BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Omicron is ravaging Maryland, with the state recording another record-high positivity rate that is just shy of 30%.

And state officials are trying to take the pressure off emergency rooms by opening up 10 testing sites outside hospitals by the end of next week. No appointments are necessary, and they will open seven days a week. Here are the locations:

  • UM Laurel Medical Center (Laurel)
  • UM Charles Regional Medical Center (La Plata)
  • UM Capital Region Medical Center (Largo)
  • Doctors Community Hospital (Lanham)
  • Meritus Health (Hagerstown)
  • Frederick Health (Frederick)
  • Johns Hopkins (Baltimore)
  • University of Maryland Medical Center (Baltimore)
  • MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital (Leonardtown)
  • Northwest Hospital (Randallstown)
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The goal is to avoid people going to the emergency room to get tested. Governor Larry Hogan said visits to the emergency room at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health in Bel Air dropped by more than 70% since a testing site opened at the hospital.

The federal government will also partner to open a testing site at Ascension Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will help staff it. The governor did not provide an opening date.

The University of Maryland Medical System president said Covid-19 patients have surged 400% in the past month, and three out of four patients are unvaccinated.

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“Our hospitals in the state of Maryland are under incredible stress, and the stress is borne by our frontline healthcare workforce,” said UMMS CEO Dr. Mohan Suntha. He noted the hospital system is seeing a rise in hospitalizations among children.

Maryland has also obtained 500,000 at-home rapid tests, which should be available by next week.

“Rapid tests are not as accurate, and particularly with omicron, there’s some concern that it doesn’t always show up. But it’s definitely a really important screening tool,” the governor said. “You want to get that quick answer.”

And in Harford County, where the positivity rate is above 30%, a drive-thru testing site will open Monday at Ripken stadium. It will provide rapid tests along with the more comprehensive PCR tests for everyone aged two and older.

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Despite the surge, the Hogan Administration has rejected calls for a statewide mask mandate. During an oversight hearing this week, Senator Clarence Lam, a doctor, asked the health secretary “how many more people have to be hospitalized or die” before the state enacts an indoor mask mandate. Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader responded, “We want to persuade people not force them” and noted “by persuading them it will change the culture.”