Coronavirus in Maryland: 5 takeaways from the week

The United States reported more than 120,000 new cases of the illness in a single day this week, an all-time high for a 24-hour period.

Almost nine months since the public health crisis shut the country down, COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has become somewhat easier to treat. This could be due to medical professionals' learned experience on the front lines, the effectiveness of masks and other personal protective gear and non-pharmaceutical interventions, and the accessibility of antiviral drugs such as remdesivir, which have been granted approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat hospitalized patients.


But hospitals around the country still have fears about reaching capacity, and have voiced concerns about reaching a point where they might have to make compromising decisions about who gets care. Ventilators, space and health care workers remain finite.

Johns Hopkins' Coronavirus Resource Center, which tracks testing positivity rates, reported 37 states with higher than recommended figures. Hopkins and the World Health Organization set the barometer at 5%, but several Midwestern states have positivity rates in the double digits.


In the U.S., more than 9 million cases have been confirmed — more than any other country. More than 234,000 people have died as a result of the virus as of Thursday, including some 4,000 in Maryland. On Thursday, state health officials reported close to 1,200 new cases, the second straight day the state has reported 1,000 or more new cases in months.

To catch Marylanders up on the stories they may have missed, here are five key points from The Baltimore Sun’s coronavirus coverage this week.

Check on your friends and ‘wear the damn masks'

In an emotional plea, Dr. David Marcozzi, COVID-19 incident commander for the University of Maryland Medical System and a member of Gov. Larry Hogan’s COVID-19 Task Force, urged the public to recognize the mental strain imposed by the pandemic.

“This has hit me personally as I’ve lost a friend to suicide in this pandemic,” he said at Thursday’s news conference in Annapolis. He paused, visibly choked up, before continuing.

Marcozzi pointed to the state’s metrics — several consecutive days of high case counts, a rising positivity rate and creeping numbers of hospitalization — and called the trends “concerning.” He warned that the situation in Maryland may get worse before it gets better.

“Our statewide metrics do not yet warrant taking drastic immediate action," he said. "However, the upticks in some of our metrics here and spiking numbers in other states do place us again at a pivotal moment in this fight.”

He said that though the public has been flooded with misinformation, Marylanders have done a decent job heeding public health guidance and keeping the economy open. He encouraged people to avoid virus “fatigue,” to avoid large, indoor holiday gatherings, and to remain vigilant.

“Our worst time may be over the next couple of months," he said.

Here’s a list of mental health resources.

Maryland State Board of Elections pulls it off

In June’s problematic primary elections, voters saw many ballots arrive late or not at all. Ballots were printed incorrectly and with conflicting postage instructions. Long lines formed late into election night. And some incorrect results appeared online before disappearing.

Maryland’s Republican governor called the situation an “unmitigated disaster” despite signs of increased turnout in the state. State elections officials scrambled to rectify their mistake before the general election.


Their work seems to have paid off on Tuesday, even earning a compliment from the governor Thursday.

Based on the available returns, it’s clear that massive numbers of Marylanders took advantage of the opportunities to vote before Election Day, with more than 2 million ballots cast during early voting or by mail. The access to drop boxes and mail-in ballots increased substantially this year due to the coronavirus and fears of spreading the infectious disease in crowded, indoor spaces and long lines.

The polls had relatively few problems, with the exception of one voter in Harford County who was arrested at a voting center because of his refusal to wear a mask inside the facility, and long lines in Calvert County on Election Day delaying the release of returns for hours.

Bars/restaurants sanctioned after Halloween violations

Two popular Federal Hill establishments faced sanctions on Halloween weekend after the Baltimore City Health Department found them to have violated COVID-19 guidelines.

Health inspectors visited The Charles and Banditos Bar & Kitchen and found them to be hosting patrons who were not wearing masks or socially distancing.

The closures came amid a busy Halloween weekend in the South Baltimore neighborhood. Baltimore Sun photographs from Saturday night show a long line outside The Charles and Banditos, with dozens of costumed partyers standing close together waiting to enter.

Hogan, on Thursday, reiterated that young people across the state had been driving the surge in new cases, a trend that had resurfaced from the summer months.

Both establishments were closed by the health department Sunday but were cleared to reopen by Monday.

Ravens' Marlon Humphrey tests positive for COVID-19

Ravens star cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who played in Sunday’s 28-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium, tested positive for the coronavirus late Sunday.


The All-Pro player had tested negative for COVID-19 every day last week, coach John Harbaugh said, including when he missed practice that Wednesday with an illness. The results of Sunday’s test weren’t available until well after the Ravens' loss to Pittsburgh. Harbaugh said he didn’t learn of Humphrey’s positive test until 6 a.m. Monday.


Harbaugh ruled Humphrey out for Sunday’s matchup against the Indianapolis Colts.

Humphrey’s diagnosis came after the team, stadium officials and the city welcomed some fans back to stands. Since then, seven Ravens defensive players, including four starters, were found to be “high-risk close contacts” of Humphrey’s, and were told to self-isolate for at least five days ahead of Sunday’s road game.

Humphrey was not the only NFL player to test positive this week. Two Arizona Cardinals and one Green Bay Packer also tested positive. The teams must now navigate the difficult terrain of losing players to illness, managing the health of their teams, staffs and fans, continuing to play at the expected level, and handling the consequences.

Consumers flock to local produce

Farms and local produce vendors have experienced a boom this year as grocery store-leery customers shop instead at outdoor markets and online. Some have even planted their own gardens and purchased chickens.

Longtime farmers have embraced social media and new technologies to reach customers, while others are expanding their home-delivery operations. Some hope it’s a shift that will outlive the coronavirus.

The record demand for local produce and other goods is good news for the state’s economy, said John Torres, executive director of the Maryland Farm Bureau. It’s also better for people’s health, he said.

Studies show local produce, eaten closer to its harvest date, tends to be more nutritious than produce that travels cross country or even internationally before being eaten. It also allows people to avoid crowded stores.

The surge in local produce hasn’t been limited to rural parts of the state. In and around Baltimore, residents flocked to farmers markets and have joined urban farms. There’s also been spiking interest in produce delivery boxes.

Baltimore Sun reporters Pamela Wood, Jeff Barker, Emily Opilo, Christine Condon, Jonas Shaffer, Daniel Oyefusi, Ben Leonard and Christina Tkacik contributed to this article.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun