Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) renewed the state’s COVID-19 State of Emergency on Friday, a day that saw the nation surpass 9 million cases of the often-deadly virus.
It’s the 10th renewal the governor has issued since the coronavirus crisis hit Maryland in late winter — and it comes as many of the state’s metrics suggest a third wave of COVID-19 infections has begun.
“This crisis is far from over, and this virus does not recognize state borders,” Hogan said in a statement. “I want to remind Marylanders that the only way to keep our state open for business is to avoid traveling to hotspots and continue following the public health guidelines. We cannot let our guard down, and we must remain vigilant.”
According to a New York Times analysis of national COVID-19 data, 38 states — including neighboring Pennsylvania and Delaware — have coronavirus infection rates that are “high and getting higher.”
Maryland is one of just nine states (along with the District of Columbia) where the spread is said to be “lower but going up.”
Public health experts across the country have warned that the U.S. — like Europe — can expect to see a significant increase in infections and hospitalizations as the weather cools, the days grow shorter and people spend more time indoors.
Having endured a huge spike in April and a second wave in July, Maryland’s latest numbers appear to show the outlines of a third increase:
Hospitalizations: The state’s seven-day average daily hospitalization rate is now 470, up from 318 on Sept. 25, an increase of 48%.
(The state hit its first peak on May 6, with a rolling average of 1,674 people receiving hospital care; the second peak occurred on Aug. 3, at 569.)
The state Department of Health reported 513 people hospitalized on Friday, an 83% increase from Sept. 20, when the count stood at 281. ICU bed usage was up 85% during that same period, from 68 to 126.
Deaths: Maryland experiences far fewer deaths than many other states, a range of between three and 11 per day, a rate that has held steady for many weeks. Still, a Washington Post analysis found that the state’s death rate has increased 14% in the past week.
In extending the state’s health emergency order on Friday, Hogan acknowledged the troubling metrics.
“While Maryland’s positivity and case rates remain lower than most states in America, we are closely monitoring increases in some of our key health metrics as well as rising numbers in states across the country,” he said.
Can Maryland avoid the massive spikes in new cases that have gripped much of the Midwest and Plains?
It’s hard to know, of course. But if so, it will be likely be because the Mid-Atlantic was hard hit early-on in the pandemic, said Dr. Jeffrey Elting, the former head of bioterrorism response for the Washington, D.C., Hospital Association.
“Perhaps the most susceptible people, unfortunately, have already had it pass through them,” said Elting, a former White House physician. “Maybe there’s more asymptomatic infections that have been out there and maybe there’s some antibody levels that give people some protection that we just don’t know about yet.”
He said the people he encounters seem to have taken the urgings of public health experts to heart.
“People wash their hands a lot more nowadays. They practice a degree of social distancing, which is all good. People wear masks,” Elting said.
“Most of the people that I see are pretty conscientious and focused and well-informed. Some places, people may not be.”
By Bruce DePuyt