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Officials Paint Bleak Picture Of How COVID-19 Surge Could Shape Winter

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The Maryland Department of Health on Tuesday reported 6,218 new confirmed COVID cases in the past day, by far the most recorded in a 24-hour period. The state's 7-day positivity rate is now 11.64%, the highest since June 2020.

Health officials are warning about the impact this surge could have on our hospitals, painting a bleak picture of how the virus could shape the rest of the winter.

During a virtual press conference this afternoon, Governor Hogan said there's a sense of déjà vu as cases rise and hospitals reach capacity, but he promised this year is different from the last, saying the state is now equipped to combat the surge.

He plead with unvaccinated Marylanders not to wait until it's too late to get vaccinated and reminded those who are vaccinated to get booster shots as hospitalizations rise to unprecedented numbers.

"Across Maryland, there are 314 patients in hospital emergency departments who are waiting for rooms to be available," said Dr. Ted Delbridge, Executive Director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Services.

The governor mobilized the National Guard and pledged $100 million in emergency funding to allow for an immediate ramp-up in hospital and nursing home staffing resources.

And lines snaked around corners and down blocks in Baltimore City Tuesday for free COVID-19 test kits - nearly five thousand were gone in minutes.

"We know people need these tests and we are embedded in this city and able to get them into the hands of people," said Meghan McCorkell, of the Pratt Library system.

Residents are gearing up -- some gearing down -- for a treacherous holiday season.

"We needed to take all the precautions," said Elizabeth, whose son just got his second shot.

Elizabeth also plans to test before traveling.

"My kids will probably get tested right before Christmas just to be on the safe side getting together with my parents," she said.

Steffen opted out of heading home to Germany for the holidays.

"With the airports and flights being so busy you don't know if that's the smartest idea right? Because you could catch something," he said.

But the TSA confirms travel is up airports screening more than two million people a day.

And as many catch the virus - including Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski and Gov. Hogan - the governor says now is the time to use the tools available to stay alive

"This is not March of 2020, we have the tools and resources in place to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe."

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