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Coronavirus hospitalizations in Maryland are headed towards a record peak, said Gov. Larry Hogan, who is activating state National Guard members to help with response efforts.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday declared a 30-day state of emergency in response to a wave of Covid-19 cases, mobilizing 1,000 members of the state's National Guard to assist health officials.
The move by the Republican governor comes as the highly contagious omicron variant has spread rapidly in the U.S. in recent days at the tail end of the holiday season, when many Americans gathered and traveled. Case counts have skyrocketed and hospitalizations are also rising, although the latest variant of the coronavirus so far appears to be causing less severe illness than previous ones.
Hogan's office said that Covid-19 hospitalizations in the state had reached 3,057 on Tuesday—an increase of more than 500% in the past seven weeks. The governor said that this surge was "overwhelming normal operations at hospitals."
Projections Hogan cited show that hospitalizations in the state would rise further in the days ahead, possibly to above 5,000. The state's previous hospitalization peak, last year, was just shy of 2,000.
“The truth is that the next four to six weeks will be the most challenging time of the entire pandemic,” Hogan said during a news conference.
“All of the emergency actions that we are taking today are to keep our hospitals from overflowing, to keep our kids in school, and to keep Maryland open for business," he added.
Hogan wasn't the only governor to take emergency action in recent days.
In neighboring Delaware on Monday, Gov. John Carney, a Democrat, issued a new state of emergency declaration that would allow public health authorities to set aside certain regulations as they attempt to battle the virus. The directive also includes measures meant to increase bed capacity in care facilities.
Additionally, Carney's order will enable National Guard members to work as certified nursing assistants at certain sites. The governor's office said about 100 members of the state's National Guard were being trained to work in those roles.
“We still face a very serious situation with Covid-19 in Delaware, especially in our hospital facilities,” Carney said in a statement.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, moved in a different direction last week, announcing that a Covid-19 related state of emergency there would expire and not be renewed on Dec. 31. The governor made that decision despite rising coronavirus case counts and hospitalizations in Missouri over the past two weeks.
In Maryland, the activated state National Guard personnel will assist with tasks including Covid-19 testing and transporting patients.
Hogan also announced a pair of executive orders. One gives the state's health secretary the authority to regulate various hospital operations, including staff, bed space and the expedited transfer of patients between facilities. It also aims to boost the ranks of health workers, with steps like allowing for interstate reciprocity for health care licenses and for health workers with inactive credentials to practice.
The second order is geared towards expanding the state's emergency medical services workforce.
Hogan said Tuesday he would join a call later in the day with White House officials about coronavirus response efforts. He said he is urging the Biden administration to take action to increase the availability of monoclonal antibodies used for treating Covid-19, to bolster the manufacturing and distribution of rapid tests for the disease and to help expedite production of antiviral drugs in pill form.