Maryland health officials reported 759 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, along with 19 realted fatalities.
The daily tallies bring the state’s COVID-19 case count to 372,980 and casualties to 7,449 since health officials began tracking the disease’s effects last March.
Meanwhile, 14 fewer people were hospitalized with COVID-19 complications than the day before. About 1,096 remained in hospitals Wednesday, 272 of whom required intensive care, which is 21 fewer patients than a day earlier.
The last time Maryland reported fewer people hospitalized because of the virus was Nov. 15.
About 23,159 tests for the coronavirus were completed statewide in the last 24 hours, more than double the number of tests reported the day before.
Maryland’s week-long average testing positivity rate decreased for the eighth day in a row, dropping 0.06 percentage points to 4.17%. That’s less than half the seven day average of 9.47% positivity reported at the beginning of the new year.
In Western Maryland, Washington County reported the state’s highest average testing positivity rate: 9.41%. The next highest rate, 7.27%, was reported in Cecil County.
The state has averaged 14.92 newly reported infections per 100,000 people over the last seven days, an average case rate lower than a day before. The nation’s seven day average was 25.9 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Only two Maryland counties reported average infection rates higher than the national average, with Washington County pacing the state at 31.87 infections per 100,000 people over the last seven days.
Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore reported an average of 26.4 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents. The jurisdiction has about 32,000 people.
Several counties reported average infection rates higher than the state average, including two of Maryland’s five most populated localities. Prince George’s County, with about 909,000 residents, reported an average of 18.19 new infections per 100,000 people. And Anne Arundel County, with about 579,000 people, had an average of 15.41 new cases per 100,000 over the last week.
Some 27,578 people in Maryland received doses of COVID-19 vaccine over the last 24 hours, with 15,695 people getting their first immunizations and 11,883 receiving their second shots, according to Maryland Department of Health data.
The same figures show that almost 671,000 people, about 11% of the state’s population, have received their first vaccine, while 265,585, about 4.4% of the population, have been fully vaccinated. Both approved vaccines require two shots to prevent severe illness.
After dipping Monday, Maryland’s seven-day average of daily immunizations climbed to 26,360. That’s still lower than the average’s high mark of 27,732 immunizations, recorded Sunday.
Maryland officials continue to blame a stubbornly small supply of vaccines for holding the state’s immunization campaign back. However, some Maryland residents have had trouble accessing the vaccine.
“Our biggest challenge right now is the supply still outstrips the demand,” said Dr. Jinlene Chan, acting deputy state health secretary, during an online forum Wednesday hosted by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.
The state has expanded the vaccine rollout to a variety of vaccinators, which now include local health departments, hospitals, health systems, pharmacies, federally qualified health centers and state-run mass vaccination sites. Chan said the goal is to provide “different layers of access for individuals.”
Appearing at the same forum, Gov. Larry Hogan said he was pressuring the administration of President Joe Biden to employ the Defense Production Act to ramp up the production of vaccines. Meanwhile, Chan pointed to the vaccine candidate from Johnson & Johnson as a ray of hope: The single-dose immunization could be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the end of the month.
Still, Hogan acknowledged things weren’t likely to improve immediately,
“I know this is incredibly frustrating for everyone,” Hogan said. “Trust me, I share those frustrations.”