BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Howard County Executive Calvin Ball is giving $2.4 million to healthcare workers who are understaffed and overwhelmed amid a wave of new COVID-19 cases.

Ball announced on Friday that he would give $2 million to the Howard County General Hospital and $400,000 to the Howard County Health Department in American Rescue Plan funding.

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The money is supposed to help the organizations help address their staffing shortages, set up testing sites, conduct contact tracing, and various vaccination clinics.

“This latest COVID-19 surge caused by variants is overwhelming, and our healthcare workers, those on the frontlines, our EMS and paramedics are exhausted,” Ball said in a press statement. “During this pandemic—they’ve been asked again and again to step up, sacrificing their time, energy, and health for our community.”

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Healthcare workers have spent nearly two years battling the deadly virus. Now, they are squaring off against the new and more contagious Omicron variant.

Howard County’s current positivity rate is nearly 30%, with an average of 165 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Maryland Department of Health. Just one month ago, the county’s positivity rate was just under 4%, with a case rate of approximately 10 per 100,000.

Howard County General Hospital has 63 COVID-19 patients in Acute Care and the ICU, compared to 7 COVID patients a month ago, per the Maryland Department of Health.

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Earlier this week, Ball announced that the county would be setting up a seventh mobile COVID-19 testing site with a drive-thru option or a walk-up clinic on a bus in Elkridge—a community with one of the highest case rates in the county.

CBS Baltimore Staff