Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (center) speaks during a Jan. 6 press briefing outside University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center. The others in attendance are (from left) Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead; a sign language interpreter; Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS); and Dr. Jeffrey Woolford, assistant secretary for the Maryland Department of Health. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

The University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center will be designated as one of 20 COVID-19 testing sites through the state.

The hospital will be one of 10 hospital-based locations managed by the state health department scheduled to be in operation by next week.

Laurel Medical Center is one of three hospitals where people can get a free COVID-19 test seven days a week, without an appointment. The other two are the University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center in Largo and Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham.

University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center staffers assess medical supplies on Jan. 6 in preparation for its operation as one of 10 COVID-19 testing sites at local hospitals slated to open the following week. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

Prince George’s has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state at slightly more than 139,000.

The other seven hospital sites that will provide COVID-19 testing are:

• University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center in La Plata, Charles County.

• Meritus Heath in Hagerstown.

• Frederick Health Hospital in Frederick County.

• The Johns Hopkins Hospital and University of Maryland Medical Center, both in Baltimore City.

• MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown, St. Mary’s County.

• Northwest Hospital in Randallstown, Baltimore County

Gov. Larry Hogan also announced Thursday outside the hospital in Laurel the Federal Emergency Management Agency will partner with the state to operate a testing site at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore.

“One of the primary goals of this effort is to ease the burden on hospitals and emergency rooms,” Hogan said Wednesday outside Laurel Medical Center. “We’re already getting great, encouraging reports that emergency room traffic for testing has dropped dramatically as a result.”

Hogan also announced the state plans to distribute one million at-home tests and receive an additional 500,000 more by next week.

Bottles of hand sanitizer and exam gloves sit on a table outside University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center in preparation for staff to conduct COVID-19 testing. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

He said recently that the omicron variant accounts for 90% of analyzed lab samples of confirmed cases and the same percentage of those currently hospitalized.

That’s one main reason hospitalizations continue to increase.

As of Thursday, state department data shows another 54 patients were admitted to hospitals in the most recent 24-hour period. The total number of COVID-19 patients now stands at 3,172.

Another 54 people died from the virus to increase the statewide death total to 11,809.

Hogan urged residents to say “thank you” to hospital staff as they continue working under pressure.

Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), said affiliated hospitals with UMMS registered 200 COVID-19 patients last month. On Thursday, the number stood at 800.

He said about 75% of those patients are unvaccinated and less than 5% are fully vaccinated and have received a booster shot.

“It is an important message in helping support our health care workforce to be vaccinated and to be boosted,” Suntha said. “The data I just gave you are facts. These testing facilities will be an incredible resource right now in the fight against COVID-19.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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