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Maryland surpasses 7,000 coronavirus deaths, adds fewest daily cases since November

Maryland surpassed 7,000 coronavirus deaths Tuesday, reporting 34 fatalities and 905 new cases, state health department data shows.

It’s the first time since Nov. 3 the state has reported fewer than 1,000 new cases in one day, bringing the state’s case count and death toll to 356,541 and 7,012, respectively. It is possible the dip in newly reported cases can be attributed to the snow and ice early this week that have forced many to stay off the roads and some testing sites to close.

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About 1,467 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday, up from 1,437 a day earlier. However, the number of patients who required intensive care decreased by five, to 366.

Metrics for any infectious respiratory disease are expected to hit highs and lows, but it’s important to maintain the same safety precautions throughout, said Dr. Cliff Mitchell, director of the Maryland Department of Health’s Environment Health Bureau. He urged people to wear masks, wash hands, practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings.

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“It’s important to continue all of those precautions even when the rates are lower because the virus has not gone away,” Mitchell said.

He acknowledged that it will take a long time to achieve “significant community immunity” through vaccinations. The state has fully vaccinated about 1.5% of its population, health department data shows.

Maryland’s seven-day average testing positivity rate increased to 5.79% Monday, about 0.18 percentage points higher than the day before. It’s the first time the rate has increased since Jan. 17, when it reached 8.22%.

Six of the 10 highest rates in Maryland were reported on the Eastern Shore, where Caroline County topped the state with an average of 10.33% positivity over the past week.

Washington County in Western Maryland had the second-highest rate, with an average of 10.2% positivity over the past week. Charles and Prince George’s counties, Washington, D.C., suburbs, also checked in among the state’s highest rates. In the Baltimore metropolitan area, only Harford County, with a 7.27% positivity rate, checked in among the 10 highest.

Maryland reported completing 13,702 coronavirus tests over the past 24 hours.

The state’s average case rate per 100,000 people declined to 28.17 Monday, down from 29.53 Sunday. The rate of infections has been declining steadily since it reached a pandemic peak of 53.39 cases per 100,000 people Jan. 12.

Maryland’s rate is about half the national average of 43.7 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Maryland’s much-scrutinized vaccination campaign continued Monday into Tuesday, with 9,364 shots administered over the past 24 hours — 6,252 first doses and 3,112 second doses, according to the state health department data.

The state has averaged 22,438 shots daily over the past week, down from a day earlier, according to state data.

About 462,162 people, approximately 7.6% of the state’s population, have received their first shots, while 91,571 have been completely immunized. It has been widely believed that both available vaccines require two doses to protect against serious illness.

Health officials raised red flags after preliminary data for Maryland’s vaccine rollout depicted disparities along racial lines.

As of Tuesday, Black people, representing about 31% of the Maryland’s population and about 35% of the state’s coronavirus fatalities, had received about 16% of the shots administered throughout the state. Meanwhile, white people, who account for about 51% of the population and 51% of the COVID-19 deaths, have received about 67% of vaccine doses.

Wicomico County saw the sharpest 24-hour increase in doses doled out. It reportedly plunged shots into the arms of 558 more people, about a 4.5% increase over a day earlier.

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