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Hogan Pledges $100M In Emergency Funding To Shore Up Maryland's Hospitals

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- With a surge in COVID-19 patients pushing Maryland's hospitals to the brink, Gov. Larry Hogan announced plans Tuesday to spend $100 million in emergency funding to shore up the state's medical workforce.

Hogan pledged $50 million of that funding to efforts to stabilize staffing at hospitals throughout the state. He said the remaining $50 million will be directed to hospitals and nursing homes so that they can expand access to COVID-19 tests, vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments.

"This emergency funding injection is to allow for an immediate ramp-up in hospital and nursing home staffing," the governor said during a public address Tuesday.

In addition, Hogan said state-run testing sites in Annapolis and Prince George's County will expand their operations to six days a week, and that he's mobilizing the Maryland National Guard to provide support at those sites.

Hogan said the state is making 500,000 at-home test kits available statewide through local health departments, and it is providing $30 million for schools to purchase testing kits.

The emergency actions come as Maryland's hospitals grapple with surging COVID-19 hospitalizations, most of them among unvaccinated individuals. On Tuesday, the Maryland Department of Health reported that 1,392 patients were being treated at hospitals throughout the state for COVID-19.

Last week, hospitals were directed to free up beds and to avoid scheduling non-emergency surgeries after Maryland surpassed 1,200 hospitalizations. Should that total reach 1,500, the governor said, hospitals will implement their pandemic plans.

Hogan said Maryland is testing more than 50,000 people a day and officials are working to scale up that operation. But saying there's only so much the state can do, he called on the federal government to do everything in its power to help.

"Every American who wants a test should be able to get a test," he said. "In addition to getting tested, we still need those last remaining Marylanders to get vaccinated."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 91% of Marylanders 18 and older have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Our team will continue to work around the clock to get more shots into arms and to reach that last 9% of Maryland adults, because right now, that remaining 9% is responsible for more than 75% of our COVID-19 hospitalizations, pushing our hospital systems and healthcare heroes to the brink," the governor said.

He encouraged residents to get their boosters if they haven't already done so, saying people should not think of them as "bonus" or "extra" vaccine doses.

"I want to urge Marylanders not to panic," Hogan said. "This is not March of 2020. We have the tools and resources in place to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. We must remain vigilant and we cannot let our guard down."

The number of COVID-19 patients in Maryland has doubled since the beginning of December, said Dr. Ted Delbridge, executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services.

Nearly one in five patients in Maryland's hospitals is being treated for COVID-19, Dr. Delbridge said, and nearly one in three patients in the state's intensive care units has COVID-19. He said three-quarters of the state's emergency rooms say they're at capacity.

"We anticipate that the number of people who require hospitalization to continue to increase and potentially exceed Maryland's peak of 1,952 last January," he said.

Only this time, Delbridge said, there are new challenges. He said with doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers leaving the field, there are fewer people available to take care of patients this time around.

Delbridge said vaccines and booster shots remain the best tool at Marylanders' disposals to protect themselves and their loved ones. He said most COVID-19 hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated.

"Now, while some vaccinated people do fall ill and require hospitalization, they're the minority," Delbridge said. "Seventy percent of more, depending on the hospital, of COVID-19 patients have never been vaccinated. I cannot emphasize enough the life-saving importance of vaccines."

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