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Maryland coronavirus positivity rate continues to climb as new cases and deaths drop

Despite a decline in new coronavirus cases and deaths reported in the last 24 hours, the percentage of people testing positive in the past week climbed Saturday for the sixth day in a row.

The state’s test positivity rate for the past seven days now stands at 8.94%, up from 8.8% a day before and the highest it’s been since early June, according to Maryland Department of Health data.

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After the state approached on the first day of the new year a near-record tally of new daily coronavirus cases and a steady death toll, both figures declined Saturday. Over the last 24 hours, the state reported 2,952 confirmed cases of the virus and 25 deaths, down from 3,557 and 47 a day prior.

As of Saturday morning, 5,799 Marylanders have died from the virus, at least, and 283,171 more people have contracted it since officials began tracking the pandemic in March.

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Despite accounting for about 10% of cases in Maryland, more than 70% of the confirmed coronavirus deaths — 4,178 fatalities — were people aged 70 or older.

Accounting for the biggest proportion of cases are those between 20 and 39 years old. More than 102,000 people in that age bracket have contracted the virus; 89 have died from it.

The figures also continue to show the disparate impact of the virus for minorities.

Despite making up about 11% of the state’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Hispanic residents account for approximately 20% of the cases for which the health department has race and ethnicity data. Black or African American residents make up about 31% of the population, but account for about 37% of confirmed coronavirus deaths for which race and ethnicity data was available.

Meanwhile, white residents, who account for approximately 59% of the population, had about 38% of the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases and 49% of the deaths for which race and ethnicity data was available.

Health officials urged people to slow the spread of the virus by refraining from traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations. Restrictions imposed in Baltimore to curb the coronavirus include gatherings capped at 25 people outdoors and 10 indoors. Meanwhile, restaurants in the city are limited to carry out and delivery, per an executive order. Restrictions vary across counties.

While less people were in the hospital for the coronavirus Saturday than Friday, more required intensive care. At least 1,692 patients remained hospitalized, 415 requiring intensive care, up from 388 the day before.

The number of patients hospitalized with the virus has hovered around 1,600 since Dec. 8, peaking at a pandemic high of 1,799 on Dec. 15.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott warned of city hospitals nearing full capacity when he urged city residents to skip out on New Year’s Eve festivities.

“We are nowhere near out of the woods,” Scott said on Dec. 28.

Baltimore added 221 cases and five deaths over the past 24 hours. Baltimore County recorded 312 cases and four deaths. Those figures were 328 and two in Anne Arundel County, 123 and zero in Howard County, and 129 and one in Harford County.

The steepest percentage jumps day-over-day in cases was recorded on the Eastern Shore, where Talbot County added 36 cases and Kent County 21 cases.

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The state continued its vaccination campaign, which currently focuses on first responders and frontline medical workers, while intensive care beds filled up.

As of midday Saturday, 2,091 more people had received doses of the vaccine than a day before. The state has vaccinated about 0.93% of its population so far.

The Baltimore Metropolitan Area has vaccinated the most people, with 25,948 inoculated. The health department defines that region as Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

Rolling out the vaccine distribution in the metro area has had some hiccups. In Howard County, some people not yet eligible to receive the vaccine got a hold of registration links and signed up, jumping firefighters, nurses and other eligible professionals in line for the vaccine.

The National Capital Region, which includes Charles, Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, has vaccinated 9,352 people. The counties making up Maryland’s Eastern Shore inoculated 5,149 people. At least 1,455 people have been vaccinated in Calvert and St. Mary’s counties, while the western counties of Allegany, Garret and Washington have administered the vaccine to 2,009 people.

The Eastern Shore counties have vaccinated the biggest proportion of its population, 1.13%, according to the health department data. The counties surrounding Washington D.C. have administered vaccines to the smallest proportion of their people, 0.39%.

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