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Coronavirus

CDC: Baltimore city and county, plus Anne Arundel, Howard and 3 Shore counties have high COVID-19 transmission

Six counties and Baltimore City now have high community spread of COVID-19, a federal measure that prompted local health officials to renew their calls for people to wear masks in indoor public spaces and get vaccinated.

The counties included Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Howard in the Baltimore region, plus Dorchester, Kent and Talbot on the Eastern Shore, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirteen more counties had moderate spread and four in Western Maryland remained low, according to the CDC.

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“The most important thing to remember is that we have the tools to fight this,” said Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, Baltimore City health commissioner, in a statement. “Vaccines, tests and masks coupled with a solid hygiene routine are enough to keep many healthy people out of the hospital as we work to determine whether we are at the end, middle or launch point of this surge in cases.”

The CDC ratings are now based not just on the number of cases, but the burden on the health care system, which is measured in hospitalizations.

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Statewide, there were 2,677 new COVID-19 infections reported Friday, the most since late January as the last major wave was subsiding. There were 508 people hospitalized, up by 15 but far below the mid-January peak above 3,400.

About 8.5% of people tested for COVID-19 in state and local labs received positive results, above the 5% threshold that indicates high community spread. Officials also have said they expect that cases are far higher but going unreported by people who do not test or test at home.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone wear a mask while in public indoor settings and on public transportation when we are at a high community level,” said Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, Anne Arundel’s health officer, in a statement. “This is a holiday weekend and the weather is supposed to be beautiful, so it’s a great opportunity to spend time outdoors.”

The city and county, and others, are handing out free test kits and masks through public libraries. For those testing positive and at high risk for severe disease, the health officials said antiviral pills are available but need to be taken within days of symptoms arising.

Dzirasa said she plans to brief the public again once the CDC releases its next community transmission update at the beginning of June.


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