Howard County Executive Calvin Ball has committed $2 million to the Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) and $400,000 to the Howard County Health Department in American Rescue Plan funding. The $2.4 million will address critical staffing needs at both organizations amid the latest COVID-19 surge. Photos of the announcement can be found here. Video can be found here.
“This latest COVID-19 surge caused by variants is overwhelming, and our healthcare workers, those on the frontlines, our EMS and paramedics are exhausted,” said Ball. “During this pandemic – they’ve been asked again and again to step up, sacrificing their time, energy, and health for our community. It is paramount that we invest in our healthcare workers, and our public health system, to retain our frontline employees and support them through this crisis.”
The funding support for Howard County General Hospital comes as hospitalizations are expected to reach new heights amid the surge fueled by the delta and omicron variants. From mid-December to early January, Howard County General Hospital saw a 411% increase in patients hospitalized with COVID-19. According to the Maryland Department of Health, Howard County’s current positivity rate is nearly 30%, with an average of 165 cases per 100,000 residents. 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 currently has 63 COVID-19 patients in Acute Care and the ICU, compared to 7 COVID patients a month ago.
“Howard County General Hospital is grateful for the unwavering support we have received throughout the pandemic from the Howard County government,” said Shafeeq Ahmed, M.D., HCGH president. “This financial support will help us to continue providing critical care to our community, despite the challenges we face.”
County Executive Ball allocated the $400,000 to the Health Department over the holiday break, citing the phenomenal efforts of the staff to set-up testing, contact tracing, vaccination clinics, and the need to continue addressing other public health needs of the community.
“Our public health team has spent the last two years performing critical work to support the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Howard County,” said Health Officer Dr. Maura Rossman. “Investment in our workforce allows us to retain trained, experienced staff, putting the Health Department in a better position to serve our residents.”
The Ball Administration has provided more than $24 million in federal relief dollars to support private and public workers across industries. County Executive Ball allocated more than $12 million in hazard pay, straight time and overtime for County public safety workers, staff on the front line of the pandemic and members of the health department. Last month, County Executive Ball also committed $8 million to Howard County Public School System educators and $2 million in funding to provide retention and signing bonuses for school bus drivers.
“The Department of Fire and Rescue has a long-standing partnership with Howard County General and the Howard County Health Department,” said Fire Chief Louis Winston. “Over the last two years, we have worked closely with both on multiple programs and innovations to help meet the needs of our community. It is a collaborative partnership committed to protecting the public health of our residents in Howard County.”