ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Pointing to a rise in COVID-19 related hospitalizations, Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday announced plans to introduce emergency legislation to help Maryland’s hospitals contend with staffing shortages.

The governor, who met earlier in the day with his pandemic response team, said officials and public health experts are monitoring a recent uptick in several key health metrics, which have the potential to get even worse down the road.

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“We’re increasingly concerned by the sharp rise in hospitalizations, which have doubled over the last three weeks,” Hogan said. “Health officials are also warning that the convergence of the flu and the Delta and Omicron variants could lead to further spiking metrics and hospitalizations.”

The latest round of Maryland Department of Health data shows 984 residents are hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest total the state has seen since May 1 when 957 patients were being treated.

“Omicron is believed to be potentially four times more transmissible than previous strains of COVID-19, and it is anticipated to rapidly overtake (the Delta variant) as the main driver of new cases over the next 12 weeks,” Hogan said.

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Last Friday, the governor’s office announced that Maryland had confirmed its first cases of the Omicron variant among three people in the Baltimore region.

Hogan said Thursday the best way for Marylanders to protect themselvesfrom the Omicron variant is getting their COVID-19 booster shots. He said those who test positive should get monoclonal antibody treatments as soon as possible.

To date, the state has administered 1.3 million booster doses of the vaccine.

Throughout the pandemic, the governor said, the state has taken steps to help hospitals cope with staffing shortages, including letting nurses who are licensed elsewhere to practice in Maryland and asking nursing programs to accelerate graduation for qualified students.

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“The emergency legislation we submit will allow all of these important emergency actions to be made permanent,” he said. “The health department will be taking some additional immediate actions in the days ahead as we continue to use every tool at our disposal to help Maryland hospitals get the resources they need.”

CBS Baltimore Staff