Maryland officials reported 2,885 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Saturday, the second-highest daily total during the pandemic, and urged all state residents to get tested.
Officials said 16 more people have died since Friday in connection with COVID-19, the disease the virus causes.
Saturday’s case total fell just behind Thursday’s record-breaking daily total of 2,910 new cases.
As cases surge and Thanksgiving nears, more people than ever are looking to get tested. The number of tests hit a new daily high of 51,510, the Maryland Department of Health reported Saturday, beating the previous daily high of 43,969 test results.
Officials said they are continuing to expand capacity during the fall surge and encouraging all residents to get tested.
The state is better positioned than most to handle testing because it acquired test kits from South Korea and has maintained a stockpile of tests and supplies, Gov. Larry Hogan said Saturday.
“As we battle this fall surge, one of the most important things you can do to protect your friends and family is to get tested for COVID-19,” the Republican governor said in an announcement Saturday. “If you are a college student planning on returning home for the holidays — get a test. If you are planning to spend any time around your grandparents — get a test. If you are returning from any out-of-state travel — get a test.”
More than 230 testing sites are available statewide, with the state managing dozens of community-based sites such as the Baltimore Convention Center Field Hospital and Six Flags America theme park. Starting the Monday after Thanksgiving, the convention center site will expand to daily testing times of 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The state has completed 4.09 million COVID-19 tests during the pandemic.
Officials said the test kits secured with the help of the South Korean government and Korean Embassy in Washington are being used at community-based sites and to address clusters and outbreaks in nursing homes and other congregate living settings.
Some of those test kits have come under scrutiny in recent days. An inspection by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Maryland Office of Health Care Quality found that a University of Maryland lab had several problems with how it was processing tests from South Korea, The Sun reported Friday. The inspection was done after nursing homes complained about a spate of false positive results in September.
As of Saturday, Maryland’s average case rate had risen to 36.2 per 100,000 people, with a 49.3% increase in the past week, the state said. Case rates have now risen above 10 in all 24 jurisdictions and above 20 in 20 jurisdictions.
Maryland has reported 2,000 or more new cases of coronavirus in six of the past eight days — a number not seen before this period — and a thousand or more cases for18 straight days.
More than a third of Saturday’s new cases — 1062 — were reported in people in their 20s and 30s, though the virus has been deadliest to the elderly. During the pandemic, 3008 people in Maryland ages 70 or older have died from COVID-19.
Saturday’s statistics bring the state to at least 179,971 infections and 4,261 virus-related deaths during the pandemic.
The state’s seven-day average positivity rate fell slightly on Saturday to 7.13%, the state reported. The daily positivity rate also decreased, to 6.41%.
The statewide positivity rate has been higher than a 5% benchmark set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since Nov. 9. Positivity rates are above 6% in most of the Baltimore metro area, except for Howard County, with the highest rate in the state at 14.7% in Allegany County.
The number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 rose slightly to 1,229, the highest level since May 30, with 278 patients in intensive care, the highest level since June 17, the state said Saturday.
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