Baltimore County and Maryland bracing for a COVID-19 case surge

Over the holidays, we saw a sharp surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the prevalence of the Omicron variant here in Maryland. In the last seven weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state have increased more than 500 percent, for a record-high 3,057 on January 4 and projections that we may see a peak of more than 5,000 hospitalizations.

State and Local Response

This week, Governor Larry Hogan declared a 30-day state of emergency and announced a series of executive actions to brace for increased strain on our healthcare system in the coming weeks and months. These include provisions to address staffing shortages in hospitals and care facilities, an expansion of the emergency medical staff workforce and mobilization of the Maryland National Guard to assist health officials, opening of 20 new testing sites across the state and authorization of booster shots for 12- to 15-year olds.

Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, Jr. also announced a local state of emergency and issued a county-wide indoor mask mandate for all citizens regardless of COVID-19 status or vaccination, through at least the end of January. Earlier this week, the county council voted overwhelmingly in support of this measure as a key step in curbing the spread of COVID-19 through our communities, workplaces and schools.

Click here for information on where to get tested.

Click here for information on where to get vaccines and boosters.

As both a teacher in the classroom with students and legislator with this year’s legislative session fast approaching, I am troubled by the persistence of our health trends in the wrong direction. I was feeling unwell at the beginning of January, and took a test to make sure I am not transmitting Omicron to the people in my life. It’s a reminder that we are not done with this pandemic, and that it’s worth taking precautions to preserve the health and safety of our friends and family, colleagues and communities.

Please continue masking and distancing, and in the next few weeks think twice about more risky behavior. Above all, please get your vaccines and boosters. We did not defeat the pandemic in 2021, but if we work together, we can come to terms with it in 2022. To everyone reading, please stay safe and be well, and know that my best wishes are with you in the new year!


Read on for the full scoop on Governor Hogan’s current COVID-19 response (or click here to find the original press release):

Authorization of Maryland Secretary of Health to Regulate Hospital Personnel, Bed Space and Supplies

To assist hospitals and nursing homes in addressing staffing shortages, Governor Hogan signed an executive order that authorizes the secretary of the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) to:

  • Direct and expedite the transfer of patients between facilities as necessary;
  • Establish alternate care sites, and allow the Health Services Cost Review Commission to set rates for them;
  • Allow interstate reciprocity for health care licenses;
  • Allow inactive health care practitioners to practice without reinstating their licenses;
  • Authorize graduate nurses to work at any health care facility and to provide full nursing services;
  • Allow health care practitioners to practice outside the scope of their licenses;
  • Regulate elective medical procedures as necessary; and
  • Issue directives to control and monitor COVID-19 in nursing homes and similar congregate care facilities.
Expansion of EMS Workforce

The governor enacted a second executive order that authorizes additional steps to further augment the state’s EMS workforce, which is on the front lines and also overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

Mobilization of 1,000 Members of the Maryland National Guard

At Governor Hogan’s direction, 1,000 members of the Maryland National Guard are being mobilized to assist state and local health officials with the state’s emergency pandemic response. Approximately 250 National Guard members will be deployed to support COVID-19 testing sites across the state, including at hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, and to assist with patient transport. Additional National Guard soldiers will be immediately assigned to support operations at the two new state-run sites located at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health in Bel Air and Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis.

Opening 20 New Hospital-Adjacent Testing Sites Across the State

To meet the rising demand for testing and divert people from visiting hospital emergency rooms to get COVID-19 tests, the Maryland National Guard will assist with opening 20 testing sites outside of hospitals across the state. To find a testing site, visit State health officials continue to urge residents not to visit an emergency room just to get a COVID-19 test.

Authorization of Booster Shots for 12- to 15-Year-Olds

Following the latest action from the FDA, the State of Maryland will now provide COVID-19 booster shots for children between the ages of 12 and 15. Marylanders are also now eligible to get a booster five months after completing their primary doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Previous guidance required eligible Marylanders to wait six months.

Calls For Federal Action on Monoclonal Antibodies, Rapid Tests, COVID-19 Antiviral Pills

Governor Hogan called on the federal government to take immediate action to:

  • Increase the distribution of monoclonal antibodies;
  • Expedite the approval of additional rapid tests for public use, and push to increase production and distribution to the states; and
  • Expedite the production and allocation of the new COVID-19 antiviral pills, which were recently authorized by the FDA.
Calls on Maryland Employers to Incentivize Vaccinations and Boosters, Encourage Masks or Face Coverings

Following yesterday’s announcement that the state is now providing two hours of paid leave for any employee who gets a booster shot, Governor Hogan urged other employers across Maryland to provide leave for vaccinations and boosters. With face coverings now required in all state government buildings in Maryland, the governor also urged more employers to encourage the wearing of masks or face coverings.

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