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State reports coronavirus testing record; Worcester County cases continue to climb as Maryland confirms 922 new cases

Maryland reported 922 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus and eight more deaths in the past 24 hours, as the state reported the most completed tests in a single day since officials began monitoring the pandemic in March.

While the state saw its testing positivity rate drop significantly over the past 24 hours amid the record-high testing count, Worcester County, on the state’s Eastern Shore, continues to see its rate climb while confirming nearly 100 cases in the past week.

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Sunday’s additions bring the state’s total to 95,503 cases of the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus. In total, 3,448 people have died due to the disease or complications from it since officials began tracking the virus in March.

In total, 40,473 tests for COVID-19 were completed in the past 24 hours, the most in a single day since officials began tracking testing results in mid-March. The previous record was 34,874 tests completed July 24.

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The statewide seven-day average testing positivity rate is at 3.75%, a decrease of 0.28 percentage points compared with Saturday. The decrease appears tied to the 2.72% daily positivity rate, the lowest rate reported by state officials since they began recording the statistic in March.

However, Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus research center has Maryland’s seven-day rolling positivity rate at 5.78%, making it one of 37 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.

While the vast majority of places in the state saw decreases to their average positivity rate, Worcester County again did not follow state trends and saw its seven-day average positivity rate rise to 6.23%, an increase of 0.13 percentage points compared with Saturday.

A rural county of fewer than 53,000 people that includes Ocean City, Worcester County confirmed 12 new COVID-19 cases Sunday for a total of 694 people. It leads the state with its average positivity testing rate and has since Aug. 5.

It is now the only municipality in the state to have a positivity rate higher than 6% and only one of three to be over 5% as of Sunday. Queen Anne’s County (5.05%) and Prince George’s County (5.53%) are the other two, although the latter saw its rate drop by 0.44 percentage points in the past 24 hours.

While Worcester is well behind more populated counties in terms of total case count — with four municipalities reporting tens of thousands of cases each — the number of new cases in Worcester more than doubled from July 1 to Aug. 1, from 289 to 583.

Officials previously voiced concerns about how the Eastern Shore could serve as a hot spot for the virus.

Ocean City reopened its boardwalk in May when the state still was reporting hundreds of new COVID-19 cases per day and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention visited poultry plants in nearby Wicomico and Dorchester counties after more than 200 workers were infected.

Worcester County is also more vulnerable to the virus than other parts of the state, as 28.2% of the county is age 65 and older, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, nearly double the statewide average of 15.9%. Several communities in the county are geared toward retirement-aged residents, including Ocean Pines, where 38.6% of its 11,710-person population were 65 years or older, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

While those older than 65 are considered to be at higher risk of dying due to the virus, Worcester County has not seen a significant increase in fatalities due to the new cases, reporting three deaths in the past month for a total of 19.

The county’s demographic makeup is also 83% white, according to the U.S. census, a stark contrast to the more diverse municipalities such as Baltimore City and Baltimore County that have been areas of concern for local and federal officials.

Both the city and the county saw their seven-day average positivity rates drop Sunday, with Baltimore City’s rate of 4.82% marking the first time the city has had a sub-5% positive testing rate since July 6. Baltimore County is now at 4.87%, the first time the county has been below 5% since July 11.

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Maryland officials reported that 10 more people are hospitalized due to the disease, raising the total to 525 as of Sunday. There are 397 patients in acute care units while 128 are in intensive care units.

As for total new cases, Baltimore County led the state with 197, although its average positivity rate dropped 0.23 percentage points as well.

Baltimore City was second with 172 cases, but again, the municipality saw its average positivity rate drop by 0.50 percentage points.

Young adults again made up the majority of new cases, as about 39% of Sunday’s cases were from patients 20 to 39 years old.

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, 53,622, 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 about 26% of all confirmed cases with 20,895.

However, white people have a higher mortality rate compared with other races, with about 6.97% of cases proving fatal. About 4.74% of cases among Blacks and about 1.67% of cases among Latinos were fatal. All of these rates have been slowly decreasing in recent weeks.

The state does not have racial demographic data for 14,430 COVID-19 cases.

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