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Ten new hospital-based COVID-19 testing sites opening next week

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The State Center testing site, just before Christmas. Sites like this one have been swamped with long lines. Credit: Sarah Y. Kim/WYPR

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that 10 new COVID-19 testing sites will open at Maryland hospitals by next week.

All of the sites will be walk-up or drive-thru, and open seven days a week.

They will be separate from hospital emergency rooms, which many have scrambled to in a desperate search for COVID tests.

“One of the primary goals of this effort is to ease the burden on hospitals and emergency rooms,” Hogan said at the University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center. “We're already getting great encouraging reports that emergency room traffic for testing has dropped dramatically.”

The governor said that the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health in Bel Air saw a 72% drop in emergency room visits after setting up a testing site.

COVID-19 hospitalizations remain at record highs, with 3,172 Marylanders hospitalized as of Thursday. The state’s testing positivity rate has also reached a new peak, just under 30%.

Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), said that across UMMS, there has been a four-fold increase in COVID patients in the last month.

Suntha said emergency rooms are overwhelmed and can only handle patients in urgent need.

“Our hospitals in the state of Maryland are under incredible stress and stress is borne by our frontline healthcare workforce,” Suntha said.

He added that the vast majority of those hospitalized are unvaccinated.

Two of the 10 new testing sites will be in Baltimore City, at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The other eight sites are the University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center in Laurel, University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center in La Plata, University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center in Largo, Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham, Meritus Health in Hagerstown, Frederick Health and MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown.

In addition to these 10 sites, the state will be operating a site with the Federal Emergency Management Agency at St. Agnes’ Hospital in Baltimore next week.