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Knowing the virus’s emotional toll firsthand, UMMS’ COVID-19 incident commander urges Marylanders to take care of themselves

Dr. David Marcozzi said the virus had taken a personal toll with a friend’s suicide during the pandemic. He paused to collect himself before continuing.

As Dr. David Marcozzi warned Marylanders at a news conference Thursday not to let their guard down against the coronavirus, he paused to remind people to also take care of themselves.

The COVID-19 incident commander for the University of Maryland Medical System said the pandemic has had emotional ramifications. People have been forced to upend their lives by transitioning children to virtual school, working from home and in many cases not seeing family or friends to help curb the spread of the deadly virus.

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Marcozzi said he knows of the personal toll firsthand.

“This virus doesn’t just affect us physically, it affects us mentally,” he said. “This has hit me personally, as I’ve lost a friend to suicide in this pandemic.”

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Pausing to collect himself, Marcozzi added: “Let’s make sure we stay connected. Let’s make sure we reach out. Let’s make sure we support each other. And talk to a professional, if helpful.”

Dr. David Marcozzi of the University of Maryland Medical System, a health adviser to Gov. Larry Hogan, discusses the coronavirus pandemic during a news conference at the State House in Annapolis on Thursday. Speaking of the emotional toll of the pandemic, Marcozzi said he lost a friend to suicide.
Dr. David Marcozzi of the University of Maryland Medical System, a health adviser to Gov. Larry Hogan, discusses the coronavirus pandemic during a news conference at the State House in Annapolis on Thursday. Speaking of the emotional toll of the pandemic, Marcozzi said he lost a friend to suicide. (Pamela Wood/Baltimore Sun)

The doctor reminded people that it is safe to go to the doctor’s office and possible to opt for a virtual appointment.

“Please get your prescriptions filled so that you can keep yourself healthy and so that chronic conditions you might have don’t worsen,” Marcozzi said. “I’m tired of COVID-19. I think we are all tired of COVID-19. But the virus isn’t tired. It is waiting. That is our reality.”

Calls to Baltimore’s crisis hotline have doubled during the coronavirus pandemic. One in three people across Maryland say the pandemic has left them anxious or depressed, according to a survey the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted from Aug. 19 to Aug. 31.

And experts are worried the pandemic will exacerbate the suicide epidemic. A CDC study in June found 24% of people ages 18 to 24 had considered suicide within the past month. Overall, 10% of people who responded to the survey said they had thought about taking their life, up from 4% in a similar 2018 study.

“I’m tired of COVID-19. I think we are all tired of COVID-19. But the virus isn’t tired. It is waiting. That is our out reality.”


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Gov. Larry Hogan held a news conference at the State House in Annapolis to warn Marylanders to not “let our guard down,” as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have begun to surge across the state. He stopped short of enacting new restrictions.

The number of new coronavirus cases in the United States exceeded 100,000 for the first time Wednesday. And Maryland is not immune from the national surge: The state reported 1,198 new cases — its highest daily count since July — and 10 more deaths on Thursday; 588 Marylanders were in the hospital with COVID-19.

Maryland’s hospitalization rate for the disease has more than doubled since the most recent low in September, and is now at levels last seen in midsummer. The state’s positivity rate surpassed 4% this week for the first time since early August.

Those in crisis or looking for help for themselves and others can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can find some other mental health resources here.

Baltimore Sun reporters Pamela Wood, Jeff Barker and Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.

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