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Maryland reports lowest coronavirus positivity rate, smallest number of new cases since late November

Maryland health officials reported 1,686 new cases of the coronavirus Monday, along with 28 new deaths.

It’s the smallest number of new daily cases since Nov. 28, when 1,590 were reported.

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The seven-day average testing positivity rate fell to 6.84% Monday, down from 7.21% Sunday. It’s the first time since Nov. 30 that Maryland has had a seven-day average rate below 7%.

The state also reported administering 14,675 new doses of the coronavirus vaccines — up from Sunday, when just over 12,000 new doses were reported.

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The number of hospitalizations from the virus has declined slightly since a mid-month surge, when more than 1,900 people were hospitalized with the virus. On Monday, the state reported 1,669 people were receiving treatment in Maryland hospitals for complications from the virus. Of those, 395 required intensive care, three more than Sunday, but the second day in row under 400.

Since March, Maryland has reported 343,138 cases and 6,726 deaths from the coronavirus. So far, the state has administered 330,709 first doses of the vaccine and 42,228 second doses, about 72% of the stock it has received from the federal government, according to a tweet from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

About 5.47% of the state population has received at least one of the two required vaccine doses. Meanwhile, just under 0.7% of Maryland’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with both doses.

Certain new groups became eligible for the vaccine Monday, including people 65 to 74 years old and some essential workers, but the availability of vaccination appointments continues to lag behind the demand.

More than a month into the state’s vaccination campaign, officials are concerned about racial disparities in vaccinations. Despite making up 35% of the state’s coronavirus deaths — compared to 31% of the population — Black Marylanders have received 15% of doses so far. Hispanic Marylanders, who make up 9% of the state’s coronavirus deaths, and 11% of the population, have received about 4% of the initial shots.

As of Monday, the Eastern Shore’s Talbot County, a mostly rural and mostly white county, had vaccinated the highest percentage of residents with at least their first shot — 10.35%. Prince George’s County, a far more populous and majority Black county, had the smallest percentage — 1.98%. The Baltimore area fell in the middle of the pack, with 5% to 7% of people vaccinated in the surrounding counties.

Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to take its toll. Currently, the seven-day average of new daily cases statewide stands at 35.26 people per 100,000 people. That’s a marked decline from earlier this month, when that infection rate was 53.39 people per 100,000 on Jan. 12, but it’s a figure the state had never reached before November.

The state’s highest infection rate is in the Eastern Shore’s Dorchester County, where the rate is 55.93 people for every 100,000. The Shore’s Kent and Caroline counties aren’t far behind.

It comes after a spell when rural Western Maryland saw the worst rates — as high as 198 per 100,000. No other county has come close since Allegany hit that mark in early December. It continues a trend that some of the state’s more rural jurisdictions have been hit harder during the pandemic’s so-called second wave, while more urban areas faced steeper rates at the outset.

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