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Maryland reaches three straight weeks of coronavirus hospitalization declines

The count of coronavirus patients in Maryland hospitals has dropped for three straight weeks, state officials reported Wednesday.

The number of patients currently hospitalized has declined for 21 consecutive days, dropping from 1,334 on May 28 to 702 on Wednesday. Maryland’s tally of current hospitalizations has dropped by 59% since peaking at 1,711 on April 30. The number of cases requiring intensive care, 283 as of Wednesday, hasn’t risen since June 2.

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The state reported 560 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, bringing Maryland to 62,969 total infections. The state’s 14-day rolling average of new cases has dropped for 12 straight days.

An additional15 fatalities were reported Wednesday, raising the virus’ death toll in the state to 2,866 people. Wednesday marked the fourth time in the past 10 days Maryland has reported fewer than 20 new deaths from the virus. Before this stretch, the state had no such days since April 10.

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The state on Wednesday provided cumulative numbers on the virus’ impact on nursing homes and similar long-term care facilities, after The Baltimore Sun reported last week that the state was underreporting such data. According to the state, 12,168 of Maryland’s cases and 1,830 of the state’s fatalities have been residents of elder care facilities.

The state reported a seven-day rolling positivity rate of 5.81%. The World Health Organization recommends 14 straight days of positivity rates — the rate at which those tested for the virus are confirmed to have it — of 5% or lower before governments consider easing restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has said he is following guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommend reopenings after two weeks of a positivity rate below 15%.

As of Wednesday morning, Maryland is one of 16 states with a positivity rate higher than 5% but is no longer among the highest 10, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center.

The 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 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, and arrives at its figure by dividing the number of new cases by the number of people tested.

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young originally announced he would provide an update on the city’s reopening process Wednesday but said in a statement the announcement of the next phase would instead come Friday.

“While the data continues to trend in the right direction, testing results from this week will help show the extent of transmission from Memorial Day activities and protests earlier this month,” Young said. “Once [Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia] Dzirasa and her team have an opportunity to review this data, we will be able to make a better-informed decision about the next steps of our reopening.”

Maryland reported 15,594 test results Wednesday, its second-highest total. In all, the state has conducted almost 527,000 tests on more than 441,000 people. Of those tested, 14.3% — about one in seven people — have tested positive.

Race data is not available for about 18% of Maryland’s confirmed cases. More than two-thirds of the state’s infected are black or Hispanic, among those whose race is known, but those groups combine to represent about 40% of Maryland’s overall population. Those who are black are about the same proportion of the state’s death toll as those who are white, 41% to 43%, despite accounting for half the proportion of the state’s overall population, 30% to 60%.

Those under 60 years old represent three-fourths of Maryland’s confirmed infections of the coronavirus, but those 60 and older make up 88% of the state’s victim pool. More than 30% of those at least 80 years old with a confirmed infection have died.

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