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Maryland activating Medical Reserve Corps, needs thousands of additional health care workers

Gov. Larry Hogan said the state's projections expect hospitalizations to reach a new all-time high in the next few days.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday the State of Maryland will take extraordinary steps to increase its supply of health care workers amid surging coronavirus cases, including activating its medical reserve corps and asking colleges and universities to let health care students graduate early.

During his weekly coronavirus update on Tuesday, Hogan said the state is already using 130 hospital beds from its coronavirus surge capacity, and that 21 hospitals across the state have reached more than 90% of their total capacity.

Hospitalizations in the state due to the coronavirus have skyrocketed over the past month — increasing by more than 200% since November 1. As of Tuesday, more than 1,500 patients across the state were hospitalized for treatment of the virus.

Hogan said that the state’s modeling predicts it will surpass its previous record high for hospitalizations in the coming days. 

During the press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Larry Hogan did not announce any new restrictions and said the main focus, for now, would be on the overcrowding being seen at hospitals.

"Our hospitals have too many people in them," he said. "We do see in the next few days hitting a critical point. We think it’s going to continue to get worse over the next several weeks.” 

The state’s new secretary of health, Dennis R. Schrader, said the administration will be looking for 2-3,000 additional health care workers to step into front-line roles over the next several weeks.

Schrader is taking over as Maryland’s top health officer for outgoing Sec. Robert R. Neall, who retired Tuesday after 40 years of service. Schrader, who was MDH’s chief operating officer prior to his promotion, has most recently been running point on the state’s testing and hospital surge efforts.

In addition to Schrader, Hogan announced two other new roles:

  • Dr. Jinlene Chan, acting deputy secretary for public health, will be leading the state’s vaccine efforts, and
  • Dr. David Marcozzi, assistant chief medical officer for acute care at the University of Maryland Medical Center, will serve as senior medical adviser on COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Gov. Hogan also continued a call for more federal funding to help small businesses and families.

He took direct aim with comments toward Congress and said legislation should be passed soon.

"If you do nothing else, if you pass no other legislation and you can only accomplish one thing during this lame-duck session, it must be to pass the phase 4 relief package," the governor said. "We simply cannot wait until January 20 for this urgently needed relief. The time has come to stop the partisan bickering, to reach a common-sense compromise and to get this done once and for all.” 

On the vaccine front, Hogan said the state expects to receive 155,000 doses in the first batch (worth noting: Pfizer's vaccine, which has not yet been approved by the FDA, requires two doses per person to be effective).

“It covers half of our front-line health care workers,” Hogan said. “It doesn’t get anywhere near where we need in Phase 1. The good news is they have great vaccines and they’re years ahead of schedule.”

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