As the state continues to report coronavirus-related deaths in the single digits, Maryland’s testing positivity rate as calculated by the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus resource center dropped below 5% for the first time in nearly three weeks.
The Hopkins rate has been consistently higher than the positivity rate calculated by Maryland because it uses the number of people tested, while the health department’s calculation is based on the total number of tests.
The state reported Maryland’s seven-day positivity rate as 2.57% Thursday, the sixth straight day the state has reported the lowest such rate during the pandemic. Maryland has announced a positivity rate below 4% every day since Aug. 8 and below 5% since June 25.
The 5% figure is significant because the World Health Organization recommends governments get below that positivity rate before easing virus-related restrictions. Maryland officials have reported being below 5% for nearly three months, but began reopening measures before reaching the recommended positivity rate.
Maryland now has the 23rd lowest positivity rate among states, according to Hopkins.
Every jurisdiction in Maryland is below a 5% positivity rate, save for Worcester County, home to Ocean City, which has a testing positivity rate of 6.61%, the state reported. The testing positivity rate is below 3.5% in 18 of 24 jurisdictions, the state reported.
Maryland reported 503 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday and nine new deaths tied to COVID-19, the disease that causes the virus. The state has now reported single-digit deaths in 19 of the past 20 days.
The new data released Thursday brings the state to 121,800 confirmed infections and 3,765 deaths since the pandemic first reached Maryland in March.
Active hospitalizations, though, grew for the fourth straight day, to 349from 332 Wednesday. Still current hospitalizations remain well below the two-month high of 592 on Aug. 1. Of those hospitalized Thursday, 81 needed intensive care, two more than the day before.
Among the new deaths reported Thursday, all were among people aged 60 or older. The pandemic has killed older Marylanders disproportionately, but cases among younger people continue to grow.
The majority of Thursday’s 503 newly reported cases were in people under the age of 40, including 196 among those aged 20 to 39, 65 in those between the ages of 10 and 19, and 18 in children nine or younger.
The state reported a testing positivity rate for Marylanders over the age of 35 of 2.08%, while it’s 3.4% among people below age 35 — the lowest the state has reported for younger people.
Four of the new deaths reported Thursday were white Marylanders, while one was Black. Race was listed as white, “other” (non-Hispanic) and race data was not available for the other two deaths.
For Thursday’s new cases where the race was known, 191 were among white residents, 129 were Black residents, 69 were Hispanic residents and 10 were Asian residents. About half of the new cases in which race was known were among Black or Hispanic people, more than the two groups' approximately 42% share of the state’s population.
Overall, the pandemic has hit Black and Hispanic Marylanders harder, accounting for about 53% of confirmed deaths in cases where race was known and about 63% of confirmed cases.
The state released contact tracing data on its coronavirus dashboard late Wednesday that paints a picture of where some virus patients may have been exposed.
Among COVID-19 patients interviewed between July 10 and Aug. 19, 26% said they worked away from home and 13% said they attended a get-together of more than 10 people. Of those surveyed, 41% reported visiting a high-risk location, the most common response in this category being going to work away from home, trailed next by shopping indoors and eating at an indoor restaurant.
Baltimore Sun reporter Hallie Miller contributed to this article.