Deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19 rose Tuesday — both in Frederick County and across the state — a day before Gov. Larry Hogan is set to make an announcement on his roadmap to recovery.
Hospitalizations increased by 19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations to 1,563, according to the Maryland Department of Health. Of them, 590 are in intensive care.
The increase in hospitalizations broke a six-day streak of declining hospitalization numbers, according to state data. In Frederick County, the number of people hospitalized increased by one.
The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care has been trickling up, with 590 people currently in the ICU for COVID-19. ICU numbers fluctuate, usually rising for a few days, falling for a couple days and then rising again.
But the numbers the last three days have been on the higher side. On Sunday, the number of COVID-19 related ICU patients, spiked to 611, the highest the state health department reported so far.
The numbers fell back to 585 on Monday, which is still higher than usual. Numbers trickled up to 590, as of 10 a.m. Tuesday. Excluding the spike two days ago, the last time ICU numbers reached 590 was April 30.
Hogan has said one blip won’t reset the clock, and up until this point, current overall hospital numbers were decreasing since Hogan’s last press conference. It is likely that Hogan could announce the first stage of his reopening plan Wednesday during his 5 p.m. press conference.
It is unclear if the rise in ICU beds for COVID-19 patients will affect the decision. Michael Ricci, spokesman for Hogan, reiterated what Hogan said in an April 24 press conference when asked.
Hogan said then that when the state sees a downward trajectory or consistent plateauing of hospitalizations and ICU numbers, the state would be in a position to consider lifting the stay-at-home order.
ICU numbers had been decreasing when Hogan announced early steps last Wednesday that relaxed the stay-at-home order, such as allowing non-emergency medical procedures, golfing, hiking and camping.
But since the announcement, the state saw two days with the highest numbers of COVID-19 ICU patients.
Deaths also continue to rise. In Frederick County, deaths rose by two, bringing the county to a death toll of 81. The two deaths reported Tuesday are two women in their 80s, said Rissah Watkins, director of planning, assessment and communications for the Frederick County Health Department.
Maryland Department of Health is reporting 70 new deaths from COVID-19, a larger increase than was reported Monday. At least 1,643 Maryland residents have died from COVID-19 in just over two months.
There are 113 probable deaths, which means COVID-19 is suspected but the death certificate is awaiting laboratory confirmation. Of the confirmed deaths, nearly 100 do not have county information.
These numbers very likely include some Frederick County deaths, as the county health department consistently reports higher deaths due to differences in reporting methods between the county and state health departments.
Nearly 100 people were released from isolation, bringing the total to 1,563 as of Tuesday.
Overall, confirmed cases rose in Maryland, but at a smaller increase, with 688 new cases. The state has now seen a total of 34,601 cases.
One of the requirements for Hogan’s Roadmap to Recovery is increased testing.
Meritus Medical Center is now offering testing for people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 even if they are asymptomatic, the News-Post previously reported. A doctor’s note is not required.
Frederick Health, which operates a drive-thru testing location across the street from Frederick Health Hospital has relaxed the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Johns Hopkins, said Dr. Manny Casiano, chief medical officer. But the health care system still requires evidence of at least one symptom in order to be tested.
“If we had unlimited testing supplies [swabs and reagents], we’d open our testing to everyone,” Casiano said in an email. “We are continuously working to get more testing supplies from our distributors, but allocations are restricted at the state and federal level.”
If the hospital gets enough supplies that would allow it to test people regardless of if they had symptoms, it would, Casiano said. But for now, it needs to reserve tests for those who are sick, delivering moms, people undergoing surgery, first responders, health care personnel and hospitalized patients.
“Ideally, we’d like to see everyone in the Country be tested eventually; but we are nowhere near that point at this time,” Casiano said in the email.
He also pointed out the situations in Frederick and Washington counties are different, as Frederick County has far more cases. Washington County also has a state testing site at a VEIP station, which reduces some of the hospital’s load.
“So we have more citizens with symptoms, and fewer choices of test location – both reasons why we are not yet using our limited supplies to test asymptomatic persons,” Casiano said.
Frederick Health has done a total of 5,400 tests, with approximately 3,500 done at the drive-thru alone, Casiano said. Some of these tests are on the same people. Of the tests, 970 have come back positive. Just looking at the number of drive-thru tests, 730 have come back positive, he said.
Nearly 4 percent of Frederick County’s population has been tested between Frederick Health, other health care offices and the health department, Casiano said.
“This is a significant accomplishment by a lot of very hard-working people,” he said.