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Maryland sees large jump in coronavirus cases, but hospitalizations are down slightly

The Sun’s health reporter Meredith Cohn on how you go about getting tested for COVID-19 and the survival rate of patients that are put on ventilators.

Maryland reported 1,730 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Friday — the largest single-day increase by far since the outbreak began — though state officials have cautioned they expect case numbers to rise as testing becomes more available.

In an indication Friday that the state’s testing capabilities are expanding, the state reported 4,894 negative tests, the fourth highest number yet. Mike Ricci, spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, said a backlog of tests reported from an outpatient facility also contributed to the spike in new cases.

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Meanwhile, the total number of people hospitalized declined for the first time in six days, though new hospitalizations ticked up slightly. State officials are closely watching the hospitalization numbers, which are considered a key factor in deciding when to ease restrictions.

Hogan has said Maryland will not begin to lift restrictions on gatherings, businesses, nonessential travel and other activities until the state sees a consistent trend of fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive-care unit admissions.

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“We are watching these numbers very closely on a daily basis," Hogan said at a news conference last week. "When we start seeing a downward trajectory or a consistent plateauing of those metrics, that can put us in a position to consider lifting the stay-at-home order and beginning our gradual, safe, and effective recovery plan.”

While deaths have been trending down for a couple of days, the 51 new deaths reported Friday from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, still marked the state’s sixth deadliest day. Maryland’s total death toll is 1,098. Officials added another probable death, meaning the infection wasn’t confirmed by a laboratory test, bringing that count to 94.

The number of people currently hospitalized offered a glimmer of encouragement, dipping 2.5% from Thursday’s peak to 1,668. However, the number newly hospitalized ticked up to 159.

Of those people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 1,100 are in acute care and 568 are in intensive care, the state reported.

Maryland has not yet seen the number of new confirmed cases drop for three consecutive days, with the most recent two-day drop reported on April 19.

However, the number of people released from isolation is rising. Eighty-five more patients were released as of Friday, bringing the total number to 1,517. That’s a nearly 6% increase from the 1,432 released from isolation as of Thursday.

People ages 65 and older, as well as those with pre-existing conditions and compromised immune systems, are considered most at-risk of dying from the pandemic.

Nursing home residents accounted for just 14% of the state’s total cases but nearly 48% of the total death toll, as of Friday. Eight nursing home staffers across the state have died from COVID-19, and another 1,489 have tested positive, according to the health department.

But younger people are dying from the disease, too, albeit at a lower rate. As of Friday, at least 118 of the patients who died of COVID-19 deaths in Maryland were between the ages of 20 and 59.

Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have 6,735 and 4,754 confirmed cases, respectively, the most in the state. They were followed by Baltimore County, which had 3,013 cases and Baltimore City, with 2,062.

Wicomico County, on the Eastern Shore, now has the fourth-highest infection rate in the state due to outbreaks associated with the poultry industry. A total of 279 workers in the industry have tested positive for the coronavirus, state officials announced Friday.

Wicomico, home to the Salisbury headquarters of Perdue Farms and other poultry businesses, has 425 confirmed cases and seven deaths among a population of about 103,000 people. The state has set up testing sites at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in Salisbury and in Caroline County, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent a team to the Eastern Shore to help assist with response to the virus.

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Outbreaks at meat processing plants such as Perdue’s have prompted concerns about meat shortages across the country. President Donald Trump signed an executive order this week mandating that processing plants remain open during the remainder of the coronavirus pandemic.

Baltimore Sun reporters Pamela Wood and Hallie Miller contributed to this article.

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