Maryland health officials reported 1,985 new coronavirus cases and 28 more deaths linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, on the final Monday of the year.
The state has seen record numbers of new cases this month, and experts are bracing for a possible spike following the holidays. But officials are buoyed by the recent debut of COVID-19 vaccinations. Another 994 people in Maryland have been vaccinated in the past 24 hours, officials said.
Officials hope the vaccine will help lower persistently high hospitalization rates this month. No fewer than 1,500 COVID-19 patients have been in the hospital on any day in December, and the number of hospitalizations increased for the third straight day to 1,738, according to state officials.
A total of 5,573 people have died from COVID-19 in Maryland since March, and at least 269,183 have been infected, according to the state.
In the first phase of Maryland’s vaccine distribution, nearly 20,000 front-line health care workers, first responders and long-term facility residents and staff have received their first dose.
The state has acquired nearly 200,000 doses of the vaccine from pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer. Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities will receive doses through a federal pharmacy partnership with CVS and Walgreens.
The state’s 7-day positivity rate has reached 7.42%, according to the Maryland health department. The rate, which surpassed 8% earlier this month, has not dipped below 7% since Nov. 29.
The coronavirus is deadliest to people over age 65 and those with underlying health conditions. Of those who have died from COVID-19, nearly 88% have been older than 60, according to the state.
Breaking News Alerts
But older people are far from the only ones contracting the virus in Maryland. Nearly a third of the new cases as of Monday were among patients in their 20s and 30s, according to state data.
Black and Latino people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
Latinos make up more than 17% of the total cases, according to state data, despite accounting for only about 10% of Maryland’s population. Blacks make up 37% of the state’s deaths, despite being just 30% of the population.
Washington County in Western Maryland has the highest positivity in the state at 19.96%, followed by Somerset County on the Eastern Shore at 12.15% and then Garret County, 11.82%.
Prince George’s County’s positivity rate is 9.24%, according to state data. The positivity rate was 5.67% in Baltimore City and 5.87% in Baltimore County as of Sunday, both down from earlier this month.
Anne Arundel County’s positivity rate reached 8.63% as of Sunday, according to the state.
The World Health Organization recommends positivity rates below 5% before governments ease coronavirus-related restrictions.