LAUREL, Md. (WJZ) -- An additional 20 state-run COVID-19 testing clinics will open near hospital sites across Maryland in the coming weeks, meeting the public's demand for tests as the Omicron variant causes a surge in cases and potentially reducing emergency room visits from Marylanders looking for a test, Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday.
Ten of the centers will be fully operational by the end of next week, Hogan said.
Those first 10 locations are:
- University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center in Laurel
- University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center in La Plata
- University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center in Largo
- Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham
- Meritus Health in Hagerstown
- Frederick Health
- Johns Hopkins in Baltimore
- University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore
- MedStar St. Mary's Hospital in Leonardtown
- Northwest Hospital in Randallstown
Once operational, all 20 locations will be open seven days a week for walk-up and drive-through testing with no appointment required.
A testing site run in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency will also open next week at Ascension Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, Hogan said.
"We don't need to go to an emergency room to get a test," Hogan said. "There's people really sick that are coming to the emergency rooms that our healthcare heroes need to take care of."
Emergency room visits dropped by 72% at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health in Bel Air after the Maryland Department of Health opened a testing clinic there in late December, Hogan said.
With COVID-19 hospitalizations topping 3,000 in Maryland and predicted to continue climbing, Hogan on Tuesday declared a state of emergency to combat the public health crisis.
Hogan also signed a pair of executive orders—the first empowering the Maryland Department of Health to regulate hospital staffing and resources, and the second activating 1,000 Maryland National Guard members to shore up the state's EMS ranks.
Members of the National Guard will provide support to open the new testing clinics, Hogan said.
In Maryland, 90% of lab-confirmed cases and 90% of hospitalizations are attributed to the Omicron variant, the governor said.
Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of the University Maryland Medical System, said his organization had 200 COVID-19 patients a month ago. Now, the figure stands at 800.
Of those, 75% are unvaccinated, compared with the less than 5% who are fully vaccinated and have received their booster shot.
Hospitals in the state "are under incredible stress" with the increase in COVID-19 patients and people seeking tests, said Suntha.
"These testing facilities will be an incredible resource right now in the fight against COVID-19," he said.
Hogan said the state has been distributing 1 million at-home rapid tests through local health departments and has plans to acquire 500,000 additional kits.
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