Elrich: County Hospitals May Have to Take Patients from Other Jurisdictions if Need Arises

Montgomery County hospitals may have to accept patients from other jurisdictions if their capacity runs out, County Executive Marc Elrich said at a media briefing Wednesday.

According to the county’s COVID-19 data dashboard, about 77% of hospital beds are occupied as of Wednesday, indicating a low risk of transmission. However, Elrich warned residents not to get too comfortable.

“We were told in a meeting that if our hospitals have capacity and hospitals in neighboring jurisdictions run above their capacity, we may well receive patients from the other counties,” he said. Many other counties don’t have the same hospital capacity as in the National Capital Region, he said.

County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said residents need to think about priorities and in what direction they want their community to go. He said the county continues to be “bombarded” with emails asking for restrictions to be loosened and questioning decision-making. During a council meeting this week, Gayles said that models predict capacity will run out if no further restrictions are implemented.

“You would think in a setting where we’re telling you that in the absence of further action, the hospitals will run out of space and we may not have room to take care of people, that that would resonate more, and it just simply hasn’t,” Gayles said during Wednesday’s media briefing.

According to the county’s data dashboard, about 19% of hospital beds are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients, which indicates a high risk of transmission.

Elrich said he is still trying to rally other jurisdictions to join Montgomery County in a regional approach to reinstating COVID-19 restrictions. He hopes Gov. Hogan considers restrictions if numbers still look bad at the end of the week.

At a press conference Tuesday, Hogan announced new efforts to assist hospital surge planning. He warned that models show Maryland will likely reach a record high for COVID-19 hospitalizations in coming days and said coronavirus hospitalizations have increased by 51% over the past two weeks. On Tuesday 1,583 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Maryland— the highest number since May 10. That number decreased to 1,578 patients on Wednesday.

Hogan did not announce any further COVID-19 restrictions at Tuesday’s press conference. When asked why by a reporter, Hogan said the state is making decisions as necessary and the current focus is on hospitals.

Elrich said he isn’t going to wait much longer for other counties or the state before Montgomery County introduces additional restrictions.

“We are already talking and when we’re ready to decide what we’re going to do, we’re going to do it and people either will come along with us or they won’t,” he said. There is some concern among other jurisdictions that Hogan might take away local authority if counties are too restrictive, Elrich said, referring to this summer’s private school dispute between the county and state.

On July 31, Montgomery County was launched into a week-long back and forth with the state when Gayles issued an order for private schools to remain virtual until at least Oct. 1. Ultimately, Gayles had to withdraw his directive one week later on Aug. 7.

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