses to those who retired recently and simplify the administrative process for out-of-state health care professionals to practice in Maryland.
On Thursday, Hogan said he plans to introduce emergency legislation to help fill the gaps in the health care workforce.
The legislation, he said, would make permanent some of the provisions he authorized during the coronavirus pandemic, such as allowing nurses licensed in other states to work in Maryland and allowing nursing school students to take on more responsibilities inside hospitals.
Baltimore Sun reporter Hallie Miller contributed to this article.