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Maryland Launches Surge Operations Center, Directs Hospitals To Submit Pandemic Plans

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- As Maryland's COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to hover above 1,000, Gov. Larry Hogan and health officials on Wednesday directed hospitals to submit pandemic plans and launched a surge operations center to manage bed capacity.

The Maryland Department of Health also laid out contingencies in case the number of COVID-19 patients continues to rise, asking hospitals to free up beds and scale back non-emergency surgeries if hospitalizations reach 1,200, and to roll out their pandemic plans if that total hits 1,500.

In addition, the Maryland Board of Physicians has given its blessing to a plan to let health care providers who are licensed out of state to practice in Maryland and to provide temporary licenses to retired healthcare workers. The Maryland General Assembly will review the plan, which could take effect as early as Jan. 1.

The actions deliver on a promise Hogan made last week when he vowed to take emergency action to help Maryland's hospitals grapple with a rising caseload. They came as COVID-19 hospitalizations topped 1,000 for the sixth day straight.

As of Wednesday, Maryland had 1,151 COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to Department of Health data. Of those patients, 869 are adults in acute care and 269 in intensive care. Nine children are in acute care and four are in intensive care.

"As I announced last week, we are continuing to monitor the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations and use every tool at our disposal to make sure our hospitals have the resources they need to prepare for this and future surges," Hogan said.

The best way for Marylanders to protect themselves, the governor said, is by getting their vaccinations and booster shots.

The surge operations center was formed to help hospitals deal with surges including the threat of a potential influx of unvaccinated patients. It will work with hospitals to manage COVID-19 surges and the transfer of patients to alternate care sites.

The new measures are intended to help Maryland contend with the convergence of the Delta and Omicron variants, the latter of which is believed to be up to four times more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

Among other things, the state has asked that nursing programs accelerate graduation for qualified students, and that registered nurses who are licensed out-of-state be allowed to practice in Maryland.

The University of Maryland School of Nursing has allowed students to graduate early. Notre Dame of Maryland University is offering an accelerated program to help students earn their nursing degrees in just 15 months.

Earlier this month, the state announced its first confirmed cases of the Omicron variant among three people from the Baltimore metropolitan region.

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