Maryland reported 2,054 new cases of the coronavirus and 37 more deaths Sunday.
Sunday’s additions bring the state’s total to 250,808 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, and 5,279 people who have died due to the disease or complications from it.
As state officials have warned Marylanders that hospitals are close to capacity ahead of the Christmas holiday, Sunday’s data show that Maryland continues to struggle to contain the spread throughout the state. Officials have reported at least 2,000 positive tests every day this month.
After declining for four days from Tuesday’s pandemic high of 1,799, hospitalizations due to complications from COVID-19 ticked back up Sunday to 1,662, 27 more than Saturday.
Of those hospitalized Sunday, 406 were in intensive care units, 21 more than Saturday.
The statewide seven-day average testing positivity rate is at 7.68% as of Sunday, a slight drop of 0.15 percentage points compared to Saturday.
Prince George’s County, Maryland’s second-most populated jurisdiction, led the state in new cases Sunday with 337. The county also is outpacing the state’s positivity rate, posting a seven-day average positivity of 9.97% Sunday.
Montgomery County, the state’s most populated jurisdiction with more than 1 million people, had the second most cases with 294. The county is below the state’s positivity rate, posting a 6.13% seven-day average rate Sunday.
The majority of cases — 1,313, or 63.92% of Sunday’s total — were reported in the state’s five-most populated jurisdictions along the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan region: Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties along with Baltimore city. The region represents more than 65% of the state’s population of roughly 6 million people.
As for western Maryland, which has seen some of the highest rates of infection since the state started experiencing the latest surge last month, Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties reported a combined 105 cases, or about 5.1% of Sunday’s cases.
All three counties are still seeing rates of infection per 100,000 people above the state average, but their new combined case count is more proportionate to the their population — 5% of the state — than in recent weeks when Allegany alone was reporting more than 100 cases daily.
Sunday’s numbers continue the trend of white residents leading new infections in the state, as nearly half of the 1,739 reported cases with racial data available, 856, were among white patients.
During the early months of the pandemic, the state’s Black and Hispanic populations were greatly outpacing white residents in infection rates. Now, however, white residents represent a larger portion of new cases as rural counties with large majority-white populations have seen higher rates of infection since November.
Of the 37 people reported to have died due to complications of COVID-19, officials reported that eight were 40 to 69 years old, 12 people were 70 to 79 years old and 15 were 80 and older.
Given rising case rates, state and local officials are urging residents not to travel and gather. Some have closed restaurants and bars to indoor dining, but owners are fighting back, seeking court orders to allow them to reopen.
Last week, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan urged residents to stay home for the holidays and eliminate nonessential travel. The governor enacted an emergency order requiring residents traveling out of state and people traveling to Maryland to get tested for COVID-19, though neighboring states are exempt.
Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott announced a $5.3 million plan to supply 20,000 boxes of food a week for city residents disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The mayor also banned indoor and outdoor dining earlier this month.
The Maryland Restaurant Association is suing the city and other counties over their latest set of dining restrictions, with association president Marshall Weston saying that business owners face an “impossible task” of trying to stay open while only offering carryout services.