EASTON — University of Maryland Shore Regional Health is seeing more patients with COVID-19 after the holidays than it has seen since the pandemic began. The system says the rise was expected but has prompted a flexible response.

Trena Williamson, a spokesperson for Shore Regional, declined to say how many coronavirus-infected patients are currently being cared for among the region’s three hospitals. Williamson said patient bed availability “frequently changes” across the hospital system.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Shore Regional hospital at Easton has averaged 21 COVID-19 patients per day based on 7-day averaged data from Dec. 25 through Dec. 31.

Ninety-three percent of the hospital’s adult in-patient beds were in use last week, the data show, and 28% of those were occupied by COVID-19 patients.

HHS coronavirus patient data were not available for the Chestertown and Cambridge UM SRH hospital locations, but the agency reported 81% of in-patient beds were in use last week at Chestertown.

“Similar to most hospitals across Maryland, with the wider community spread of COVID this fall, we are caring for more individuals with COVID illness than in the spring while maintaining delivery of care for non-COVID related conditions such as surgeries, cancer treatment and care for heart or neurologic illnesses,” Williamson said in a statement.

The hospital spokesperson, in response to questions about Shore Regional’s preparedness for patient surges related to the coronavirus pandemic, said, “We are regularly revisiting our labor and surge plans.”

Williamson said Shore Regional is focusing on “maintaining the ability to be nimble to respond to local emergency and inpatient care needs quickly, safely and effectively.”

She named “multiple strategies” the system has to increase its staffed bed capacity if needed, including operationalizing the surge designated mobile hospital in Easton, redeploying personnel to areas of need, changing ratios, and offering opportunities for extra shifts.

Hospitalizations among Talbot County residents have increased since Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 26, with 26 residents requiring hospital care for virus-related illness within a six-week time span.

Just under 670 residents have tested positive for the virus since Thanksgiving Day, accounting for 46% of local cases reported during the entire pandemic.

The county is reporting 206 active cases as of Thursday. Twelve residents have died due to the pandemic, and 88 have been hospitalized to date.

As for how many of the regional hospital system’s employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19, Williamson declined to provide specific numbers or percentages.

She said, as of last week, the system had scheduled 32 vaccination clinics at its three hospitals and will continue running clinics at various outpatient locations.

”We are receiving regular distribution of vaccine from the state through University of Maryland Medical System COVID Incident Command and are administering all the vaccine to our team members as we receive supply,” Williamson said.

She said the hospital system expects to continue receiving regular vaccine supply for first doses and will begin administering second doses in the coming weeks.

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