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Maryland reports 3,732 new coronavirus cases as hospitalizations again hit record high

As Maryland closed in on 300,000 total coronavirus cases Friday, the state again reported a record number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

The state added 3,732 new coronavirus cases and 43 more deaths over the past 24 hours, bringing the total case count to 299,606 and death toll to 6,047. Maryland surpassed the morbid milestone of 6,000 lives lost to the virus Thursday, according to health department data.

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Meanwhile, hospitalizations for the disease continued to climb in fits and starts. The health department reported Friday that 1,885 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus, 51 more than a day earlier, and the highest number since the pandemic arrived in the state in March. Of those hospitalized, 447 people required intensive care — 20 more than the day before.

The new hospitalization record comes two days after Maryland set the last one, a bump health officials partially attributed to a change in the way hospitals report their number of COVID patients. Following federal guidance, hospitals had excluded patients who’d been diagnosed with the disease but were no longer considered infectious. They now report all COVID patients in their care.

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Public health and hospital officials said Wednesday they still have room to treat patients who have COVID-19 and those who don’t.

More than 28,000 people have been hospitalized with the virus since health officials began reporting the data.

Meanwhile, Maryland’s seven-day average testing positivity rate was 9.16% Friday, the second day in a row the rate has decreased. On Thursday, the positivity rate was 9.31%. The rate, however, has remained above 9% since Jan. 2, a point not reached since early June, when the rate was on the decline from the pandemic’s initial surge.

As of Thursday, Maryland averaged 45.4 cases per 100,000 people. The national average is 68.7 cases per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some of Maryland’s rural counties continue to check in above the state and national averages, with the highest rates per 100,000 people coming from one Western Maryland county and a cluster of counties on the southern part of the Eastern Shore.

Washington County, which has about 151,000 residents, averaged almost 100 cases per 100,000 residents over the past week, the state’s highest rate by a significant margin.

With a population of about 32,000, Dorchester County averaged about 69 cases per 100,000 people over the same time frame. Nearby, Worcester and Somerset counties, with populations of about 52,000 and 26,000, averaged almost 67 and 66 cases per 100,000 respectively.

Whereas early on in the pandemic Hispanic and Black residents accounted for the largest share of new cases, white people now do. White residents accounted for about 51% of Friday’s new cases for which race data was available. That’s still less than the 58.5% of the state’s population the U.S. Census Bureau estimated to be white in 2019.

Black residents, which make up approximately 31% of the population, according to the same census estimates, accounted for 50% of the new deaths for which race data was available.

About 57,000 Maryland residents were tested in the past 24 hours and more than 6 million tests have been completed since health officials began tracking the data.

While those 70 and older accounted for the majority of new deaths reported Friday, health department data shows younger Marylanders made up the largest share of the new positive cases. Residents between the ages of 20 and 39 accounted for 34% of the new cases.

Maryland continued its vaccination campaign focused on front-line health care workers and first responders, administering the first dose of the vaccine to 13,760 more people and the second dose to 1,450 more people over the last 24 hours.

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The state has now given the first shot of the vaccine to 111,760 people, while 2,974 have also received their second dose. About 1.85% of Marylanders had received their first shot of the vaccine as of Friday, days after Gov. Larry Hogan announced measures to speed up its rollout. The additional efforts included calling in the Maryland National Guard to assist hospitals in administering vaccines.

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