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As Maryland sets new daily COVID vaccine milestone, officials report 836 new cases, 18 deaths

Maryland marked a new milestone in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign Saturday, as health officials reported 43,371 immunizations over the past 24 hours, the most doses administered in a day to date.

About 820,000 people have received their preliminary vaccination in Maryland, while about 449,000 have gotten both of the two doses required to prevent against severe illness, according to state health department data. That means approximately 13.6% of residents have gotten their first shots, while about 7.4% have been fully vaccinated.

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Vaccinators in the state have shot immunizations into the arms of 32,175 people every day over the last week, on average — the highest rate of daily vaccinations recorded from the time the first doses of the vaccine arrived in Maryland in mid-December.

While the state continued to expedite its vaccination campaign, officials reported 836 new cases of the coronavirus, as well as 18 associated fatalities.

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The latest additions bring the state’s case and casualty counts to 381,272 and 7,674, almost a year after the health department confirmed the first COVID-19 infections March 5, 2020.

About 892 people remained in hospitals across Maryland with the virus Saturday, 51 fewer than the day before, the fewest current hospitalizations since Nov. 12. Of those hospitalized, 245 required intensive care, the same number as the day before.

Since March, almost 35,000 people have been hospitalized because of the disease’s effects.

Over the last 24 hours, health officials reported 44,152 COVID-19 tests were completed throughout Maryland, about 4,000 fewer than the day before.

The percentage of tests that returned positive over the last week declined to 3.43% Friday, down 0.24 percentage points from the day before. The rate has declined for a week straight and is down from almost 9.5% testing positivity at the beginning of January.

While many of the key metrics health officials monitor to track the virus’ spread have trended downward, experts have urged it’s not time for residents to rest on their laurels.

They have warned of the threat of new, more contagious mutations of the coronavirus spreading throughout the country, and Maryland.

Virus variants first detected in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil — all of which are more transmissible than the original virus that causes COVID-19 — have spread in Maryland, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

As of Thursday, Maryland laboratories had identified 68 cases of the strain first detected in the U.K., nine cases of the variant first found in South Africa and one case of the mutation prevalent in Brazil.

Those figures are expected to climb, as Maryland officials acknowledged the variants are likely spreading throughout the communities and announced the state is stepping up its genomic sequencing efforts — lab analysis of virus samples to detect variants.

The emergence of new virus strains adds urgency to the international vaccine rollout, which Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan described as a “race against the variants.”

And while vaccinators in Maryland have administered almost 1.27 million doses of the vaccine, experts and lawmakers have noted significant hiccups in the state’s efforts.

So far, the vaccination effort has failed to effectively reach minorities, who experienced most severely the viruses’ effects, compared with white residents, according to an analysis of health department data.

As of Saturday, white people have received 791,000 immunizations, approximately 66% of all doses administered in Maryland for which race data was available. White residents make up about 59% of the population and have accounted for about 40% of cases and 52% of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Maryland.

Black residents have received 194,297 immunizations, roughly 16% of the vaccines administered in the state for which there was demographic data. African Americans represent about of 31% of Maryland’s population but have accounted for about a third of the infections and 35% of fatalities recorded in the state.

About 11% of Maryland’s residents are Latino, and they’ve accounted for about 19% of cases and 9% of deaths. Yet Hispanic people have gotten only about 4% of the vaccines administered for which there was data about the recipient’s ethnicity.

There is still concern among lawmakers that vaccines aren’t reaching quickly enough among Maryland’s elderly residents, for whom the virus has proven to be most deadly.

Residents aged 65 and older make up about 16% of the state’s population. But those 70 and above have borne about 72% of the death toll despite accounting for 10% of the cases, health department data shows.

Seniors 70-plus years old have gotten about 32.5% of the vaccines, though they’ve been prioritized for immunizations with front-line health care workers and, more recently, educators and other essential employees.

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