Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan officially announced Wednesday the reopening of Laurel Medical Center in anticipation of a surge in coronavirus cases in the state.
The hospital in northern Prince George’s County will accommodate 135 beds, including 35 in an intensive care unit.
As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, the majority-Black jurisdiction recorded the highest number of confirmed cases at nearly 4,000 with 152 deaths.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks praised Hogan in leading the effort to combat the novel coronavirus, especially in humanizing each person who died.
“These are not cases. These are humans. These are our family members. These are our neighbors we are talking about,” she said outside the hospital while standing six feet away from Hogan. “The urgency in which he has tackled this has really been amazing and we are grateful for it.”
Alsobrooks also stressed that Black men should seek medical attention immediately when necessary, or risk ending up like several county residents who died in their homes last week.
According to Prince George’s statistics, nearly 2,000 Blacks in the county have contracted the virus. Alsobrooks said Black men have accounted for about 64 percent of the county’s coronavirus-related deaths.
Residents can text 911 if they are in need of help, she said.
“We are very concerned that men have been waiting” to seek medical assistance, Alsobrooks said. “If you are having symptoms, do not wait.”
Laurel Medical Center, managed by the University of Maryland Medical System, is the second facility opened to treat patients and expand hospital capacity in the state, which has roughly 15,000 confirmed cases.
On April 7, Hogan toured the Baltimore Convention Center to house 250 beds for patients who need medical care but are not in serious condition.
In Prince George’s County, three modular tents opened outside of Adventist HealthCare Fort Washington Medical Center to accommodate 30 patients. Additional beds and tents to treat patients will become available at Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham and MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center in Clinton.
Hogan also announced Wednesday that the state signed a contract with the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center to hire 750 people to investigate positive cases. The state already has 250 such workers, known as contact tracers.
Although Maryland received 500,000 coronavirus testing kits Saturday from South Korea with another load from that country arriving Wednesday, Hogan said the state still needs more. Personal protective equipment remains one of the top needs in hospitals and health care facilities.
“There’s been a terrible shortage of PPEs in hospitals and in systems and in states across the country,” Hogan said. “We are getting more assistance from [the Federal Emergency Management Agency]. More companies are ramping up production. But it’s still not quite enough. It’s going out the door as fast as it’s coming in.”
Even though Hogan said the state hasn’t reached its projected peak number of coronavirus cases, he plans to announce Friday the state’s “recovery plan,” which aims to expand testing capability up to 20,000 tests per day, increase hospital surge capacity by 6,000 beds and provide millions more surgical masks and ventilators.