New Covid-19 surge stressing health care providers

By Liz Holland
Posted 12/22/21

Covid-19 cases are surging again across Maryland, with hospitals and doctors’ offices seeing a staggering number of infected patients in the week before Christmas.

At TidalHealth Peninsula …

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New Covid-19 surge stressing health care providers

Posted

Covid-19 cases are surging again across Maryland, with hospitals and doctors’ offices seeing a staggering number of infected patients in the week before Christmas.

At TidalHealth Peninsula Regional, there were 53 Covid patients in the hospital on Monday, which was a four-fold increase from 10 days before, Dr. James Trumble, Vice President of Clinical Integration and Salisbury Mass Vaccination Clinical Lead, said in a video posted on the hospital’s Facebook page.

“It’s really jumped up on us just that fast,” he said.

The coronavirus even infected the fully vaccinated and boosted Gov. Larry Hogan who tested positive on Monday. The governor said he was experiencing cold-like symptoms and was working from home during quarantine.

During a Facebook Live event from the governor’s mansion on Tuesday, Hogan, whose voice was hoarse, but who otherwise exhibited no other obvious symptoms, said the vaccine protected him from severe illness.

“I can’t stress this enough, getting vaccinated and getting your booster is your strongest possible defense against this virus and its variants,” Hogan said.

The state’s positivity rate on Tuesday was 11.6 percent and there were 6,218 new Covid cases reported – a single day high. Hospitalizations were 1,324, but could exceed 2,000 if the surge continues, the governor said. Most of the people being treated in hospitals are unvaccinated.

Right now, the 9 percent of unvaccinated Marylanders continue to account for 75 percent of the state’s Covid-19 hospitalizations, Hogan said.

In Salisbury, for the first time in memory, the hospital’s Emergency Room was listed as “status black,” meaning it had no more available beds, said Roger Follebout, TidalHealth’s Director of Strategic Communications.

“I’ve never seen that before,” he said.

The hospital is licensed for 266 beds, but there were more than 300 in-patients this week. Staff members are exhausted after dealing with Covid for more than a year, Trumble said.

“We’re still at a break-neck pace,” he said.

Trumble said travel and socializing over the Thanksgiving weekend, just as the Delta and Omicron variants were taking hold, played a role in the current surge.

Health officials are stressing the importance of getting vaccinated, including a third dose which offers even more protection against the Delta and Omicron variants. Unvaccinated people risk death or long-term effects of the virus referred to as long Covid.

Vaccines are free and available at most pharmacies or through the health department. To find a vaccination site visit covidvax.maryland.gov.

Health officials also are stressing the importance of testing as a way to curb the further spread of the virus. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced the federal government has ordered 500 million at-home test kits and will make them available for free in January.

The government also is setting up emergency testing sites, starting this week with one in New York City, the president said.

In addition to getting vaccinated and tested before travel or attending gatherings, health officials also are continuing to urge the use of masks in indoor spaces.

 Statewide efforts

 Hogan on Tuesday announced the commitment of $100 million in emergency funding to address urgent staffing needs at Maryland hospitals and nursing homes, as well as a series of actions to further ramp up the availability of Covid-19 testing across the state.

“As I have been warning for the past few weeks, we are entering another pivotal moment in the fight against Covid-19,” said Hogan. “We will continue to constantly monitor this surge and take additional actions as needed. There are also things that the people of Maryland can do in the difficult weeks ahead. I can’t stress this enough—getting vaccinated and getting your booster is your strongest possible defense against this virus and its variants.” 

The governor announced a new funding injection of $100 million to spur an immediate ramp up in hospital and nursing home staffing resources, including:

  • $50 million through Maryland’s Health Services Cost Review Commission to immediately stabilize hospital workforce and staffing needs;
  • $25 million for hospitals and $25 million for nursing homes to also help expand the availability of COVID-19 testing, treatments, and vaccines.

 The state of Maryland continues to conduct high levels of Covid-19 testing. With demand increasing, Hogan announced the following:

  • State health officials are continuing to make 500,000 at-home rapid tests available at BWI Airport and through local health departments, and are working to increase those weekly shipments to get more tests out more quickly.
  • MDH will expand operations to six days a week at its Annapolis and Prince George’s County COVID-19 testing sites. Testing at the State Center site in Baltimore City operated jointly with UMMS will expand as well, with at-home rapid test kits being made available on site.
  • The governor is mobilizing the Maryland National Guard to provide support personnel to expand testing sites and hours.
  • The Vaccine Equity Task Force is mobilizing additional resources to offer testing at vaccine clinics in vulnerable communities.
  • The state will provide an additional $30 million in funding for schools to purchase testing resources.

 The latest numbers

 The Wicomico County Health Department reported this week that 49.92 percent of county residents are fully vaccinated, compared to 70.3 percent of the state.

Statewide, there were 1,345 people hospitalized as of Tuesday, which was an increase of 88 from the day before, and nearly double the 685 patients in mid-October when the virus seemed to be waning.

Of those hospitalized, 296 are in intensive care, including five pediatric cases.

Maryland has reported 621,220 confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, and 11,022 confirmed deaths and 233 probable deaths.

Nationally, there are now more than 51.1 million cases with 808,093 deaths. Roughly 204  million people in the U.S. – 62.1 percent of the population -- are fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The Maryland Department of Health website, which experienced a security breach last month, was partially back online this week, but the case count and number of deaths by county was still unavailable Tuesday.