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Coronavirus Latest: Baltimore Convention Center, Hilton Hotel To Be Turned Into Field Hospitals; Drive-Thru Testing Sites Across State To Open

ANNAPOLIS (WJZ) -- As cases continue to grow in the state, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced more specific health care measures to limit the spread and help those who are affected.

As part of the state's hospital surge plan, Gov. Hogan ordered the Baltimore Convention Center and Hilton Hotel to become "alternative care sites", a plan that works as a partnership between the University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins.

"My administration is marshaling every tool in the arsenal of public health to combat the spread of this pandemic. A week ago we launched our plan to increase hospital capacity by an additional 6,000 beds, in order to meet the demand created by the escalating virus," Gov. Hogan said at a press conference Monday morning.

He said phase one of this surge plan has already made 900 beds immediately available, and they expect an additional 1,400 beds by early April.

The governor also has asked FEMA to deliver 250 beds and 50 bed packages to support the initiative, and UMMS has also agreed to reopen Laurel Hospital- making another 135 beds available in short order.


He then directed the Maryland National Guard and the Maryland Department of Health to collaborate with Prince George's County and the University of Maryland Medical System on a pilot drive-thru location at FedEx Field in Landover.

"We also have five vehicle emission inspection centers ready to immediately open as drive-through screening and testing centers as soon as the necessary testing kits, PPEs and lab capability becomes available." He said.

The Maryland Health Department is issuing an order to require health care providers to prioritize tests for hospitalized and chronic care patients, symptomatic first responders and symptomatic nursing home patients.

Along with this, the governor has enacted an emergency order to authorize a "fast-track process" to bring more testing capacity online without FDA approval. They said this could shorten a process that normally takes several months.

Health care providers will also cease elective procedures to free up capacity.

"I just want to take a moment to say thank you to the countless healthcare professionals, the doctors, the nurses, the first responders, who are on the front lines every day, working around the clock to keep us safe." He said. "And I want to thank the soldiers and airmen of the Maryland National Guard, we deployed these citizen soldiers to assist with humanitarian missions all across the state and they never hesitate to answer the call to help their fellow Marylanders."

The Maryland Commerce Secretary is also asking for businesses to help produce PPEs, or personal protective equipment, if they are able to. The state said they may buy the PPEs directly or connect suppliers with businesses that need the gear.

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