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Baltimore City expands testing, asks for help as hospitals fill up with COVID patients

Posted at 4:59 PM, Dec 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 17:39:36-05

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Baltimore City’s mayor and hospitals are bracing for a winter COVID-19 surge worse than we have seen before.

To prepare for the worst, the health department is expanding testing and the mayor has suspended Rec and Parks programming.

“Let me be very clear: we are experiencing high community transmission,” said Mayor Brandon Scott.

Scott is anticipating an increase in hospitalizations as omicron spreads quicker and easier than the delta variant.

Because of the Maryland Department of Health data breach, they have limited data on what is happening in Baltimore City specifically, but officials said hey’ve seen as much as a 300% increase in COVID patients in hospitals.

Dr. David Marcozzi, the COIVD-19 Incident Commander for the University of Maryland Medical Center, said it’s mostly preventable.

“97% of COVID-19 hospitalizations within our health system have not received the three vaccinations needed to assure adequate protection,” said Dr. Marcozzi.

Hospitals are taxed not only because of the increase in COVID patients, but they have less people on the frontlines because of a staffing shortage and increase in workers testing positive from community spread.

“At a high rate for Johns Hopkins Health System, we saw 23 employees testing positive a day. Now we are seeing a high of 63,” said Kevin Sowers, President of johns Hopkins Health System.

“It is limiting our ability to care for many other illnesses and surgical problems too; from broken bones to asthma and heart problems,” said Dr. Marcozzi.

Wednesday, city officials and hospital leaders asked for help from the community to limit transmission during the holiday season.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our healthcare providers have been seen as heroes. Now we need the community to be our heroes,” said Rebecca Altman, Vice President of operations for Lifebridge Health.

They’re asking people to get vaccinated and boosted, wear masks, avoid large crowds and get tested.

While testing demand is exceeding supply, the city health department is expanding it to Mondays and looking for more sites and kits.

“We’re looking to procure more of the at home tests for folks outside of what the state is allowing us,” said Scott.

Baltimore City Rec and Parks-run sports programming will be suspected through January 31.