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Maryland confirms 1,083 new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations dip slightly as stay-at-home order set to expire

The Maryland Department of Health reported 1,083 new cases of the coronavirus and 1,496 people hospitalized Friday, hours before the state’s stay-at-home order was set to expire.

Officials said 44 more people had died due to COVID-19 since Thursday, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,792. The total does not include 119 additional fatalities presumed to be a result of the virus, but not yet confirmed by a laboratory test. Maryland has reported 36,986 coronavirus cases to date.

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A “Safer at Home” advisory takes effect at 5 p.m. Friday, which allows people to leave their homes for other reasons aside from essential purposes. The amendment encourages people to practice social distancing in small groups but will not legally enforce possible violations.

The advisory also permits retailers, barber shops, salons and places of worship to reopen at 50% capacity at the discretion of local governments. Several local governments said they would not lift their restrictions yet.

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Gov. Larry Hogan said a decrease in hospitalizations over the last two weeks justified the easing of some of the restrictions on the economy. More than 550,000 Marylanders have filed for unemployment benefits since the outbreak swept into the state in March.

The Republican governor, a real estate developer who often refers to himself as a small businessman, has said previously that his administration seeks to combat the public health crises and the economic fallout at once.

Though hospitalizations have reached their lowest point in two weeks, the number is several hundred higher than a month ago. There were 44 fewer patients hospitalized for the virus Friday than the day before.

About 6,679 people have been hospitalized in Maryland for COVID-19 since the state began tracking the metric at the end of March.

The number of Hispanic Marylanders infected with the virus continued to climb Friday, with 8,229 known cases — more than 20% of all recorded infections. Experts say the actual number is likely even higher, since many Hispanic and Latino residents do not have health insurance and might avoid seeking medical care. Hispanics make up 10% of the state’s population, according to U.S. Census Data.

Black Marylanders continue to lead all other racial and ethnic groups in total cases, with over 11,500.

While the virus infects people in all groups, adults aged 70 and up have died at far higher rates.

Prince George’s and Montgomery counties continue to lead all other Maryland jurisdictions in total cases, with six of their ZIP codes in the state’s top 10. About 18,000 people between the two neighboring counties are known to be infected with the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the governor said Friday that the state had begun ramping up its contact tracing operation, a key component of Hogan’s reopening plan.

In a series of tweets, Mike Ricci said the heath department’s contact tracing partner, the National Opinion Research Center, had expanded the state’s tracing force, with local departments supplementing their ranks with school nurses. The additions bring the total number of tracers up to 350 from 250, he said, with NORC providing 600 more.

The Hogan administration hopes to be able to track more than 1,000 cases and 10,000 contacts daily, Ricci added. The number at tracers at each local health department will reflect the size of each jurisdiction’s population.

The reopening plan also hinges on expanding the state’s testing capacity, supporting hospitals with patient surges and providing more personal protective gear.

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