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City to collaborate with UMMS, Hopkins, CareFirst on bolstering COVID-19 resources

Baltimore City and three local health care giants are joining forces and sharing resources in the hope of better positioning Baltimore to confront an expected surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in coming weeks.

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young announced the launch of a new public-private partnership between the city, the University of Maryland Medical System, Johns Hopkins Health System and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield during a press conference Friday afternoon.

It is a unique scenario for the two Baltimore-based health care systems, which are renowned industry competitors, and a health insurer that ordinarily operates on a very different side of the health care industry, to be coming together and sharing resources amid the ongoing pandemic. Baltimore Business Dily News Young was joined by the CEOs of all three organizations, as well as Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa in announcing the new collaborative effort.

"Clearly it is a time in which we need to all come together and develop systems that support our entire community and region...It takes each and every one of us to play a role," said Kevin Sowers, president of Johns Hopkins Health System. "I believe that together we will be stronger, and I think we will be better prepared to respond to the coming days."

As of Friday, state data shows Baltimore is home to 313 confirmed cases of coronavirus. It is expected that the figure will continue to rise in days to come, and some industry experts have voiced concerns that a rapid influx of COVID-19 hospitalizations could overwhelm local health systems and strain their limited resources.


Dzirasa said the health systems and CareFirst will be collaborating with the city on seven different initiatives related to confronting a COVID-19 surge:

1  A new call center dedicated to fielding coronavirus inquiries from citizens.

2  Disseminating clear messaging to citizens on COVID-19, including its spread and symptoms, and other relevant topics like self-isolation and social distancing.

3  Increased COVID-19 testing availability, including at a new resource center that will set up at the Pimlico Race Course in Northwest Baltimore.

4  Collecting data around the availability of resources, including medical supplies and ventilators, at local hospitals and care sites so that the city can understand where there may be shortages and how resources could best be shared among facilities.

5 Collecting and maintaining data to determine which areas of the city may be "hot spots" for COVID-19 cases.

6 Increasing resources for the city's at-risk populations, including the homeless, incarcerated individuals and those in long-term care facilities.

7 And care coordination efforts, including plans for how patients could to be transitioned from one level of care or one facility to another.


Dr. Mohan Suntha, CEO of UMMS, said his hospital system and others in Maryland are able to handle the demand for coronavirus care as it exists today. However, he said the entire hospital industry is planning for worst case scenarios that could accompany an "impending surge" Press Release Distribution News in Baltimore in COVID-19 cases, and is worrying about whether there will be enough resources available to protect their workforces and patient communities as conditions worsen.

Suntha said UMMS looks forward to collaborating and sharing resources with other health care organizations participating in the "unique" partnership with Baltimore City.

Young said additional updates on the progress of the public-private partnership's work will be presented Tuesday.

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