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Maryland reports highest rate of new coronavirus cases in 10-19 age range Thursday; 693 total cases added

As another school year gets underway in Maryland, youth ages 10 to 19 are making up a larger percentage of the state’s new coronavirus cases.

Of the 693 new infections the state confirmed Thursday, 121 were found in those at least 10 years old but younger than 20. Only once has the daily count in that age range exceeded that number, when there were 135 on July 31.

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Youth aged 10 to 19 accounted for 17.5% of Thursday’s new cases, the highest percentage of new infections in that age group since the start of the pandemic. That age range has accounted for at least 11% of new daily cases for eight straight days.

For four straight days, those under 20 years old have represented at least a fifth of the day’s reported new cases.

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The rise in youth cases comes as some college students return to campuses that typically are requiring them to show a negative test for the COVID-19 infection caused by the coronavirus.

All public school districts in the state are starting the school year with all instruction online, but 16 have indicated that they will attempt to bring some groups of students back beginning as early as mid-September. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has strongly urged local school officials across the state to develop plans for some in-person classes.

The rise in cases among the 10 to 19 age group isn’t yet a cause for concern, “but it bears watching over the coming days,” said Dr. Eric Toner, senior scientist at the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“If it continues to go up that would increase the risk associated with in-person classes,” said Toner, who specializes in internal and emergency medicine.

The state does not publicize the ages of those tested, meaning it’s not clear whether the increase in cases is the result of an increase in testing rather than the increased spread of the virus.

Contact tracing — the process of identifying those who have interacted with people who test positive — and testing required by some children’s summer camps also might have played a role, Toner said.

“That should be discernible from analysis of the testing data that the state health department has access to,” he said.

The age group with the most new cases Thursday was 20 to 29, with nearly one-fourth of the state’s confirmed infections. Overall, Marylanders in their 20s account for 18.2% of the state’s caseload, while those under 20 represent 11%.

While cases are growing most quickly among younger Marylanders, the coronavirus continues to be deadliest for the oldest. All 11 residents whose deaths the state reported Thursday were at least 70 years old.

Of the 3,634 Marylanders killed by the virus and its effects, 70% have been 70 or older. Only one Marylander under 20 is believed to have died from the effects of COVID-19.

The state reported 382 patients hospitalized Thursday because of the virus’ effects, an increase from Wednesday’s 370. Of those patients, 112 are in intensive care, one fewer than Wednesday.

Maryland’s seven-day average testing positivity rate, the percent of positive results among all virus tests performed during the past week, was 3.41%, the 26th straight day it was under 4%.

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Maryland will enter the third stage of its reopening process at 5 p.m. Friday, with jurisdictions permitted to open all businesses, including entertainment venues like movie theaters.

The state’s reported rate has been under 5% for 70 consecutive days, five times longer than the World Health Organization’s recommendation for easing virus-related restrictions. Maryland began its initial reopening process before reaching that two-week benchmark.

Johns Hopkins’ coronavirus resource center, which calculates positivity rate with a different formula than the state’s, has Maryland with the 20th-lowest seven-day average among all states. Hopkins calculates the rate by dividing the number of cases by the number of people tested, removing repeat tests from the calculation.

Using Hopkins’ method, Maryland’s positivity rate entering Thursday was 4.65%. It’s the state’s 20th straight day beneath 5% using that calculation, the longest such stretch using Hopkins’ formula.

Hopkins also ranks Maryland as having performed the 20th most tests per capita while reporting the 21st most cases and 12th most deaths per capita.

With nearly 25,000 test results reported Thursday, the state is on the cusp of having reported 2 million results during the pandemic. Nearly a third of those tests have been performed on residents who already had undergone at least one test previously.

Of the 1.36 million Marylanders tested for the virus, 8.1% received a positive result at least once.

The seven-day positivity rate in Baltimore fell to 2.75%, the city’s first time beneath 3%. All five of the state’s jurisdictions with the highest number of total cases have positivity rates below 5%, with Baltimore’s being the lowest.

Worcester and Caroline counties on the Eastern Shore are the only two of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions with seven-day rates exceeding 5%.

Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

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