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As Maryland reports most new coronavirus cases since early June, Hogan stresses vigilance

Maryland health officials reported 733 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Tuesday — the state’s largest daily increase since June 5 — prompting Gov. Larry Hogan to warn that the state has a long road ahead in managing the pandemic.

“I think a lot of us would have hoped it would be over by now, and I’m not sure everybody understands how long of a haul we’re in for,” Hogan said in an interview.

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The uptick in new coronavirus cases in recent days has been driven by a surge in cases among young people. About 55% of the new confirmed cases in Maryland were found in residents younger than 40 years old.

Maryland hadn’t reported more than 600 cases since June 13, when 692 new COVID-19 infections were confirmed. Beginning the next day, the state reported fewer than 400 new cases in 16 of the next 23 days. But Tuesday marked the state’s eighth straight day with at least 400 new cases.

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To date the coronavirus has infected more than 74,000 state residents and killed more than 3,200, including eight more deaths announced Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, Maryland’s 14-day average for new cases is 479, compared to 385 last week, 637 at the same point in June and 1,012 at the same point in May.

Hogan wrote a letter to county leaders urging continued vigilance over how restaurants and bars are following state guidelines during the pandemic. In the letter, Hogan noted that the state’s testing positivity rate among those younger than 35 years old is 84% higher than that of those at least 35.

Hogan called that group of young adults “our biggest concern right now.” In meetings Tuesday with his cabinet and his health advisers, infections among younger adults was a key discussion point, he said.

They were all “talking about, how do we deal with this?” Hogan said. “Because there is fatigue. People are like, ‘I’m over this. I’m done with it. I’m not wearing a mask. I’m not going to social distance.”

Hogan said the state’s numbers “luckily” have been fairly consistent and the state has so far avoided the infection spikes and crowded hospitals seen in other states.

“That doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods,” he said. “It can happen to us.”

The state’s eight latest fatalities bring the virus’ death toll in Maryland to 3,202. State officials have reported fewer than 20 new victims every day since June 25. Of the six new victims whose age was known, all were at least 50 years old and four were at least 70.

The state’s reported seven-day average testing positivity rate was beneath 5% for the 19th straight day. However, Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center has Maryland’s rolling positivity rate at 5.61% through Monday’s data, making it one of 32 states that Hopkins notes has a rate over 5%. The World Health Organization recommends 14 straight days with positivity rates of 5% or lower before governments begin easing virus-related restrictions.

The difference in Hopkins’ positivity-rate figure and the state’s 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, the combination of new cases and the number of people who tested negative.

Baltimore City (6.23%) and Baltimore County (5.08%) are two of the six Maryland jurisdictions that state officials report as having seven-day positivity rates above 5%, joining Prince George’s (7.10%), Queen Anne’s (6.99%), Charles (5.49%) and Caroline (5.18%) counties. The latter three combine for about 2,200 cases, while Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County rank among the state’s top four jurisdictions in total cases with at least 8,600 each. Prince George’s ranks in the top 30 among counties nationally with 19,956 confirmed cases.

Maryland has reported at least 9,000 test results every day of July, with Tuesday’s 15,415 tests representing the state’s fifth-highest single-day total during the pandemic. The state has performed about 834,000 tests on more than 666,000 people, with 11% of those tested getting a positive result.

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With 415 current hospitalizations — 29 more patients than reported Monday — the state’s streak of four consecutive days with fewer than 400 patients hospitalized because of the virus came to an end.

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