Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency Tuesday in an effort to stem the tide of COVID-19 infections.
The governor announced the 30-day declaration in a news release, while also mobilizing 1,000 members of the state’s National Guard to assist state and local health officials in the ongoing pandemic response.
“The truth is that the next four to six weeks will be the most challenging of the entire pandemic,” Hogan said in the release. “All of the emergency actions we are taking today are to keep our hospitals from overflowing, to keep our kids in school, and to keep Maryland open for business, and we will continue to take whatever actions are necessary in the very difficult days and weeks ahead.”
The state has 3,057 COVID-19 hospitalizations, a more than 500% increase in the past two months, according to the release. The state is projecting hospitalizations could surpass 5,000, which is more than 250% higher than the previous peak.
The governor also announced a series of actions designed to address the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the state. Hogan gave authorization to the state’s Secretary of Health to regulate hospital staff, bed space, and supplies.
Hogan’s executive order calls for addressing staffing shortages at hospitals and nursing homes, while directing and expediting the transfer of COVID-19 patients between medical facilities, establishing alternate care sites, providing interstate reciprocity for health care licenses, and allowing inactive health care professionals to practice medicine without reinstating licenses.
The order also permits graduate nurses to work in health care facilities to provide full nursing services, allows health care professionals to practice outside the focus of their licensee, and regulates elective medical procedures.
A second executive order was issued by Hogan, according to the release, that permits additional steps be taken to supplement the state’s Emergency Medical Services workforce, which is currently overwhelmed on the front lines with COVID-19 patients.
To assist with the emergency response, Hogan called 1,000 National Guard members into active duty to assist in hospital and skilled nursing facilities. Guardsmen will also assist in the transport of patients. Soldiers are immediately being sent to support the operations of state-run sites at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake in Bel Air and Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis.
According to the release, the state is also opening 20 new hospital-adjacent testing sites to meet the rising demand for testing. Guardsmen will be assisting with the opening of these facilities that are designed to divert individuals from visiting hospital emergency rooms.
Under the order, according to the release, the state has authorized COVID-19 booster shots to children between the ages of 12 and 15.
Hogan also is urging the Biden administration to increase the distribution of monoclonal antibodies, expedite the approval of rapid tests for public use, and expedite the production and distribution of COVID-19 antiviral pills.
According to the release, Hogan is also calling on employers in the state to incentivize getting vaccinated and booster shots, while encouraging masking.
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