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Maryland reports 597 new coronavirus cases, seven deaths Saturday

The Maryland Department of Health announced 597 new coronavirus infections and seven more deaths attributed to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

The latest report brings Maryland’s totals to 126,819 confirmed cases and 3,813 deaths since the pandemic arrived in March.

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There are currently 323 patients hospitalized because of the virus in the state, a tally that has not changed since Friday. Of this group, 78 require intensive care, a decrease of two from the day before.

However, about 96 of those patients were considered “newly hospitalized,” marking Maryland’s highest one-day increase since Aug. 13, when 115 people were newly hospitalized.

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State health officials calculate Maryland’s seven-day average testing positivity rate at 2.98%, a slight increase from Friday. That rate hasn’t been above 3% since Sept. 18 — two weeks.

The World Health Organization recommends governments see 14 consecutive days with positivity rates below 5% before beginning to ease restrictions related to the coronavirus. The state’s reported rate has been below that figure for about three months, but it began its reopening before getting under the 5% mark, citing guidelines recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center, which calculates the positivity rate differently from Maryland, put the state’s rate slightly above 5% on Thursday and Friday. The Hopkins center uses the number of people tested to determine the rate, while the state counts all tests completed.

The numbers were reported a day after President Donald Trump — who has downplayed the virus for months — announced that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. The White House later announced Trump was being hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda “out of an abundance of caution.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan loosened additional COVID-19 restrictions Thursday that had been imposed to mitigate the spread of the infectious virus.

Nursing homes, which only have been able to allow limited visits with residents in outdoor meetings, now will be able to offer indoor visits if the facility hasn’t had any new cases in 14 days and isn’t testing for a possible outbreak, Hogan said. If the local jurisdiction’s positivity rate rises above 10%, no visitors will be allowed as well.

The state’s nursing homes have been hard hit by the virus, accounting for thousands of cases and nearly 57% of all of the state’s related deaths.

Hogan also allowed child care centers statewide to increase the number of children they serve. Providers now will be able to operate at pre-pandemic capacity.

Baltimore Sun reporter Angela Roberts, Hallie Miller, Pamela Wood and Meredith Cohn contributed to this article.

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