Nine days after Labor Day, coronavirus cases remain high in Maryland’s Eastern Shore counties, which have been identified as potential virus hot spots.
Caseloads per capita in Caroline, Dorchester, Wicomico and Worcester counties remain among the highest in the state. On Wednesday, Maryland announced 643 new coronavirus cases and six deaths linked to COVID-19, the disease the virus causes.
The new fatalities reported were all among people age 50 or older, but 230 out of the 643 new cases were counted among those 20 and 39 years old, about 36% of new cases.
Caroline County, which has a population of about 33,000, has the most confirmed cases per 1,000 residents in the past 14 days of any county in the state at 2.99, according to The Baltimore Sun’s coronavirus data.
Dorchester County, with about 32,000 residents, has 2.66 confirmed cases per 1,000 residents in the past 14 days, while Wicomico County, which has a population of about 104,000, has 2.49 confirmed cases per 1,000 residents, per The Sun’s data.
Worcester County, home to Ocean City and about 52,000 people, has 2.28 confirmed cases per 1,000 residents in the past two weeks.
In Worcester, officials have grappled with regulating crowds in Ocean City, with the city’s boardwalk reopening to the public in May. Mayor Rick Meehan mandated mask-wearing at the boardwalk in July after an increase in coronavirus cases.
While those counties are seeing high new caseloads per capita, a majority of Wednesday’s new cases still came from the state’s most populated counties: Baltimore County with 260, Prince George’s County with 143, Anne Arundel County with 96 and Montgomery County with 92. Combined, those counties account for more than half of the state’s population.
Baltimore City reported an adjustment to its caseload, showing 151 fewer cases than were reported the previous day. Maryland Department of Health spokesperson Charlie Gischlar attributed the drop to reassigning cases to ZIP codes in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties that border the city.
On Tuesday, the state also subtracted 63 cases from Baltimore’s total from the previous day, which Gischlar also attributed to the same sort of reassignment Tuesday.
“All data are preliminary and subject to change based on additional reporting, which means further reallocations could occur based on additional information,” Gischlar said Wednesday night.
The new data brings Maryland to a total of 117,888 confirmed infections and 3,712 deaths since the first COVID-19 cases were recorded in the state in March. The state went 10 straight days reporting single-digit deaths until Tuesday, but returned to single digits Wednesday.
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Maryland also reported 347 patients currently hospitalized with the virus, down from Tuesday’s 371. Among those hospitalized, 86 are in intensive care, seven fewer than Tuesday.
The state’s seven-day testing positivity rate — a statistic measuring the percentage of positive tests over a weeklong period — was 3.44%, as compared with Tuesday’s 3.62%. Maryland has reported its seven-day testing positivity rate to be below 4% every day since Aug. 8 and under 5% since June 26.
The 5% figure is significant because the World Health Organization recommends governments record 14 straight days of positivity rates below 5% before pulling back on COVID-19 restrictions. Maryland has been below that mark for more than three months but started reopening before getting under 5% positivity.
Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center calculates positivity rates differently than Maryland and, as of Tuesday, had Maryland’s positivity rate at 6.44%, the eighth straight day the state has been above 6%. Twenty other states have higher testing positivity rates than Maryland, according to Hopkins' data. The difference in positivity calculations comes from Maryland’s use of overall tests conducted, while Hopkins uses the individual people tested, meaning those with multiple tests are only counted once in Hopkins' calculation.