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Maryland reports no new COVID deaths Monday as state begins scholarship program to combat flagging vaccination rate

For the second straight day, Maryland health officials reported no new deaths caused by COVID-19.

State health officials also removed an earlier reported death from the virus, since the individual was not a resident of Maryland.

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Meanwhile, the state has seen an increase in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past week. After reporting 38 new daily cases July 5, that number grew steadily, reaching 145 new cases Friday. The state reported 79 new cases Monday.

In addition, hospitalizations sunk below 100 people on July 2, but have risen since then, reaching 122 Monday.

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But the uptick remains small compared to COVID-19′s toll on the state earlier in the pandemic. The 14-day average of new daily cases has been declining since mid-April, when it stood above 1,300. Now, the average is just above 70.

Vaccinations, which reached their peak April 10 at more than 90,000 in one day, also have declined. On Monday, fewer than 10,000 new doses were reported. Several of the state’s mass vaccination sites have closed, as health officials pivot to a more targeted approach to the inoculations.

The state’s latest approach targets younger people, offering $50,000 college scholarships to randomly selected Marylanders between 12 and 17 who have received at least one vaccine dose. This age group, the latest approved for vaccination, has the lowest vaccination rate in the state — 51.8%. By comparison, 64.2% of adults 18 to 49 have been vaccinated with at least one dose, as have 77.7% of Marylanders between 50 and 64 and 88.5% of those 65 and older.

The state selected the first scholarship winners from Potomac and Silver Spring in Montgomery County.

So far, 75.6% of Maryland’s adult population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, 57.2% of all state residents are fully vaccinated, having either received the required two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson variety.

About half of Maryland counties have fully vaccinated 50% of their populations. The remainders include all three of the counties on the state’s Western panhandle and five on the Eastern Shore, as well as Baltimore City, Charles County, Prince George’s County and St. Mary’s County.

The data shows that officials are having difficulties reaching residents of mostly white, mostly rural counties.

The state also is working still to close a vaccination equity gap impacting majority-Black jurisdictions such as Baltimore, Prince George’s and Somerset. The numbers have improved considerably since March, but so far, Black Marylanders have received about 25.7% of all shots, although they make up 31.1% of the state population. Hispanic Marylanders have received 9.2% of shots but are 10.6% of the population, according to U.S. Census data for Maryland.

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