Maryland officials reported 694 new cases of the coronavirus Sunday and five more deaths, a significant decrease in newly reported cases after the state reported nearly 1,300 new cases Saturday.
The decrease comes with a significant dip in daily tests, as the state reported 22,045 completed tests in the past 24 hours, about 12,800 tests fewer than the record-setting 34,874 reported Saturday. The state reported 3.77% of the 22,045 tests were positive.
The significant drop in positive cases and new tests Sunday comes as Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said Maryland’s ability to complete tests is being affected by surges in other states, which is causing a backup in laboratory space. For this reason, Hogan has said he disagrees with Republican President Donald Trump’s plans to potentially cut federal funding for testing programs.
Sunday’s additions bring the state’s total to 83,748 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. In total, 3,309 people in the state have died due to the disease or complications from it since officials began tracking the virus in March.
On CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning, Hogan said the country needs to ramp up to a more “robust testing program” as the recent surges in cases in other states have strained national testing centers.
“Instead, last week, the president was talking about cutting funding for testing programs,” Hogan said, adding that “probably the most important thing we can do right now is to identify where the virus is and together with contact tracing try to identify the infections and stop it from spreading.”
Admiral Brett Giroir, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, told CNN on Sunday that 770,000 tests are completed each day. However, he said the “delays most people talk about are at the large commercial labs that perform about half the testing in our country.”
Giroir said that pool testing was authorized at Quest and LabCorp in hopes of approving efficiency.
Hogan also criticized the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, saying that only 20 of 276 nursing homes in Maryland that were scheduled to receive personal protective equipment have gotten their supplies so far.
As of Sunday, 540 people in Maryland are hospitalized due to complications from COVID-19, five fewer than Saturday. The statewide seven-day average testing positivity rate is at 4.47%, a slight decrease from 4.48% Saturday.
The World Health Organization recommends 14 straight days of a positivity rate below 5% before governments begin easing virus-related restrictions. Maryland began its reopening process before hitting that benchmark, but the state hasn’t reported a seven-day average positivity rate above 5% in a month.
Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus research center, which calculates positivity rates based on people tested rather than testing volume, has Maryland’s seven-day rolling positivity rate at 5.60%, the fourth-lowest among the 33 states with rates above 5%.
Baltimore City, which the White House said is one of 11 cities that requires “aggressive” action to mitigate the spread of the virus, confirmed 143 new cases Sunday for a total of 10,353. The city has a seven-day average positivity rate of 5.69%.
Baltimore County reported 131 new cases, for a total of 10,924 cases, and has a seven-day average positivity testing rate of 5.79%. Between the city and the county, the region accounted for roughly 40% of all cases reported in the past 24 hours.
In the 21224 ZIP code — which leads the Baltimore metro region with 1,562 confirmed cases as of Sunday and has the third most cases of any ZIP code in the state — officials confirmed 24 new cases in the past 24 hours.
Prince George’s and Montgomery counties — the two most populated counties in the state that have a little less than half the state’s overall COVID-19 cases and were seen as the original hot spots of the outbreak in March — saw 126 and 98 cases reported Sunday, respectively.
However, Prince George’s County continues to have an average positivity testing rate above the recommended 5%, which was at 5.95% Sunday.
The 20783 ZIP code in Prince George’s County, which has consistently led the state with the most cases per ZIP code, added six more Sunday, for a total of 2,530 cases since March.
None of Maryland’s jurisdictions with at least 500 total cases has seven-day positivity rates above 6%, according to state data. Baltimore County (5.79%), Prince George’s County (5.98%), Baltimore (5.69%) and Charles County (5.23%) are the only jurisdictions with seven-day average positivity rates over 5% and more than 500 total cases.
Dorchester County, on the Eastern Shore, leads the state in positivity testing rate, 6.81%, but has only 317 cases as of Sunday.
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, 46,148, were Black or Hispanic residents. The two demographic groups represent less than half the state’s population.
In comparison, whites, who constitute more than 58% of the state’s population, represented less than a quarter of all confirmed cases with 18,088.
However, white people have a higher mortality rate compared with other races, with about 7.72% of cases proving fatal.
For comparison, about 5.39% of cases among Blacks and about 1.83% of cases among Latinos were fatal.
The state has yet to confirm the race of 14,030 people who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
Younger adults continue to contract the virus at a higher rate than older residents, as people 20 to 29 years old led the state in confirmed cases Sunday with 165, or a little less than a quarter of all cases. The age demographic represents 13% of the state’s population, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
Nearly 60% of all cases confirmed Sunday, 415, were from residents 20 to 49 years old. That’s about 40% of the state’s population, according to census statistics.
Last week, Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, a Democrat, ordered city restaurants to suspend indoor dining by Friday amid the latest spike of cases in the city and others have called for the governor to institute a statewide order to do the same.
Hogan has said there are “concerning trends” of people younger than 35 contracting the disease, but said during a news conference Wednesday that “we do not intend to suddenly close all of our small businesses.”
“We do not want to crush our economy,” he said.