Maryland reported 2,148 new cases of the coronavirus and 27 more deaths Sunday as the state’s average testing positivity rate rose above 9% for the first time since June.
Sunday’s additions bring the state’s total to 285,319 cases of COVID-19, and 5,826 people who have died due to the disease or complications from it.
As of Sunday, 1,709 people in Maryland are hospitalized due to complications from COVID-19, 17 more than Saturday.
The state reported that three people have been released from intensive care units, for a total of 412 patients remaining, while an additional 20 people were admitted into acute care units with COVID-19 since Saturday.
The statewide seven-day average testing positivity rate is at 9.15% as of Sunday, an increase of 0.21 percentage points over Saturday.
While the state has seen two consecutive days of declines in total diagnosed cases since reporting more than 3,500 cases on Friday, 26,460 tests were completed in the past 24 hours, as compared with Friday, when the state reported 53,503 completed tests from the previous day.
State officials also reported that Sunday’s daily positivity rate, 9.81%, was more than a full percentage point higher than Friday’s at 8.69%.
Officials reported that an additional 3,617 people were vaccinated in the past 24 hours for a total of 59,769 people so far. The state has received 191,075 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for the coronavirus, meaning that about 31.28% of the allotment has been administered since vaccinations started Dec. 14.
Maryland officials have faced criticism over the rollout of the vaccinations after a report by Bloomberg reported last week listed Maryland as the slowest for vaccine distribution in the United States. As of Sunday, the state has not reported any region with a vaccination rate of above 1.45%. The populated “National Capital Region,” which includes Maryland’s most populated counties in Montgomery and Prince George’s, has only reported a vaccination rate of 0.52% as of Sunday.
The majority of new cases were reported in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., metropolitan region, as the state reported that 66.39% of cases, 1,426, were diagnosed in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties along with Baltimore City. The five jurisdictions make up roughly 65.52% of Maryland’s overall population.
Montgomery County, the state’s most populated jurisdiction with more than 1 million residents, reported the most cases Sunday with 428. The county is still below the statewide average for testing positivity, reporting a countywide seven-day average rate of 8.43%. However, Montgomery County remains well above the 5% threshold, which the World Health Organization recommends jurisdictions reach before considering relaxing social distancing and business restrictions.
Baltimore City reported 185 new cases Sunday and has a seven-day average positivity rate of 6.86%.
While the majority of cases are in the state’s most populated regions, the Eastern Shore has shown disproportionately growing positivity rates ever since Christmas. Gov. Larry Hogan and health officials had urged residents to refrain from traditional gatherings around Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Wicomico County, a jurisdiction of about 152,000 people that borders Worcester County, reported 25 new cases Sunday and has a seven-day average positivity rate of 15.61%. The county has reported 396 cases since Christmas and has seen its average positivity rate rise by six percentage points over that same period.
Worcester County, a jurisdiction of fewer than 53,000 people, reported 20 new cases Sunday and has a seven-day average positivity rate of 14.47%. The county has reported 241 new cases since Christmas and has seen its average positivity rate jump more than three percentage points during that time.
In addition, six people have died in Worcester County since Dec. 26, the same number of fatal cases the county reported Dec. 1 through Dec. 26. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 28.2% of the county’s population is 65 years of age or older, nearly double the statewide average of 15.9%.
Somerset County, a county of roughly 25,000 people and one that has been a hot spot for the virus ever since early November, reported two new cases and has a seven-day average positivity rate of 15.56%. While the county reported only two cases Sunday, its average positivity rate remains higher than the state average and has reported 161 new cases since Christmas.
Only Washington County in Western Maryland has a higher positivity rate than the three Eastern Shore counties, as the jurisdiction reported 65 new cases Sunday and has a seven-day average positivity rate of 17.44%, the highest in the state.
White residents continue to lead the state in new infections, a trend that has remained consistent throughout the latest surge since November, flipping statistics that found Black and Hispanic populations greatly outpacing white residents in infection rates during the early months of the pandemic.
Nearly half of the 1,864 cases with reported racial data, 906, were diagnosed from white patients. For comparison, 529 Black residents and 279 Hispanic residents were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.
The disease continues to prove more fatal for Maryland’s older residents, as 20 of the 27 deaths reported Sunday were people 70 or older. Comparatively, the demographic represented only about 9.12% of Sunday’s cases, or 196.