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Coronavirus

Maryland reports 870 newly confirmed coronavirus cases; testing suspended Tuesday for Tropical Storm Isaias

Maryland has confirmed 870 new cases of the coronavirus and eight more deaths as the state announced it would temporarily close testing sites Tuesday in preparation for Tropical Storm Isaias.

Monday’s additions bring the state’s total to 91,144 cases of the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus. In total, 3,389 people have died due to the disease or complications from it since officials began tracking the virus in March.

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As of Monday, 548 people in Maryland are hospitalized due to complications from COVID-19, five fewer than Sunday.

With Sunday also seeing a decrease in patients, it marks the first two consecutive days to see fewer hospitalizations since July 16 and 17. Prior to Sunday, 207 more people were reported hospitalized since in a little more than three weeks.

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Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday that COVID-19 testing operations would be suspended Tuesday in anticipation of Tropical Storm Isaias, which is expected bring heavy rainfall to Maryland and wind gusts up to 60 mph in parts of Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore.

The statewide seven-day average testing positivity rate is at 4.36%, a decrease of .24 percentage points since Sunday. The state reported a daily positivity rate of 4.13% with 24,507 tests completed.

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 6.14%, one of 33 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 led the state in new cases as Baltimore City and Baltimore County both reported more COVID-19 cases Monday than Montgomery or Prince George’s counties, the two most populated counties in the state that were originally considered the hot spots for the outbreak.

Baltimore County reported 226 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the most of any jurisdiction in the state. Over the past week, the state’s third-most populated county has reported 1,277 new cases of the coronavirus, the most of any of the Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore city.

Baltimore city reported 171 new cases of the coronavirus Monday. Combined, Baltimore City and Baltimore County accounted for more than 45% of Monday’s new cases, despite accounting for less than a quarter of the state’s overall population.

The two jurisdictions continue to have seven-day average testing rates of above 5%, with Baltimore City at 6% and Baltimore County and 5.52% as of Monday.

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For comparison, Prince George’s County reported 137 cases Monday and Montgomery County reported 84. Prince George’s continues to have a high positivity rate, with its seven-day rolling average at 6.11% as of Monday, while Montgomery’s rate of 3.14% continues to stay below the state average.

As of Monday, the 21215, 21224 and 21206 Zip codes, which cover parts of Baltimore city and Baltimore County, have all reported more than 1,000 cases.

The 21224 Zip code in Southeast Baltimore has averaged nearly 19 new cases per day over the past week. The 21215 Zip code in Northwest Baltimore averaged nearly 16 new cases per day and the 21206 Zip code in East Baltimore averaged more than 11 new cases per day during that same period.

While the state is now regularly completing more than 20,000 COVID-19 tests a day, a new report released Monday said the state is behind the optimal turnaround time to have the tests be effective for contact tracing.

The report — written by researchers at Northeastern University, Harvard University, Northwestern University and Rutgers University — found that the median wait time for test results in Maryland was three days. The researchers wrote the “optimal” wait time to aid contact tracing would be one to two days.

Last month, Hogan called on the federal government to implement “robust testing,” saying that some Marylanders were waiting up to 10 days for results, waiting in lines that looked “a lot like it did back in March and April.” Part of the blame was placed on backlogs at national testing laboratories like LabCorp, who have said the increase in new cases across the country have led to a slowdown in testing results.

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The researchers wrote that Maryland is not alone, as only six states — Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio, and Washington — had a median waiting time of two days. Most had median wait times of three days while some states, like Arizona and South Carolina, went as high as five days.

“The relative consistency of long waiting times throughout the country highlights that it represents a national problem, not a local one,” the researchers wrote.

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The state reported that younger Marylanders are still behind the majority of new cases, as 59.7% of Monday’s cases were diagnosed in residents under the age of 40.

In a release, the Hogan administration said the 6.04% positivity rate among Marylanders under 35 years old is much higher than the 3.53% positivity rate for those over 35 years old.

Residents aged 20-29 years old were the leading demographic for new cases again, accounting for 202 of Monday’s cases. The demographic accounted for more than 23% of Monday’s cases while representing about 13% of the state’s population, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

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, 50,059, were Black or Hispanic residents. The two demographic groups represent less than half the state’s population.

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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 a little more than a quarter of all confirmed cases with 20,140.

However, white people have a higher mortality rate compared with other races, with about 7.1% of cases proving fatal. About 4.92% of cases among Black residents and about 1.79% 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 15,099 COVID-19 cases.


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