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'We’re nervous about the holiday' | Maryland and Virginia hospitals describe coronavirus surge

With the number of coronavirus hospitalizations surging in parts of the country, WUSA 9 spoke to hospital groups in Maryland and Virginia about the growing pandemic.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — With coronavirus cases surging around the country, hospitals in both Maryland and Virginia continued to move closer to capacity on Wednesday with more patients coming in to be treated. 

As of Wednesday evening, Maryland Department of Health records showed the state experiencing its highest number of coronavirus hospitalizations since early June.

Over in Virginia, data from the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association showed almost 1,500 coronavirus patients in hospitals on Wednesday as ICU occupancy around the commonwealth was recorded to be around 74% capacity.

In response to the growing concerns, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced on Tuesday a sweeping set of new restrictions on health care facilities.

Hogan painted a bleak picture of the situation in the state, saying 19 hospitals, including many in western Maryland, are already at capacity. More than one Marylander is now dying every hour from the coronavirus, he said: “Maryland is in the red zone.”

As a result, Hogan ordered hospital visitations to be restricted except in limited circumstances.

On Wednesday, Maryland Hospital Association President and CEO Bob Atlas told WUSA 9 that the limited visitations could help conserve much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) during the growing pandemic.

"Our hospitals did a good job stocking up when things got a little quieter," he said. "When visitors are there, that increases the possibility of exposures and it forces greater consumption of PPE.” 

With Maryland seeing a record seven-day average for coronavirus cases, the Maryland Nurses Association spoke to WUSA9 about the issues facing medical workers. MARYLAND, USA - As Maryland continued to see a surge in coronavirus cases on Monday, the Maryland Nurses Association spoke to WUSA9 about the anxiety and concerns for front line medical staff at hospitals witnessing the rise firsthand.

Atlas said Maryland hospitals have been keeping up with the growing number of coronavirus patients, however, he remained concerned if the surge continued.

"We’re ready but we don’t need more patients than are already there," he said. "We’re very concerned that the caseload may rise to an intolerable level.” 

Atlas told WUSA 9 that at least one hospital in the state was taking in coronavirus patients from Pennsylvania to help with overloaded medical facilities there.

In the weeks ahead, Atlas said it would be crucial for people to follow health guidelines to protect themselves and to assist crowded hospitals.

"This is real and we all have to take it seriously so we can get through this winter," he said. "This is a disease that anybody can get and anybody can transmit. We have to take it seriously.” 

In Virginia, the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) said medical facilities were keeping up with the increased load but the surge in coronavirus cases in other states brought obvious worry.

"While the numbers have risen, we’re not to the point where other states are," VHHA Vice President of Communications Julian Walker said. "Our healthcare and delivery system has not been overwhelmed but the numbers are rising and that’s a concern.” 

For the nurses and doctors on the frontlines of the pandemic, Walker said the recent surge brought fears over the staff possibly spreading the deadly disease at home.

"Anybody who works in a hospital, there is an element of exposure to risk when you have a higher patient load and a higher number of patients who are hospitalized," he said. "If you have more people who are Covid-19 positive and hospitalized that means the people they encounter, like people in healthcare and staff and personnel, are also potentially exposed to that risk.”

Walker said gatherings for Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season added on to the concerns and could possibly put Virginia hospitals in a tough spot if others don't follow health guidelines.

"People need to practice personal responsibility," he said. "It was important during the spring and summer and it's important now as we get into colder weather.” 

Moving forward, both state hospital groups expected to keep handling the extra load while helping people recover during the pandemic. 

"There’s no doubt that we will meet the challenge," said Atlas.

"We strongly urge everyone to do their part," added Walker.

RELATED: COVID Blog: DC's mayor says new restrictions likely coming. Just not yet.

RELATED: 'Maryland is in the red zone' | Gov. Hogan rolling state back to Phase 2 capacities as coronavirus cases surge

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