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Maryland’s coronavirus hospitalizations surpass 400 for first time since August

Maryland officials reported 761 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday, the third time in October the state confirmed more than 700 new infections after doing so four times in all of September.

Along with six new deaths associated with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, Thursday’s additions bring the state to 129,425 confirmed infections and 3,835 fatalities during the pandemic’s seven months.

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The state reported 403 patients currently hospitalized because of the virus' effects, up from 391 Wednesday. It’s the first time since Aug. 28, more than 400 Marylanders were hospitalized. Of those hospitalizations, 98 require intensive care, the most since Sept. 8.

The Maryland Department of Health reported the state’s seven-day positivity rate to be 2.79% Thursday, the lowest point in eight days. That’s less than half the 5.98% rate determined by Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center for the state through Wednesday.

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The state and Hopkins calculate positivity rates differently with the state using tests completed and Hopkins using people tested, meaning individuals who are tested multiple times, regardless of their results, are counted only once in the university’s calculation. In essence, fewer than 3% of tests over the past week have come back positive, while about 6% of the people newly tested in that time have had a confirmed infection.

The state’s figure has been beneath 4% every day since Aug. 8 and under 5% every day since June 26, while Hopkins' method hasn’t produced a rate below 4.5% since Aug. 31 while being above 5% all but four days since Sept. 4.

The World Health Organization recommends governments see 14 straight days in which fewer than 5% of “samples” come back positive for the virus before easing virus-related restrictions.

More than 16,600 of the 29,000 test results the state reported Thursday are repeat tests, according to state data, meaning only 43% of Thursday’s results will be included in Hopkins' positivity calculations.

Maryland has reported 2.8 million test results overall, with 1.1 million of those being repeat tests. Of the almost 1.7 million Maryland residents who have been tested, 7.6% have received at least one positive result.

Less than 3% of those confirmed to have the virus in the state have died, with that figure exceeding 8% for those at least 50 years old. All six of Thursday’s reported victims were that age or older, with four being at least 80.

Nearly half of Thursday’s new cases are in residents who are at least 10 years old but younger than 40, an age range accounting for 40% of Maryland’s overall population, according to U.S. census data.

Of the 638 confirmed infections for which the state reported the infected person’s race Thursday, 45% were in white residents, who represent about 58% of Maryland’s overall population.

Of the total caseload, white residents account for 30% of confirmed infections among those whose race is known, while those who are Black, Hispanic or Latino, groups representing a combined 42% of the state’s population, are 62% of the caseload.

Despite representing nearly double the proportion of the state’s population, white residents account for nearly the same portion for Maryland’s virus-related deaths as Black residents, at 43% and 41%, respectively. Including one victim who previously hadn’t been identified by race, four of those whose deaths were reported Thursday were Black, while the other three were white.

About 15% of those infected in Maryland have not been identified by race, while the races of eight of the dead are not known.

Health officers in four Washington D.C. suburbs — Frederick, Montgomery, Prince George’s and Charles counties — are asking residents who work in or near the White House to get tested for the virus. A widely publicized “superspreader” event, President Donald Trump’s Sept. 26 announcement of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, is considered the epicenter for cases flourishing in the administration.

Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to have a clear effect on the state’s businesses. The Maryland Department of Labor reported Thursday that more than 30,000 Marylanders filed for unemployment benefits last week, more than double the prior week’s count and the first time the state had that many new claimants in a week since mid-July.

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