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Maryland reports 408 new coronavirus cases amid state reopening, as positivity rate continues decline

Maryland officials on Saturday reported 408 new coronavirus cases — a slight uptick from the previous couple of days as the state’s testing positivity rate continues to decline.

The state has confirmed 63,956 total cases of COVID-19 since it started collecting data in March.

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Maryland’s fatality toll from the illness has reached 2,923 after officials reported 22 more deaths since Friday, when 15 deaths were recorded. A total of 129 more people have probably died due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but laboratory results to confirm their diagnosis are pending.

Hospitalizations continue to trend downward since the end of May. State officials say 644 Marylanders are hospitalized for the virus, with 238 of them in intensive care.

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Maryland’s testing positivity rate is 5.19%, down from a previous rate of 5.41%. A total of 398,324 people have tested negative for the virus, officials said, adding more than 8,000 negative tests in the previous 24 hours. The total number of COVID-10 tests reported statewide has increased to 555,874.

Saturday’s results come within two weeks after Gov. Larry Hogan enacted the second phase of his three-stage plan for gradually reopening Maryland. Hogan says the state is making progress, and that his decisions are in compliance to guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend reopenings after two weeks of a positivity rate below 15%.

To enter a third phase, the CDC’s official recommendation is for states to wait until they have 14 days of positivity rates under 10% with an average of two days or less for the return of test results.

The highest number of COVID-19 cases continue to show up among residents ranging in age from 30 to 59, but almost half of the state’s fatalities are recorded among people 80 and older. The infection rate reported in Maryland nursing homes in late May was one of the highest known in the nation, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

An analysis by The Baltimore Sun found the pandemic’s toll on the state’s nursing homes and other elder care centers was underreported this month. When the illness passed through nursing homes in March and April, health regulators couldn’t conduct in-person inspections for more than a month due to a lack of personal protective equipment for the investigators to wear.

State health officials have nonetheless provided emergency support and have ensured nursing homes have emergency plans in place for infection control practices. Hogan, a Republican, recently lifted restrictions to begin safely allowing limited outdoor visitation to certain nursing homes in accordance with protocols established by the state health department.

Hogan also announced that state health officials will now require weekly retesting of nursing home staff. Residents will be retested weekly at facilities that continue to report facility-acquired COVID-19 cases. There are active COVID-19 cases in 107 of the state’s facilities currently, officials said.

“As our state continues on the road to recovery, this Father’s Day weekend we are able to begin safely allowing outdoor visits to certain nursing homes,” Hogan said in a statement. “This is made possible by our early and aggressive actions to slow the spread of the virus, and the tremendous efforts of doctors, nurses, and especially nursing home staff across the state.”

Black people, meanwhile, make up the majority of confirmed cases, followed closely by Hispanic Marylanders. A majority of the fatalities come from the state’s black and white communities.

The majority of the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases and fatalities are located in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, followed by Baltimore County and Baltimore City. Hogan has left it up to local officials to decide when to lift restrictions in their communities, leaving some jurisdictions, including the aforementioned, to adopt slower reopening plans than the state.

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