Maryland officials on Saturday reported 636 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and five new deaths associated with COVID-19, the disease the virus causes.
The additions bring the state to 130,795 confirmed infections and 3,850 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began in March.
The number of people hospitalized with the disease declined by eight, bringing the total number to 383. Maryland had recently seen a bump in hospitalizations, with 403 recorded Thursday. It was the first time since late August that more than 400 Marylanders were hospitalized. Of the patients now hospitalized, 91 are in intensive care, five fewer than the previous day.
Those figures have declined significantly since the height of the pandemic in May. Early that month, about 1,700 people were hospitalized, with nearly 600 patients requiring intensive care.
Maryland officials reported Saturday the state’s positivity rate was 2.79%, down from 2.87% a day before. Johns Hopkins University, which calculates positivity differently than the state, has Maryland’s seven-day positivity rate through Friday as 5.8%. The World Health Organization recommends that governments take reopening steps if that rate is under 5%; 20 states, plus Washington, D.C., are under that level as of Saturday.
While Maryland determines positivity using tests conducted, Hopkins uses the people tested, meaning individuals who are tested multiple times, regardless of their results, are counted only once in the university’s calculation.
In a tweet Saturday, Gov. Larry Hogan celebrated the decline in the state’s positivity rate but said, “It remains critical for Marylanders to continue practicing the basic habits that we know will slow the spread of this virus.” He encouraged people to get tested at one of the state’s more than 220 sites.
The state’s data, as of Friday, showed that only one of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions has a positivity rate above 5%: Somerset County, with 5.22%. That county has seen 341 cases total and four deaths as of Saturday.
The majority of cases in the state have come from its most populous jurisdictions, led by Prince George’s County and followed, in order, by Montgomery County, Baltimore County and Baltimore City. Prince George’s and Montgomery counties together account for over 54,000 of the state’s total cases, or about 41%.
Totals of new daily COVID-19 cases in Maryland reached their highest levels in May, dipped in June before climbing again through July, and have fluctuated since then.
Infectious disease experts warn infections could increase with loosening on travel restrictions. As winter approaches, and along with it the holiday season, they’re urging people to maintain social distancing and avoid large gatherings, particularly ones indoors.
Additionally, with the start of the flu season, experts are calling on everyone to get flu shots, so as to prevent a double outbreak that could overwhelm hospitals. Demand for flu vaccines is up this year, with CVS anticipating giving 18 million shots nationwide, twice the typical number.