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Maryland adds 2,280 new coronavirus cases, 21 new deaths a day after Christmas

Maryland health officials added 2,280 cases of the coronavirus and 21 more deaths Saturday, a day after Christmas and amid a slow in the state’s testing.

Many testing centers were closed Thursday, Friday and Saturday as Marylanders celebrated an irregular holiday clouded by the shadow of the public health crisis. But even as cases and deaths surged both regionally and nationally, and public health guidance cautioned against in-person gatherings and travel, more Marylanders boarded flights out of the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall airport this week than any other point since mid-March, a BWI spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

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Saturday’s figures bring the state’s case tally to at least 265,440 and death toll to 5,514. Maryland’s death rate per 100,000 people is 93, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Data released by the Maryland Department of Health on Saturday show the state’s testing positivity rate at 7.1%, about the same as the day before. The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, which measures positivity rates differently than Maryland, reported the rate at 5.48% on Saturday. The World Health Organization advises governments against lifting restrictions on gatherings, capacity limits and other reopening measures until positivity rates reach 5% or lower for 14 consecutive days.

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Maryland is one of 48 states and U.S. territories with a positivity rate over the recommended 5% threshold, according to Hopkins. To Maryland’s north, Pennsylvania has a positivity rate of over 40%, Hopkins reported Saturday. Other Mid-Atlantic states such as Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey also saw higher positivity rates over the holiday, at 12%, 9.77% and 8.69%, respectively.

As of Saturday, 1,685 people were hospitalized with complications associated with COVID-19, 36 fewer than the day before. The disease caused by the virus has led to 25,717 total hospitalizations since March, when the state health department began tracking the spread of the virus. Of the 1,685 currently hospitalized, 1,261 were being treated in acute care settings, and 424 were in intensive care units. Hospitalization peaked Dec. 15, with 1,799 simultaneous hospitalizations caused by the coronavirus.

The nation reached a major turning point in the coronavirus pandemic last week, when the newly authorized vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNtech began its rollout. Moderna’s vaccine started being distributed on Monday.

So far in Maryland, 18,789 people have been vaccinated — front-line health care workers, nursing home residents and their caretakers among them. The number of vaccinations is expected to grow exponentially in 2021 as production scales.

But medical experts, public health researchers and state officials have cautioned Marylanders to have patience as the vaccine makes its way across the state, and to remain vigilant in slowing the spread of the virus. The illness has swept into all 24 counties in Maryland, with Prince George’s and Montgomery counties experiencing a combined 97,054 infections and 2,086 deaths. Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, Howard County and Frederick County have also seen several thousand cases and hundreds of fatalities.

The pandemic has caused disparate outcomes among the infected along lines of class, race, ethnicity, age and ZIP code, with people of color and low-income individuals tending to fare poorer than White people. In Maryland, Black and Latino populations have been disproportionately struck with disease and death. Black Marylanders account for over 37% of the death toll, despite making up less than 30% of the state’s residents, while Latino Marylanders constitute 17.5% of the cases and less than 10% of the population.

Adults 80 and over account for the vast majority of the fatalities, with at least 2,580 deaths recorded — many of them linked to nursing homes and long-term care facilities. But people in every age range have been sickened with the coronavirus, and at least five children 19 or younger have died from it in Maryland. People in their 20s, 30s and 40s have also been widely infected, accounting for more than 250 of the deaths.

Nationally, cases, deaths and hospitalizations have surged in recent weeks, starting as the weather turned colder and continuing through the holidays. Public health professionals believe Thanksgiving travel and celebrations contributed to December’s spike, which has recorded all-time highs for new infections and deaths recorded in a 24-hour period.

More than 330,000 people in the U.S. have died as a result of the virus as of Saturday, and more than 1 million people have been vaccinated so far.

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