Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that he will introduce emergency legislation to address staffing shortages at the state’s hospitals in order to ensure that they “have the tools they need to respond to future crises.”

Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at a news conference on Thursday afternoon (Screenshot)

“Hospitals are facing issues of staffing shortages and we are taking proactive steps to maximize the ability of our hospitals to increase their nursing workforce,” Hogan said at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis.

Hogan added: “Last week the Maryland Department of Health issued a notice allowing registered nurses or licensed practical nurses who hold a current active license in any other state or jurisdiction to render nursing care in the state of Maryland. State health officials are also strongly encouraging hospital systems to utilize nursing students, nursing assistants, and physician assistants as force multipliers.”

The legislation will make the said reforms permanent and is designed to prevent hospitals from being overburdened with both flu and COVID-19 patients during the fall and winter months, Hogan said.

Right now Maryland’s COVID-19 hospitalization rate remains steady, Hogan said, noting that patients with that disease-account for just 11.3% of all hospitalizations statewide. And the number of pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state is just under a dozen, Hogan said.

Many Marylanders who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are considered at risk of having serious complications from the disease have been treated with Monoclonal antibody therapy, with the state having administered more than 13,000 doses of the drug, Hogan said.

As far as COVID-19 booster shots go, the state had administered more than 78,000 doses to Marylanders who are age 65 and over, and to younger adults who are either immunocompromised or who work in professions deemed a high risk for exposure, Hogan said.

This past week alone more than 30,000 appointments were made throughout the state for COVID-19 booster shots, Hogan said.

At Wednesday’s news conference, Health Secretary Dennis Schrader reminded Marylanders that they must wait a pre-determined amount of time before being considered eligible for the booster shot.

“You are eligible 6 months six months after your second Pfizer shot.”

Schrader said there are currently 500,000 Marylanders who are eligible for the Pfizer booster shot, which is thus far the only booster that has been approved for use, and that the state has more than 1 million doses in stock.

Moreover, all Marylanders who are eligible for the booster shot will be contacted by the state’s GoVax call center, Schrader said.

There are 532,340 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Thursday morning, according to the Department of Health, and 10,212 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is 4.04%, which is within CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted nearly 13 million COVID-19 tests.

About 84% of the people in Maryland have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Department, and about 59% of the people in the state have received both doses of the vaccine.

Nationally, about 55% or 182.5 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

This article was originally published on on Thursday, September 30, 2021.

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