As COVID-19 cases rise in the D.C. area, so does the number of people being admitted to the hospital and visiting the emergency room.
About 1,700 people were in Maryland hospitals with COVID as of Monday. About 350 people were in intensive care. Numbers this high had not seen since early 2021.
University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health declared a “hospital disaster” to allow for changes such as modified surgical schedules.
In Prince George’s County, hospitalizations have climbed steadily since November, with 163 people hospitalized with COVID last week, taking the total to its highest since April.
Luminis Health, with hospitals in Annapolis and Lanham, has seen a 300% increase in hospitalizations since November. News4 got a look inside the emergency department in Lanham to see how the ongoing surge in affecting operations.
“We are seeing an incredible spike in the amount of COVID patients we are seeing in the emergency department,” said Dr. Reginald Brown, Emergency Medical Director at Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center.
Luminis Health has 128 COVID patients across its two hospitals.
Brown said the hospital stands ready to treat critically ill patients and those with severe illness, but the influx of patients with minor symptoms is impacting operations.
“Our waiting room is congested. We have several patients in the waiting room. Our waiting times are a little bit longer than we are generally used to,” he said.
Patients aren’t the only concern; a significant number of staff have tested positive, leaving the emergency department short-handed. Brown anticipated it will get worse before it gets better.
“We are looking out to different resources to staff the emergency department, but that is a significant concern,” he said.
People ending up at the hospital with COVID are largely unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sunil Madan said.
“This current variant is spreading very fast, and many people are getting infected,” he said. “Our ask for the community is simple: Please get vaccinated. Get boostered. Wear your mask indoors and follow basic hand hygiene.”
They also asked people with mild COVID symptoms to seek help from their primary care provider or treat themselves at home.
If you have big plans for New Year’s Eve, you might want to reconsider, Brown said.
“Now is not the time to have huge holiday gatherings. It’s the time to bunker down. This is another serious surge,” he said.