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More Maryland Hospitals Declare Disasters As COVID-19 Surge Brings Unprecedented Pressure

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- St. Joseph's Medical Center and Howard County General are now on the growing list of Maryland hospitals switching over to crisis standards of care.

The state is now reporting a record-shattering 3,057 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

"It is a big deal," Maryland Hospital Association President and CEO Bob Atlas said. "There is no sugarcoating it at this point."

Rising hospitalizations over the last two weeks have caused several Maryland hospitals to declare disasters and switch over to crisis standards of care, including the University of Maryland St. Joseph's Medical Center in Towson.

"I've been here for almost 33 years and we've never had to move into crisis standards of care," St. Joseph's Medical Center Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs  Dr. Gail Cunningham said

Dr. Cunningham said they are trying to maximize bed space for COVID-19 patients. She said workers have been caring for more patients than usual and that workers from other departments are being called in to assist. Plus, the hospital is rescheduling some surgical procedures.

"While they're doing their very best, it is really challenging," Dr. Cunningham said. "I think it's been a bit demoralizing for a lot of them because 75% of the patients were seeing in the hospital are unvaccinated."

WJZ also spoke with the President and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association. He said the unprecedented influx of patients is putting a strain on workers and hospital operations.

"The waits for less severe care are going to be long and you may actually have to be transferred to another facility further away from home," Atlas said.

So, doctors continue to urge people to think twice before going to emergency rooms for non-emergency illnesses.

"They should not be using emergency departments for testing," Dr. Cunningham said. "They should not be using emergency departments for mild symptoms. We really only have the capacity to take care of sicker people."

Governor Hogan says that the rise in hospitalizations is not over yet. He predicts they will reach 5,000 during this current surge.

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