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Maryland reports fourth consecutive day of more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases, another hospitalization high

Maryland reported 3,012 new coronavirus cases Monday and 29 more deaths from the virus.

It was the fourth day in a row that the state reported more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases — something that’s never happened during the pandemic in Maryland.

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And for the second straight day, the state reported set a new record for current hospitalizations from COVID-19, with 1,957 coronavirus patients in hospitals, seven more than Sunday. Officials said last week that a change in reporting requirements could start inflating the hospitalization numbers.

About 23% of those people were receiving treatment in intensive care units — 447 patients. That’s 38 fewer than Sunday, when 485 people — about a quarter of those hospitalized — were in ICUs.

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Since the state began tracking known cases in March, Maryland has reported 309,686 coronavirus cases and 6,129 deaths.

The state reported a seven-day average testing positivity rate of 8.56% on Monday, down from 8.73% the day before. In the summer and early fall, the rate had hovered below 5%.

On Monday, the state reported 43,528 COVID-19 tests, much less than the previous day, when more than 60,000 tests were reported.

The highest seven-day average positivity rates were reported in Western Maryland’s Garrett and Washington counties, which stood at 16.64% and 16.3%, respectively. Queen Anne’s and Worcester counties on the Eastern Shore weren’t far behind, at 14.93% and 12.76%. High positivity rates suggest high transmission or inadequate testing.

Some of the lowest rates were in Baltimore County and Baltimore City, which reported seven-day averages of 6.31% and 6.68%, respectively. No county in Maryland has reported a rolling rate below 5%, a World Health Organization bench mark for reopening areas.

Experts say the renewed virus surge could be blamed on holiday gatherings. It comes as officials rush to administer doses of two vaccines that have received the federal OK.

So far, Maryland has given out 146,172 doses. On Sunday, Gov. Larry Hogan reported that Maryland hospitals and health systems had given out 44.3% of the doses they’ve received, while local health departments administered 40.2%.

It comes after early concern that Maryland was among the slowest states in the country when it came to administering doses.

On Monday, the state reported administering 3,770 new doses over the prior 24 hours — 3,293 first doses and 477 second doses. That’s down from Sunday, when the state reported administering more than 13,000 shots.

The state is still in its first phase of vaccine distribution, which prioritizes health care workers, first responders and nursing home residents and staff. About 9% of the people vaccinated so far are over 70-years-old.

Thus far, 2.3% of Marylanders have received their first dose of a vaccine, and 0.11% of Marylanders have received the required second dose.

The highest percentages of the population have been vaccinated in the less populous regions of the state — the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland. In those places, 3.05% and 2.68% of the population has received shots, respectively. But Baltimore City and its surrounding counties aren’t far behind. Some 2.58% of the city’s population has been vaccinated so far.

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The National Capital Region, as the state calls it, still lags behind, having vaccinated 1.42% of its population. The region includes the state’s two most populous jurisdictions — Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

So far, white people, who make up about 58.5% percent of the state population according to the Census Bureau, have received about 60% of the state’s vaccine doses. Black people, who make up 31.1% of the state population, have received 15% of the doses. About 24% of those vaccinated identified with another race.

About 4% of those vaccinated identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino. That group makes up about 10% of the state population, according to the Census Bureau.

Also Monday, Gov. Larry Hogan announced a proposal for a $1 billion coronavirus relief package. It includes direct payments to low income Marylanders and grants and forgivable loans for small businesses hit hard by the pandemic. It tacks on to the federal stimulus package, which provided for $600 payments to many Americans, but didn’t include direct aid to state and local governments, like its predecessor, the CARES Act.

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