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Maryland reports 734 coronavirus cases, 10 deaths Friday

Maryland health officials reported 734 new cases of the coronavirus Friday and 10 new deaths caused by COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Maryland has now reached at least 130,159 infections and 3,845 virus-related deaths during the pandemic.

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The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized due to the virus in Maryland declined by eight since Thursday to 391 patients. Thursday’s 403 hospitalizations were the most in Maryland since late August. Of those hospitalized Friday, 96 required intensive care, state figures show. Bed occupancy reached a peak of 1,707 in May.

The Maryland Department of Health reported the state’s seven-day testing positivity rate as 2.87% Thursday. The Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center reported the state’s rate as 5.75% through Thursday, one of 32 states and U.S. territories exceeding the World Health Organization-recommended 5% threshold for reopening.

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The state and Hopkins calculate positivity rates differently, with the state using tests completed and Hopkins using people tested, meaning the university counts individuals who are tested multiple times only once, regardless of their results.

The state’s data showed none of its 24 jurisdictions having positivity rates above 5% on Friday. Somerset County had the highest rate at 4.84%, and has seen about 335 cases total and four deaths since March. Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have lower daily positivity rates — 4.42% and 2.4% — but combined, account for over 53,000 of the state’s total cases.

On Friday, the state reported Western Maryland’s Garrett County as having a positivity rate of 0%, the only jurisdiction with that metric.

The state’s contact tracers successfully reached about 3,400 people who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and completed interviews with about 3,000 of those people, state data show. Of the nearly 50,000 people who have been interviewed since July, a majority has reported working outside the home within two weeks of receiving their test results or experiencing symptoms.

A disclaimer on the health department’s website says the results of the interviews do not demonstrate cause and effect; however, much can be learned from the responses. For example, of the people who went to work within 14 days of their symptom onset or diagnosis, a majority of them reported having careers in health care settings, followed by people who work in warehouses, offices and auto body shops.

For people who reported going to a social gathering two weeks before receiving their positive test result or feeling ill, most of them reported attending a family gathering, followed by a house party or an outdoor event.

People of color, many of them essential workers, have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus both in Maryland and across the country. Black Marylanders account for over 40,000 cases in the state and nearly 41% of all deaths despite constituting about 30% of the population. Hispanic and Latino Marylanders make up more than 20% of the cases and 11% of the death toll despite accounting for less than 10% of the state’s populace.

On Friday, Baltimore’s mayor and health commissioner said a 14-year employee of the Baltimore City Health Department died of the coronavirus, marking the first death of a health department worker due to the virus since the pandemic reached the city in March.

Health department spokesman Adam Abadir identified the employee as Marchiel McDuffie, a Baltimore resident and school health aide since 2006. McDuffie died Thursday, Abadir said.

Abadir did not clarify whether McDuffie contracted COVID-19 on the job.

“Our hearts are extremely heavy today,” Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said in a statement, referring to McDuffie’s death.

Baltimore Health Department Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa called it a “terrible loss” for the department.

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