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Ahead of holiday weekend, Maryland reports 505 new cases of coronavirus, with nearly half in 20-39 age range

For the first time in two weeks, Maryland health officials confirmed more than 500 new coronavirus cases Thursday, days before Fourth of July gatherings that officials warn could further the spread of COVID-19.

The state announced 505 new cases and nine new fatalities from the coronavirus. With Thursday’s additions, the state has reported 68,423 confirmed infections and 3,086 deaths from the virus since mid-March.

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Unlike other states, Maryland’s virus-related metrics have experienced a downward trend over the past month, with the state reporting fewer new cases in June than it had in either April or May.

But ahead of the holiday weekend, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan cautioned that the virus remains a threat, directing his message particularly toward young people who think they’re “bulletproof.” Nearly half of Thursday’s new cases were in those ages 20-39, according to state data.

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“This crisis is not behind us,” Hogan said during Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Public Works. “We cannot afford to stop being vigilant and cautious.”

Avoiding the further spread of the coronavirus is being balanced in the state with continued efforts to safely reopen businesses. More than 56,000 new unemployment claims were filed in Maryland last week, the most the state has reported since the week that ended May 9. In the past four weeks, nearly all of June, nearly 200,000 new claims for benefits were filed.

The Maryland Department of Labor reported Thursday it has processed about 96.2% of the nearly 625,000 claims filed since March 9, with almost 493,000 of those claimants approved to receive benefits. The department reported last week that 95.6% of claims had been processed.

Thursday marks the first time since June 17 that the state has reported more than 500 new cases, but that increase does comes on a day the state reported 13,657 test results, its fourth-highest total during the pandemic.

In all, the state reports performing almost 676,000 tests on about 553,000 people, with 12.4% of those tested getting a positive result.

Of the 505 new cases, 239 of the infections — 47.3% — were in those at least 20 years old but younger than 40, with the cases divided almost equally between those in their 20s and those in their 30s.

All nine new Marylanders who died were at least 50 years old, with six of them being 80 or older. Almost one in every three confirmed cases in someone at least 80 has resulted in death.

The fatalities reported Thursday gave Maryland a seven-day streak with fewer than 20 reported daily deaths. Although deaths are not always reported on the date they occur, Maryland has reported fewer than 10 new fatalities five times since June 17. Prior, it hadn’t reported that few since April 3.

After three consecutive days of slightly increasing hospitalizations, the state’s count of current patients dropped by 20 Thursday to 441. Before the three days of increases, Maryland reported 32 straight days of declining hospitalizations. At 149, the state’s number of coronavirus patients currently requiring intensive care dropped beneath 150 for the first time in three months.

The state’s reported seven-day average testing positivity rate was below 5% for a seventh straight day, halfway to the World Health Organization recommendation of 14 consecutive days under 5% before governments begin easing virus-related restrictions.

Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, Baltimore County and Baltimore — in order, the top four Maryland jurisdictions by total cases — all have positivity rates above 5%, as does Charles County, though it has more than 5,000 fewer cases than the other four, according to state data.

As of Thursday morning, Maryland is one of 26 states with a seven-day rolling positivity rate beneath 5%, though it has the second-highest rate among those states, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center.

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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.

Maryland does not have race data for more than 18% of the cases. In almost one-third of the cases that it does, the infected person is Hispanic, a group that represents about 10% of Maryland’s population. Those who are Black, 30% of the state’s overall population, were 41% of the victims whose race was known, while 43% of the victims were white, a group representing 60% of Maryland’s population.

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