Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday declared a 30-day state of emergency in an attempt to stem the tide of surging coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the state.
The executive order gives Health Secretary Dennis Schrader broad operating powers to assist with staff shortages at nursing homes and hospitals.
The order includes:
• Authorizing nursing graduates to provide services at any health care facility.
• Allowing health care practitioners to practice and conduct tasks outside their scope of licenses.
• Issuing directives to control and monitor the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes and similar congregate facilities.
To ensure the temporary order goes smoothly, the governor will mobilize 1,000 members of the Maryland National Guard to assist at two new state-managed COVID-19 testing sites in Anne Arundel and Harford counties. About 250 members will support testing sites throughout the state, including 20 new sites adjacent to hospitals.
The state health department reported a record number of current coronavirus-related hospitalizations Tuesday with 3,057.
Because the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use for booster shots for 12- to 15-year-olds, the state will begin to provide them immediately.
“While we can’t manufacture doctors and nurses who don’t exist, we have continued to do everything we possibly can do at the state to help our hospitals withstand this surge and save lives,” Hogan said. “The truth is that the next four to six weeks will be the most challenging time of the entire pandemic. While we are hoping for the best, we are actively preparing for the worst.”
Although Hogan didn’t implement a statewide mask mandate, he announced Monday that face coverings are required in all state buildings and two hours paid leave for eligible state employees who receive booster shots.
The governor, who himself recently recovered from a case of COVID-19, stressed the importance of residents getting vaccinated and, if eligible, booster shots as soon as possible.
He said unvaccinated residents made up nearly 75% of Maryland’s coronavirus cases last year and 84% of its related hospitalizations.
“These are not opinions or judgments, these are indisputable facts,” Hogan said. “The vaccines are keeping people out of the hospital and saving lives.”
Ted Delbridge, executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, said hospital staffers are strained by the increase in patients. Some hospitals postponed surgeries and therapies in order to care for additional sick patients.
“It’s incredibly disheartening and discouraging to be on the health care front lines and know that much of the current situation is avoidable,” Delbridge said. “Vaccinations are akin to wearing a seat belt. It might not prevent you from being injured in a crash, but it certainly reduces the severity and injuries and prevents fatalities.”