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Hogan Touts Progress Toward Lifting Stay-At-Home Order


Before Gov. Larry Hogan lifts the stay-at-home order and lets non-essential businesses reopen, he says the state must meet four goals:  more hospital beds, the ability to test more people for COVID-19, more protective gear for healthcare workers, and an expansive “contact tracing” program to track down people who may be infected. 

On Wednesday, Hogan said the state is well on its way toward meeting these goals. He said he plans to release his full recovery plan on Friday.


Hogan made the announcements during a press conference outside Laurel Regional Hospital. The facility was downsized from a full-service hospital a few years ago. Now it’s back in use with 135 beds, including 35 intensive care beds, for treating COVID-19 patients.


The governor said those beds are part of a broader network of additional hospital beds around the state. In Prince George’s County, which has been the hardest hit part of the state, there are new beds at Adventist HealthCare Fort Washington Medical Center and University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center. Hogan also described tents outside hospitals in Lanham, Clinton and White Oak. 


In other parts of the state, there are new hospital beds at former prison facilities to serve existing prisons in Jessup and Hagerstown. And a 250-bed field hospital at the Baltimore Convention Center opened earlier this month.


Over the last few weeks, Hogan has repeatedly cited a need to reach 6,000 new hospital beds.


“We’re now on track to not only reach but actually exceed our goal of 6,000 additional beds by reaching a surge capacity of more than 6,700 new beds in the coming weeks,” Hogan said Wednesday. 


The hospital beds are one of the four goals Hogan says the state must meet to begin the process of lifting the stay-at-home order. On Wednesday, the governor said state officials have made progress toward the other three, as well.


One goal is expanding what’s known as “contact tracing,” tracking down people who have come into contact with someone known to have the virus.


There are already 250 contact tracers working with the state and local health departments in Maryland, and on Wednesday morning, the state authorized a contract with the National Opinion Research Center, Hogan said, that will eventually allow them to contact 1,000 new cases per day. 


Hogan also announced the launch of a new software designed to “assist in monitoring and collecting information about people who test positive for COVID-19 and individuals who they have come in close contact with to determine who needs to  self-isolate, and any other further steps that need to be taken to ensure that the virus is not spreading further.”


On another goal, expanding testing capabilities, Hogan announced a major breakthrough earlier this week, with the purchase of supplies from South Korea that will enable the state to administer 500,000 COVID-19 tests.


The fourth goal — boosting supplies of personal protective equipment, or PPE — may be the most elusive.


“The Federal stockpiles were depleted, and that's improving everywhere. We're getting more assistance from FEMA, and we're getting more companies ramping up production. We're buying things all over the world, so we have things from China, from Korea — from companies everywhere,” Hogan said. “But it's still not quite enough.”


Hospitals are able to operate for now. But he said healthcare workers are using PPE as quickly as they get it. If there’s a sudden spike in cases, there likely wouldn’t be enough.


“We’re, I would say, just keeping up with an almost adequate supply, but it’s like digging in the sand,” Hogan said. 


Hogan was asked what percentage of the state’s PPE goal they have met, and he said he didn’t know. 


“We've made huge improvements,” he said. “But I would say we have a long way to go.”

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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