By Logan Dubel
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has announced additional emergency Covid-19 actions, including a 30-day state of emergency as the Omicron variant continues to surge across the state. This marked his first in-person Covid-19 press conference since December 9th.
Speaking from the CHART Statewide Operations Center in Hanover while juggling the pandemic and winter weather, Hogan noted that the next four to six weeks will be the most challenging of the pandemic.
Hospitalizations have now reached 3,057, which marks a record high and an increase of more than 500% in the past seven weeks. Hogan grimly projected that hospitalizations could hit 5,000, significantly higher than the original peak of 1,952 last January.
Additionally, Hogan announced executive orders expanding the EMS workforce and mobilizing the Maryland National Guard. The governor also enacted an executive order supporting local hospitals, which establishes more alternate care facilities, eases the transfer of patients between hospitals, and even allows graduate nurses to work at any healthcare facility. Additional testing sites will also open.
Finally, he encouraged President Biden and the federal government to immediately expedite the mass production of rapid tests as well as to expand the use of therapeutics, including monoclonal antibodies and recently approved anti-viral pills. Hogan showed frustration over the testing shortage, which he hopes the commander-in-chief will address in a meeting later on Tuesday.
Although experts have concluded that Omicron is less dangerous than previous iterations of Covid-19, the highly contagious variant is still wreaking havoc reminiscent of March 2020. While Governor Hogan has earned bipartisan praise for his pandemic response, Maryland continues to face challenges amidst this latest winter spike.
In just the past 24 hours alone, Maryland has recorded an additional 14,500 cases, leading to a positivity rate of 27.44%. In Worcester County, the positivity rate is slightly lower at 27.07%.
Hogan himself contracted Covid-19 in December, and in Tuesday’s remarks, he again emphasized the importance of being both vaccinated and boosted in reducing symptoms. Metrics indicate that in 2021, 75% of Covid-19 cases came from Marylanders who were not fully vaccinated, and 84% of both hospitalizations and deaths were from unvaccinated Marylanders.
“It’s important for Marylanders to go back to using common sense and doing the things that will keep us safe: avoiding crowds, keeping your distance, washing your hands, and yes—once again—wearing the damn masks,” Hogan said, using his signature line.
Hogan commented that getting vaccinated and wearing masks are steps that will keep Maryland open, and more importantly, keep children in schools. Besides in state buildings, there is no statewide mask mandate, however, some local jurisdictions have taken further steps. Hogan mentioned that it is difficult to enforce these mandates. So far, Worcester County has not enacted any regulations beyond the scope of the governor’s actions.
The Old Line State is in the spotlight, as three of the top ten jurisdictions in the United States with the highest case rates per 100,000 people are in Maryland, according to the New York Times. This includes Baltimore City, Charles County, and Prince George’s County.
As the virus continues to spread, people across the nation have struggled to find tests, which are limited in supply. Locally, officials at Atlantic General Hospital warned last week that anyone seeking a rapid test should avoid visiting the emergency room, where the supply remains reserved for life-threatening situations.
The Worcester County Health Department will offer testing in Ocean City on Wednesday. Call 410-632-1100 to register or for more information. Those in search of testing kits can also check with any of the five Worcester County Libraries. The local health department receives roughly 300 tests biweekly and then distributes them to each branch.
To read Hogan’s emergency proclamation, click here.