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Maryland reports 807 new coronavirus cases, 45 more deaths; more than half of all COVID-19 deaths found in nursing homes

Maryland confirmed 807 new cases of the coronavirus and 45 more deaths, state officials reported Wednesday, but hospitalizations and the state’s testing positivity rate are at their lowest levels in months.

The state has reported 54,982 cases of the COVID-19 illness since the pandemic arrived in Maryland in mid-March. The additional deaths push the state’s death toll to 2,519.

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More than half of Maryland’s deaths from complications related to the virus have been among those living and working at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Gov. Larry Hogan has made testing at nursing homes a priority, and tests have been distributed to all 227 nursing homes in the state, said Charles Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Health.

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Shortly after Hogan announced universal testing for nursing home residents, Hogan said in a Facebook post that hundreds of coronavirus tests had been sent to Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, a state-run facility for disabled veterans in St. Mary’s County.

An outbreak at Charlotte Hall has resulted in 274 known cases between residents and staff and 24 resident deaths, including 102 new cases and six more deaths in the past week, according to numbers provided by the state. The spiking numbers likely reflect the increased testing.

And more may be coming.

In a letter to nursing home administrators last week, Maryland Health Secretary Robert Neall said test kits have been delivered to all 227 of the state’s nursing homes and ordered the facilities to swab all residents and staff and submit the specimens to designated labs by Friday.

Neall said the state is ready to assist nursing homes with any staffing shortages as a result of the staff testing with so-called “Bridge Teams” and through the Chesapeake Registry Program, a shared staffing services affiliate of the Maryland Hospital Association.

Meanwhile, coronavirus-related hospitalizations continued their downward trend. Down 39 from Tuesday to 1,109, the number is at its lowest level since April 14, Hogan’s office said in a news release. The number of people in intensive care — with the worst cases — slid by 10 to 471.

In addition, the percentage of people who test positive for the virus has dropped to 9.5%, the first time since late March that it’s been below 10%. Many public health officials believe a positivity rate of 5% or less is ideal for controlling the virus.

The state’s positivity rate, however, remains among the highest in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The continuing improvements prompted Hogan to further relax coronavirus-related restrictions Wednesday, allowing nonessential businesses to reopen as soon as Friday. Some localities, including Baltimore City and the hard-hit counties of Baltimore, Prince George’s and Montgomery, are expected to continue to move more slowly with reopening.

The virus has touched every county in Maryland, with Prince George’s County facing the worst toll thus far, with 15,738 cases and 542 confirmed deaths. Montgomery is second with nearly 12,000 and even more deaths at 593.

Baltimore County has recorded 6,457 cases, with 350 confirmed deaths and 16 fatalities that are believed to be caused by the virus but haven’t been confirmed by testing. The majority of those deaths, 274, were reported at nursing homes.

In Baltimore, there have been 5,801 cases, with 258 confirmed deaths and eight suspected deaths.

In Anne Arundel County, there have been 4,009 cases, with 169 confirmed deaths and three suspected. Howard County has experienced 2,004 cases, with 56 deaths and five suspected. In Carroll County, where several long-term care facilities have been hit with the virus, there have been 940 cases, with 93 confirmed deaths and three others believed to be coronavirus-related. Harford County has had 901 cases, with 48 confirmed deaths and three suspected.

The virus has had a disproportionate impact on the state’s African American and Hispanic populations with blacks accounting for 1,043, or 41%, of the deaths, while Hispanics account for more than one in four of all confirmed cases of the infection. Blacks make up 31% of the state’s population, while Hispanics are about 11%.

While more people have contracted the disease in their 30s than any other age group, the coronavirus is far more likely to kill seniors: 70% of deaths have been in people over age 70.

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