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As Coronavirus Hospitalizations In Maryland Increase, Some Worry About Impact On ER Capacity During Flu Season

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Scientists are noticing a subtle but consistent uptick in the number of coronavirus patients in Maryland hospitals, which is cause for concern as flu season nears.

Baltimore County officials started their annual push Thursday to remind people they can get a free flu shot as intensive care bed usage in the state reaches its highest number in a month.

As COVID-19 and influenza clash, emergency room doctors are bracing for a possible surge in patient volume.

"I think it continues to be a concern for them," said Dr. Ashwin Dharmadhikari, a pulmonary and critical care doctor at Sinai Hospital.

Seven months into the pandemic, Dharmadhikari said his patients are still anxious about COVID-19.

"The patients I see continue to be worried about coronavirus, both getting it, dealing with it," he said. "If they have it, they are worried for their family."

More than 3,800 Marylanders have died from the virus, and hospitalizations could be a subtle indicator that COVID-19 wants to claw its way back. The latest data from the state's health department Thursday showed 403 people are hospitalized, the highest number since August 28.


Complicating matters is the approaching flu season. Baltimore City and every county in our area have options for free flu shots.

The city's health department set a goal of having 70% of residents getting a flu shot this year. As of September 27, it said just 4% had done so.

Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch, who contracted the coronavirus in late July, got his flu shot Thursday.

Doctors still don't know how coronavirus and influenza will interact this winter.

"Having one is not good," Branch said. "Imagine how bad having two could be."

Baltimore County is holding a free flu shot clinic net weekend at the Maryland State Fairgrounds. Registration is required.

For more information about free flu shots, click below for:

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department's website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ's coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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