COVID hospitalizations may hit record. Meritus enacts surge plan, pauses infusion therapy

Meritus Medical Center is redeploying staff, making more beds available for COVID patients and considering how to handle elective procedures as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge past 1,500 in Maryland.

“Our projections now show that in the coming weeks, we could reach record levels of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Maryland, possibly over 2,000," Gov. Larry Hogan said in a news release Thursday.

The Maryland Department of Health previously announced a series of actions hospitals were to take if the state's COVID-related hospitalizations reached 1,500.

Statewide, hospitalizations hit that mark Thursday,

In a separate pandemic-related move, Meritus also has paused administration of the monoclonal antibody infusion therapy.

Following new recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Maryland Department of Health paused federal allocation of bamlavinimab/etesevimab and Regen-COV, the agents that have been used for the infusion therapy.

Across the country, sites were directed to stop administering the two agents effective Thursday.

The move is based on information that the therapy might not be effective against the new omicron variant.

"Meritus Health is complying with this immediately while awaiting further information and direction," the health system reported in a news release Thursday.

“We understand this news will be concerning to members of our community who may be waiting to receive this therapy,” Carrie Adams, chief transformation officer for Meritus Health, said in the news release. “While we must comply with this direction from the state, we are committed to the care and support of patients in our community.”

Unvaccinated patients are 'driving the strain on our health care system'

The Meritus surge plan, put into action in keeping with the state's orders, "consists of redeploying staff and resources to different departments, making available additional beds for COVID-19 patients, and carefully considering the resources needed for elective surgical procedures and evaluating which cases we can support," Adams said in an email Thursday.

"We continue to be proud of our teams for the ways they continue to support the dynamic needs of this pandemic. Their dedication to this community has never wavered, despite the strains and demands of this recent surge of cases."

As of Wednesday, the 300-bed hospital reported having 273 patients. Of those, 89 patients were being treated for COVID. And 80% of those 89 patients were unvaccinated. There were 13 COVID patients in the intensive care unit, and 10 of those were not vaccinated.

According to the state health department, now that the 1,500-mark has been passed, hospitals are to:

  • Optimize existing bed capacity.
  • Adjust hospital capacity, such as bringing additional staffed beds into service.
  • Redeploy staff or alter staffing models.
  • Reduce non-urgent and elective procedures and surgeries.
  • Transfer patients to alternate care sites.
  • Bridge idle clinical or administrative space online or convert other space for clinical care.

Hogan previously announced an additional $100 million in emergency funding for hospitals and nursing homes to help address urgent staffing needs.

“With unvaccinated patients driving the strain on our health care system, we urge Marylanders to do your part by getting your vaccine or booster shot as soon as you can," Hogan said in Thursday's news release.

“We will continue to closely monitor this surge and take additional actions as needed.”

A pause in infusion therapy

Meritus Health staff will try to call patients affected by the new recommendations related to monoclonal antibody infusion therapy. Meritus also is working with community physicians to share possible care options for patients.

Adams said there are some potential alternative agents and that Meritus Health is assessing options for obtaining them for other therapies as soon as possible.

Sotrovimab is the other monoclonal antibody therapy approved for treatment that is still shown to be effective for the omicron variant.

There has been limited availability of Sotrovimab in the United States, Meritus reported, and it is not something that is readily available in Maryland or at Meritus Health.

"Leaders are working diligently to acquire any supply of this therapy to provide treatment for the local community," the Meritus release reads.

This article first published in The Herald-Mail and online at in December 2021.