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Maryland reports low coronavirus case count, vaccination numbers after another snowstorm

Maryland health officials reported 903 new cases of the coronavirus Monday, and 23 more deaths caused by the disease.

It’s the smallest number of new cases reported in a day since early November. Last week, after heavy snowfall shuttered some testing sites, new case totals sank to 905, but rose above 1,500 two days later.

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A snowstorm struck the region again Sunday, leaving behind slick, slushy road conditions, which could have impacted the number of tests administered. About 22,800 tests were administered Sunday, compared to more than 40,000 daily tests administered over the prior few days. Last Sunday, as snow started falling around the region, more than 25,000 tests were administered.

Between half an inch and 5 inches of snow fell around the Baltimore area Sunday. The city wasn’t hit hard, nor was Anne Arundel County, but parts of northern Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Frederick counties got between 3 and 5 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

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The state’s seven-day average testing positivity rate decreased slightly to 5.67% from 5.73%. It hasn’t been below 5% — a mark set by the World Health Organization outlining when communities could consider relaxing pandemic restrictions — since early November, but is inching closer.

The number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 increased by 11 to 1,413 Monday. Of those, 318 required intensive care, eight fewer than Sunday.

The state’s seven-day average rate of new infections continued to decline, dropping to 21.04 cases per 100,000 residents. At its peak Jan. 12, the rate was 53.39 cases per 100,000 people. Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore had the state’s worst rate Monday, at 36.24 per 100,000.

The state reported some 6,030 new people received first doses of the vaccine — the lowest total since Jan. 11. In addition, 3,622 people received their second doses. The numbers were similar in the wake of last week’s snowstorm, with 6,252 new first doses administered Feb. 2.

So far, Talbot County is the Maryland jurisdiction inoculating the highest percentage of its population with at least one dose — 14.83%. It’s followed closely by two other rural Eastern Shore counties: Kent and Worcester.

Populous Prince George’s County has put shots in the arms of 4.05% of its residents, the smallest percentage among the state’s jurisdictions. Neighboring Montgomery County, which is more populous, has vaccinated 8.17% of its population.

Anita Chandra, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corp., released a study about health infrastructure in Prince George’s last year. It showed that a lack of health insurance coverage, in addition to a low investment in health care and transportation infrastructure, could be contributing to poor health outcomes. The findings prove telling when considering the county’s vaccination woes, Chandra said.

In 2019, for instance, the county had the state’s lowest percentage of people with health insurance, according to the study. The county’s population of noncitizen immigrants, in particular, were insured at a lower rate.

“While the vaccinations are being rolled out in a lot of places, without regard to insurance coverage, these are the kind of variables that often make it more difficult for people to engage with health services in general,” Chandra said.

In 2019, about 37% of the county population got a flu shot, compared to the statewide average of 48%.

Prince George’s also has suffered as a result of a lack of investment in health services, the study showed. Compared to Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties, Prince George’s had budgeted the smallest amount of health and human services spending per resident in the 2018 fiscal year.

“These are all variables, basically, that you’ve got to think about when any health issue happens — its through the prism of all these structural and systemic issues,” Chandra said. “It is not a Band-Aid, and not an easy fix.”

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