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Maryland surpasses 100,000 coronavirus cases since March

Maryland on Sunday became the 18th state to surpass 100,000 cases of the coronavirus, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The addition of 519 new cases brings to 100,212 Maryland’s total of cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, according to state data.

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It is also one of 15 states to see more than 3,500 people die from the disease; officials reported three new deaths Sunday, bringing the count of confirmed deaths to 3,502. An additional 137 Marylanders are believed to have died because of the disease, but a laboratory has not yet confirmed their cause of death.

The country has more than 5.3 million cases of COVID-19, and 169,000 people have died in the United States due to the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said that while reaching 100,000 cases has “an important symbolism,” the metric itself is “likely an understatement.”

He said cases from before the state started tracking the COVID-19 outbreak in mid-March might still not be counted and that delays in testing results — some take up to 10 days to return — may mask a larger spread in the state.

He added that while the daily positivity rates are encouraging — the state and Johns Hopkins University report seven-day average positivity rates below 5% — the percentage of Maryland’s population that has tested positive since mid-March is still concerning.

The state set a new low for daily positivity rate Sunday with 2.67% of tests coming back positive. The state’s seven-day positivity rate is at 3.42%, effectively flat with Saturday, as the state reported 25,572 completed tests.

The World Health Organization recommends 14 straight days of positivity rates beneath 5% before easing virus-related restrictions. State data has placed its seven-day average positivity below that threshold since June 24.

Johns Hopkins University, meanwhile, places Maryland at a seven-day rolling positivity rate of 4.73%. That rate puts Maryland among 16 states, plus Washington, D.C., that meet the recommendation of having a positivity rate of 5% or less, according to Hopkins’ coronavirus resource center. Hopkins calculates its rate using the number of people to whom tests have been administered, but the state uses the raw number of tests administered. In other words, Hopkins doesn’t count more than one test administered to the same person.

In a statement, Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said the 100,000-case count reflects the state’s response as “early infectious disease modeling showed us that without early and aggressive action, Maryland could see in the order of 300,000 infections and 12,500 deaths by early June.”

“It is clear that our collective efforts ... have flattened the curve and saved lives,” Ricci wrote, citing the state’s ability to reach its goal of 6,000 additional hospital beds and reaching 20,000 tests per day by mid-July.

As of Sunday, 475 people are hospitalized because of complications from COVID-19, 15 more than Saturday. Officials reported 360 patients are in acute care units, while 115 are in intensive care .

Hospitalizations have largely declined over the past two weeks.

State Senator Clarence Lam, a Democrat who represents Baltimore and Howard counties and is a physician at JHU, said the hospitalization number is a direct snapshot of the disease’s effect on the state, while the positivity rate is subject to variables day by day, such as how many people get tested.

For example, the state’s seven-day average positivity rate dropped slightly from 4.63% on July 13 to 4.6% on Aug. 1. Yet the state saw more than 200 people newly hospitalized because of the disease during that period.

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He added that he believes infections will only grow this autumn, as people tire of restrictions placed on gatherings and businesses, all against the backdrop of the upcoming flu season.

“Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t slow down, and it will continue its march forward,” he said.

Baltimore County confirmed 94 new cases in the past 24 hours, leading the state in new cases. It was followed by Baltimore City, with 84 cases and Montgomery County, with 78 cases.

However, all three counties are below a 5% seven-day positivity rate as of Sunday. The only county reporting above 5% is Prince George’s County (5.59%), which reported 66 new cases Sunday for a total of 24,654 cases, the most of any jurisdiction in the state.

Young adults again made up a large proportion of new cases, as about 38.73% of Sunday’s cases — 201 — were from patients 20 to 39 years old. For comparison, the U.S. census estimates that this demographic represents 27% of the state’s population.

Jason Flanagan, a 39-year-old from Frederick who recovered from COVID-19 after being diagnosed in March, said he’s been satisfied with the Hogan administration’s response to the pandemic and said reaching the 100,000-case milestone was “expected.”

“We’re in a major metropolitan area. We have people coming from all over the country here,” Flanagan said.

He’s concerned about people defying the governor’s orders, saying he regularly sees people walking through downtown Frederick without masks and not social distancing.

“It’s sometimes a little frustrating that some people just aren’t taking that extra little precaution,” he said.

The pandemic continues to disproportionately affect the state’s Black and Latino populations. Roughly two-thirds of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases where data on race was available, 56,584, were from Black or Hispanic residents. The two demographic groups represent less than half the state’s population.

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