ANNAPOLIS, MD—Governor Larry Hogan on Wednesday announced a series of additional actions to address the potential for a further surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations due to the convergence of the Delta and Omicron variants.
“As I announced last week, we are continuing to closely monitor the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations and use every tool at our disposal to make sure our hospitals have the resources they need to prepare for this and future surges,” said Governor Hogan. “These are important actions, but getting vaccinated or boosted continues to be the single most important thing Marylanders can do to protect against these dangerous COVID-19 variants.”
The Omicron variant has been described as “unusual but mild” and has not resulted in any deaths in the U.S. thus far. The Omicron variant now accounts for almost 3% of all U.S. COVID cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Close Coordination With Maryland Hospitals
The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and other key state agencies have been working on a daily basis with Maryland’s hospitals and the Maryland Hospital Association on critical operational issues to ensure patient bed capacity since November. Additionally, state agencies have been meeting weekly with hospital leadership to elevate topics of concern.
State Establishes Surge Operation Center
MDH has established a Surge Operation Center (SOC) to manage the state’s daily operations surrounding a sustained COVID-19 surge at hospitals, including a potential sudden influx of patients. The SOC is:
- Coordinating directly with hospitals to engage on hospital surge;
- Facilitating Emergency Department (ED) patient transfers to mitigate hospital surge capacity by fully utilizing Maryland’s Alternate Care Site (ACS) capacity; and
- Assisting with maintaining Intensive Care Unit (ICU) transfer via the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) capabilities.
This is in addition to the state’s Critical Care Coordination Center, which deals primarily with ICUs.
Statewide COVID-19 Hospitalization Thresholds for Actions
State health officials have issued a new directive ordering hospitals to undertake the following actions upon reaching certain state COVID-19 hospitalization thresholds:
- At 1,200, make available all staffed bed capacity and reduce scheduling non-urgent medical surgeries that would result in an overnight stay; and
- At 1,500, hospitals are directed to implement their pandemic plans.
Directing Hospitals to Immediately Submit Pandemic Plans
Following MDH directing hospitals to update their existing pandemic plans by December 15, MDH requested hospitals to submit these plans immediately for implementation as directed in the order. Actions hospitals are directed to take include:
- Optimize existing bed capacity;
- Adjust hospital capacity, such as bringing additional staffed beds into service;
- Redeploy staff or alter staffing models;
- Reduce non-urgent and elective procedures and surgeries;
- Transfer patients to ACSs; and
- Bridge idle clinical or administrative space online or convert other space for clinical care.
Expedite Healthcare Staffing Needs
State health officials are working closely with Maryland’s Board of Physicians, Board of Pharmacy, and Board of Nursing to advance emergency regulations to enhance healthcare staffing at hospitals, including:
- Allowing temporary licensees for retired Maryland healthcare professionals; and
- Simplify or eliminate the administrative burdens for interstate compact or out-of-state health care providers to practice in Maryland at licensed healthcare facilities.
On Wednesday morning, the Maryland Board of Physicians discussed and approved emergency regulations on this subject. The regulations now go to the Maryland General Assembly for review before taking effect as soon as January 1, 2022.
All of these actions are in addition to steps the governor announced late last week to address the rise in COVID-19 hospitals.
Booster Shots, Vaccinations Urged
All eligible Marylanders are strongly recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine, booster shot, and flu shot as soon as possible. Flu shots can be administered at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine shot. To find a clinic, visit https://covidvax.maryland.gov or call the state’s multilingual call center, available seven days a week, at 1-855-MD-GOVAX (1-855-634-6829).
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