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Maryland coronavirus hospitalizations reach two-week streak of declines as health experts warn lawmakers of potential surge in cases

Maryland officials reported a decline in current hospitalizations for the coronavirus Thursday, bringing the state to 14 straight days where the count of current patients declined from the prior day.

There were 955 hospitalizations reported Wednesday, 15 fewer than Tuesday. Since 1,707 patients were reported hospitalized May 6, Maryland’s number of patients has dropped 44%

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The state reported 561 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, bringing the state to 59,465 infections of COVID-19. Of the more than 380,000 people tested for the virus in Maryland, over 15% have been confirmed to be infected.

Maryland officials are reporting a seven-day rolling positivity rate of 7.24%. The increase of .09% from Tuesday marks the state’s first uptick in the metric in 14 days.

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The World Health Organization recommends 14 straight days of positivity rates of 5% or lower before governments consider easing restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. As of Wednesday morning, Maryland has one of the 10 highest positivity rates in the country and is one of 20 states with a positivity rate higher than 5%, according to Johns Hopkins.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is scheduled to hold a news conference at 5 p.m. Wednesday “to provide an update on the reopening of our economy,” per the Republican’s Twitter account.

Wednesday’s count of new cases ended Maryland’s three-day streak of 500 or fewer new infections, but that tally was still lower than all but two days between April 21 and the start of that streak. Public health experts, however, caution that there could be a spike in infections in the near future based on people being out and about — first as restrictions on activities have been lifted and then the series of protests against racism and police brutality.

While experts have been predicting a potential spike of infections in the fall, it may come sooner, warned Dr. Sherita Hill Golden, vice president and chief diversity officer of Johns Hopkins Medicine, who spoke to state lawmakers Wednesday. Golden said hospitals and governments should work now to stock up on tests and supplies.

“We need to be prepared for that surge to happen prematurely,” Golden said.

Dr. Ernest Carter, the health officer in Prince George’s County, said there hasn’t been an increase in cases yet, but it could take “another week or so” before the effect of protests on infection spread is known.

“The public health measures did make a big difference,” Carter told lawmakers. “We are concerned with the recent protests, and when you look on TV and if you’ve gone by there, you see a lot of folks don’t have masks, they’re very close together. That’s why we are keeping a vigilant eye on that.”

If there is a spike, it will be difficult to determine the cause — whether it’s due to protests or people socializing and going out to eat and shop — said Thomas LaVeist, dean of Tulane University’s public health school, who also spoke to lawmakers.

“There are multiple drivers happening at the same time,” he said.

The state reported 33 new fatalities associated with the virusWednesday, bringing Maryland’s death toll to 2,719, not including 125 victims whose infections weren’t confirmed by laboratory tests. Deaths are not always reported on the date they occur.

More than 70% of the state’s confirmed victims were at least 70 years old, though that age group accounts for about one in every seven of Maryland’s infections. Over half of the state’s confirmed cases are in those between the ages of 30 and 59.

The state does not have race data available for more than one-sixth of its cases. However, those who are black or Hispanic represent more than two-thirds of Maryland’s infections, though those groups combine for about 40% of the state’s overall population – based on the statistics made available by the state. About 42% of Maryland’s victims are black, a group that is only 30% of the state’s population as a whole.

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Prince George’s, Montgomery and Baltimore counties continue to be the respective top three in total confirmed cases among Maryland jurisdiction, with Baltimore ranking fourth. Those four jurisdictions combined represent nearly three-fourths of the state’s cases.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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