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Maryland drops beneath 400 coronavirus hospitalizations for first time since March

For the first time since March, Maryland’s count of patients hospitalized because of the novel coronavirus fell below 400.

At 398, the state’s tally of current hospitalizations Wednesday is at its lowest since there were 308 reported March 31. The next day, that number jumped to 402, reaching a peak of 1,711 by the end of April. Wednesday’s count marks a 77% decline since that peak.

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Likewise, the count of cases requiring intensive care as of Wednesday morning, 136, is at its lowest since the end of March.

In all, 11,184 people have been hospitalized for the virus in Maryland, an increase of 73 from Tuesday. That’s the largest single-day increase since June 19.

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Maryland also confirmed 465 new cases and nine more deaths from the virus Wednesday, which marks the fifth straight day with fewer than 500 new infections and 13th consecutive day in which the state reported fewer than 20 new fatalities. There have been 70,861 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 3,149 deaths caused by its effects in Maryland during the course of the pandemic.

Even with the encouraging data, Marylanders need to continue to take precautions to prevent transmission of the virus, Dr. Clifford Mitchell of the state’s health department said Wednesday. That includes avoiding large gatherings, practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings in public.

”Our long-term recovery can only be effective if we continue to exercise personal responsibility and follow these recommendations,” Mitchell told members of a General Assembly coronavirus work group during an online meeting Wednesday.

Mitchell asked lawmakers to repeat the messages about precautions to their constituents, especially young people. The positivity rate for young people is inching up, said Mitchell, who is director of the state’s environmental health bureau.

More than 60% of the new cases reported Wednesday were in people younger than 40 years old, according to state data. A resident in their 20s was among the newly reported deaths.

”People of every age need to be following good public health practices. … It is clear that COVID-19 can cause serious illness in young people,” he said.

The virus remains especially deadly to those who are older. Among the victims whose age was known, 71% were at least 70 years old. The state is reporting that about 20% of its cases but 63% of its fatalities are tied to nursing homes or similar long-term care facilities.

The number of active cases, or those at such facilities where there has been a new case or pending test in the past 14 days, declined this week to 3,450 confirmed cases among residents.

Maryland has reported a seven-day average positivity rate beneath 5% for 13 straight days. The World Health Organization recommendation of 14 straight days with a rate no higher than 5% before governments begin easing virus-related restrictions.

Although the average rate over the past week remained under 5% at 4.61%, the single-day rate for the nearly 12,000 tests reported Wednesday was 5.23%. The state has performed more than 746,000 tests on almost 595,000 people, with about 12% of those tested getting a positive result.

Through Tuesday’s data, Maryland’s seven-day rolling positivity rate ranks 20th among states, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center. There are 22 states with rates below 5%.

The positivity-rate figure Hopkins includes in its daily reports is consistently higher than that of the state. The difference comes from the data used in the calculations. Maryland officials calculate the positivity rate as the number of positive tests divided by total testing volume over a seven-day period. Rather than the total testing volume, Hopkins uses the number of people tested, or the combination of new cases and people who tested negative.

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The state did not have race data available for 31% of the new cases it reported Wednesday. Among those it did, 41% of those confirmed to have an infection were Black. About 30% of Maryland’s overall population is Black, but that race accounts for 41% of the virus’ victims in the state.

Those who are Hispanic, 10% of the state’s population, make up 32% of the caseload where race was known. Those who are white, 60% of Maryland’s population, are 24% of those infected and 43% of those killed by the virus, among those whose race was known.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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