Maryland has confirmed 909 new cases of the coronavirus, seven more deaths and 39 fewer hospitalizations as the state saw its first significant drop in hospitalizations in recent weeks against an increase in the rate of positive tests.
Sunday’s additions bring the state’s total to 90,274 cases of the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus. In total, 3,381 people have died due to the disease or complications from it since officials began tracking the virus in March.
As of Sunday, 553 people in Maryland are hospitalized due to complications from COVID-19, 39 fewer than on Saturday.
It’s the most significant drop in weeks, as the end of July saw more than 200 additional patients hospitalized due to the disease over roughly three weeks. From July 10 through Aug. 1, the state went from 385 hospitalizations — the lowest count since March — to 592.
While hospitalizations had been on the rise prior to Sunday, they are still well below the peak of 1,711 patients reported April 30.
State officials say the hospitalization rate is a key metric to measure when considering a rollback of restrictions on public gatherings.
The statewide seven-day average testing positivity rate is at 4.60%, an increase of 0.13% over Saturday. The state reported 23,784 completed tests, with a daily positivity rate of 4.65% Sunday.
The World Health Organization recommends 14 straight days of a positivity rate below 5% before governments begin easing virus-related restrictions. Maryland began its reopening process before hitting that benchmark, but the state hasn’t reported a seven-day average positivity rate above 5% in several weeks.
However, Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus research center has Maryland’s seven-day rolling positivity rate at 6.07%, one of 34 states the university says is above the recommended 5% rate. Hopkins calculates its rate using the number of people to whom tests have been administered, but the state uses the raw number of tests administered. In other words, Hopkins doesn’t count more than one test administered to the same person.
The Baltimore metro region looks to be contributing to the increase in the positivity rate, as Baltimore City and four of the surrounding counties all saw increases in the rate of daily positive tests.
In Baltimore City, 171 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours and the city’s seven-day average positivity rate rose from 6.01% to 6.33%, second to only Prince George’s County at 6.41%.
Cases in the 21224 and 21215 ZIP codes — which officials have targeted with additional resources and testing amid high positive case counts — increased by 18 and 15 on Sunday, respectively.
For comparison, Prince George’s County reported 137 positive tests Sunday. The county has an estimated population more than 300,000 people larger than Baltimore City’s and saw its average positivity rate rise by .08%, from 6.33% Saturday to 6.41% Sunday.
Several of Baltimore City’s surrounding counties also showed increases in their average positivity rates Sunday.
Baltimore County led all jurisdictions in daily positive tests, with 178 in the past 24 hours. The county’s average positivity rate rose from 5.54% Saturday to 5.75% Sunday.
Anne Arundel County was fourth in daily positive tests, with 103 in the past 24 hours. The county of roughly 580,000 people saw its average positivity rate rise from 4.08% Saturday to 4.3% Sunday.
Howard and Harford counties — with 52 and 38 new cases, respectively — saw similar rises in their positivity rates. Howard rose from 3.18% Saturday to 3.5% Sunday while Harford rose from 4.07% to 4.37%.
In total, Baltimore and those four counties accounted for roughly 60% of Sunday’s cases. According to Census Bureau population estimates for 2019, the five jurisdictions represent roughly 43% of the state’s population.
As for Montgomery County — the state’s most populated county and once considered one of the hot spots for the pandemic after the virus began to spread in the Washington metro region — officials reported 93 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday.
While the county still has the second-most cases total with 17,758, the county saw its average positivity rate drop to 3.5% Sunday, from 3.55% Saturday.
The pandemic continues to disproportionately affect the state’s Black and Latino populations. Roughly two-thirds of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases where data on race was available, 47,727, were Black or Hispanic residents. The two demographic groups represent less than half the state’s population.
In comparison, white residents, who constitute more than 58% of the state’s population, or about 50% when accounting for those who identify as Hispanic or Latino, represented less than a quarter of all confirmed cases with 19,904.
However, white people have a higher mortality rate compared with other races, with about 7.17% of cases proving fatal. About 4.98% of cases among Black residents and about 1.8% of cases among Latino residents were fatal. All of these rates have been slowly decreasing in recent weeks as the state has yet to see more than 20 deaths in a single-day reporting period for several weeks.
The state does not have racial demographic data for 14,947 COVID-19 cases.
Younger adults continue to contract the disease at disproportionate rates to older Marylanders.
More than 56% of Sunday’s cases, 510, were diagnosed from patients ages 20 to 49 years, a group that represents 40% of the state’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The single largest group was again 20-29-year-olds, who reported 204 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours.
Gov. Larry Hogan issued orders last week expanding mask-wearing requirements to inside public buildings as well as advising residents not to travel to nine states in the South and Midwest with positivity rates above 10%. The state has seen four days of more than 1,000 cases in the past nine days.