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Maryland reports 1,939 new cases of coronavirus, 33 deaths

Maryland health officials reported 1,939 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, and 33 more deaths caused by the disease.

On average, new cases, hospitalizations and testing positivity have declined since a surge earlier this month. Wednesday’s new caseload tops Tuesday’s — which was the lowest since Nov. 12 — but represents a departure from a mid-January high that saw more than 3,700 cases reported for two days in a row.

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Hospitalizations have also decreased of late, down to 1,647 after peaking at 1,952 on Jan. 12. Wednesday’s total is five patients more than Tuesday’s. About 21% of those patients are receiving treatment in intensive care units.

The state’s seven-day average testing positivity rate is 6.38%, down from a winter peak of 9.47% on Jan. 3. It’s also a slight decrease from Tuesday, when the rate was 6.64%.

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Meanwhile, the state is scrambling to vaccinate a lengthening list of priority groups, as many in those groups complain that vaccination appointments are hard to come by.

In the last 24 hours, the state administered first doses to 15,256 people, alongside 7,662 second shots, according to health department data. Over the past seven days, the state has averaged about 16,000 first shots a day.

But experts say Maryland is lagging behind most other states when it comes to administering the vaccines. The state reported it has delivered 852,625 of its vaccine stash to local providers, but 419,579 of the shots have actually been administered.

Rural, majority white counties on the Eastern Shore continue to lead the way, having vaccinated the largest shares of their small populations, according to state health department data. Talbot County is still in the lead, with about 11.18% of its residents having received their first shot. Wicomico County has the highest percentage of fully vaccinated residents, at about 1.79%.

The counties on the Shore also have some of the more worrying coronavirus infection rates of late. Dorchester and Caroline counties have the highest seven-day average case rate, at 62.64 and 59.87 per 100,000 people, respectively. That’s above the state average of 33.57 per 100,000 people.

Baltimore County has administered the highest volume of first vaccine doses — 58,744. More populous counties like Prince George’s and Montgomery lag behind, with just 21,859 administered in the former and 51,403 in the latter. Prince George’s, a majority Black county, has the smallest percentage of vaccinated individuals, given that 2.404% of its residents have gotten their first dose.

An early race disparity in vaccinations has attracted concern. About 31% of Maryland residents are Black, but they’ve received about 15% of the first doses for which race data was available. About 35% of the people who have died from COVID-19 in Maryland are Black.

About 11% of Maryland residents are Latino, but they’ve received about 4.4% of first doses in which ethnicity was known. About 9.4% of the people who have died from COVID-19 in Maryland are Latino.

The state listed race as unknown for 22,782 of the first doses administered, and ethnicity was unknown for 45,338 first doses.

Experts say that things like hesitancy about vaccines in mistreated communities of color and an underrepresentation of people of color in health care fields could be to blame for the disparity.

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