Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that he will unveil plans for the eventual reopening of the state on Friday. But even as he mentioned the recovery plan, the governor reminded residents that the state is not yet ready to reopen.
Before the state can reopen, it needs to meet four building blocks, which the governor laid out last week.
The first step is testing, which the state increased on Monday after Hogan announced that he and his wife Yumi worked with South Korea to obtain 500,000 COVID-19 test kits. The first batch came earlier this week, but more tests arrived from South Korea Wednesday morning, Hogan said.
The state is also working on increasing the amount of personal protective equipment, which includes ordering more n95 and kn95 masks, he said.
The personal protective equipment stockpile in the state is like “digging in the sand,” he said. The state keeps adding to it, but goes through it just as quickly.
The state signed a contract Wednesday morning to increase its contact tracing efforts, one of the building blocks for reopening the state.
The state is also increasing hospital bed capacity to prep for a surge that could come as the state hits its peak. That’s what drew Hogan to Prince George’s County Wednesday afternoon.
Hogan, along with Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, announced the reopening of Laurel Medical Center. Reopening the hospital adds 135 new beds, including 35 intensive care ones, Hogan said.
"I'm glad that the governor saw what we did and it's a wonderful opportunity to be able to handle the surge as it occurs," Alsobrooks said. "We know that we are really very much in the middle of this."
The hospital, which first opened in 1978, had been downgraded and then shut down.
“But now with its rebirth, it is once again going to help us save lives, not just here in Prince George's County, but throughout the national capital region,” Hogan said.
Even as Hogan and the state work on each building block, the state’s efforts to reopen are still hampered by the number of cases, deaths and hospitalizations reported each day in the state.
Prince George’s County leads the state in cases and deaths with 4,047 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 152 deaths, according to the Prince George’s County Health Department.
Maryland saw another 47 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 631.
It is a smaller increase than was reported Tuesday, which was Maryland's deadliest day in terms of reported deaths. However, 47 new deaths is still one of the highest increases seen in the state since the pandemic began.
Combined with those reported Tuesday, it is Maryland's deadliest 48 hours.
Maryland also saw an increase of 582 confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total case count to 14,775. This number does not include some cases reported in multiple counties.
There were also 167 more people hospitalized, meaning there are 1,433 residents currently hospitalized. Of those, about 900 were in acute care and close to 525 were in intensive care.
Nearly 1,000 people have been released from isolation.
In addition to the 631 deaths, there are 67 deaths being reported that are likely from COVID-19.
Frederick County reported an additional two deaths Wednesday evening, bringing the total number of deaths in the county to 42. The two new deaths are a man in his 80s and a man in his 70s, Rissah Watkins, director of planning, assessment and communications for the Frederick County Health Department, said in an email.
There are now 691 cases of COVID-19 in Frederick County, an increase of 38 from Tuesday. That is the highest increase of confirmed cases in the county since April 15.
Of the 631 deaths, the state does not have data available for 100 of them. It is unclear if the 11 deaths reported in Frederick County Tuesday that were not reported by the state are part of that 100 or if they have not yet been reported by the state.
The state has also not included some deaths in at least Prince George’s, Carroll, Howard and Wicomico counties.
There can be lags in reporting between the state and county health departments, said spokesman Charlie Gischlar. Counties may update throughout the day while the Maryland Department of Health reports daily at 10 a.m.
"Some data on deaths may be unavailable due to the time lag between the death, typically reported by a hospital or other facility, and the submission of the complete death certificate. When the death certificate is complete, the data is updated," Gischlar said in an email.
The high number of new deaths is a likely sign that the state is not yet ready to reopen. Dr. Randall Culpepper with the Frederick County Health Department told the News-Post Tuesday that the state was still in an acceleration phase.
For the state to determine if it hit its peak, there needs to be 14 consecutive days of decreases in cases and deaths, Culpepper said. Once those two weeks pass, the state can look back and see that it has hit the peak.
Federal guidelines also suggest a 14-day decrease in hospitalizations before the state can reopen, Hogan previously said.
Even though the state and county have not yet seen consecutive days of decreases in cases and deaths, meeting the criteria in the governor’s building blocks allows the state to look forward.
“With these crucial components now firmly in place, on Friday, we will be introducing our Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery, which will lead us safely out of this pandemic,” Hogan said.
Reporter Steve Bohnel contributed to this report.