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Maryland reaches 14 straight days of average coronavirus testing positivity rate beneath 5%

For the first time since state officials began tracking the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, Maryland has reported 14 straight days of a seven-day average testing positivity rate below 5%. The benchmark matches the World Health Organization’s recommendation of such a stretch before governments begin easing virus-related restrictions.

Thursday’s reported rate of 4.53% is a steep drop from the state’s peak seven-day average rate of 26.92% on April 17. The rate fell below 20% on May 12 and 10% on June 2. Much of Maryland’s decline in positivity rate coincided with increased testing in the state. The state has reported at least 8,600 test results for 11 straight days.

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Maryland is currently one of 19 states with a seven-day rolling positivity rate beneath 5%, though its rate is the highest of those 19, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center. As recently as last month, Maryland’s average positivity rate ranked in the 10 highest nationwide. Now, there are 10 states with rates twice as high as Maryland’s, Hopkins officials say.

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 reported 586 new cases and 11 more fatalities from COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing Maryland to 71,447 confirmed infections and at least 3,160 virus-related deaths during the pandemic.

The positivity rate among Marylanders under 35 is 6.13%, compared to 3.81% for those over 35, according to state data. More than half of Thursday’s new cases were found in people younger than 40 years old, while nine of the 11 victims reported were at least 70. Almost 71% of those the virus has killed in the state were at least 70, while nearly 60% of the confirmed infections have been in people younger than 50.

Although the state’s streak of days reporting fewer than 20 deaths reached 14, the added caseload ended a five-day run of fewer the 500 new confirmed cases. Thursday’s new cases marked Maryland’s largest one-day increase since June 13.

But the 15,119 test results reported Thursday marked Maryland’s third-highest total during the pandemic, with 4.07% of those tests coming back positive, the state’s third-lowest single-day rate.

Three of the 14 days in this two-week stretch have featured a single-day positivity rate above 5% but no higher than 5.95%.

During the pandemic, the state has completed more than 760,000 tests on about 613,000 people, with 11.7% of those tested receiving a positive result.

Five of the state’s jurisdictions have positivity rates over 5%, with Baltimore (5.32%) joining Prince George’s (7.41%), Queen Anne’s (6.62%), Charles (5.45%) and Montgomery (5.20%) counties. Queen Anne’s County’s positivity rate is nearly two percentage points higher than the 4.68% the state reported Tuesday, though the county’s 268 cases are the seventh-fewest among Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. Twelve of those jurisdictions have met the state’s goal of testing at least 10% of their respective populations.

The state doesn’t have race data available for about 18% of its cases. For those it does, nearly one-third of those who have been infected are Hispanic, a group that is about 10% of Maryland’s overall population. Almost 41% of those killed by the virus’ effects in Maryland were Black, 30% of the state’s total population. Six of the 11 victims reported Thursday were Black.

Current hospitalizations, which dropped beneath 400 for the first time since March on Wednesday, rose back above that benchmark Thursday at 406. Maryland’s total count of virus-related hospitalizations, 11,221, has grown by 110 since Tuesday, the largest two-day jump since June 20.

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