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Maryland reports 1,027 new coronavirus cases as positivity rate declines but remains higher than most states

Maryland has reached a total of 52,015 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as the state’s rate of positive test results continued to decline but remains higher than in most other states.

State officials reported 1,027 new cases of the virus Saturday morning. Maryland’s death toll reached 2,390, with 42 new victims reported. That count excludes 119 deaths probably caused by the virus but not yet confirmed by laboratory tests.

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Officials reported 10,845 new test results Saturday, bringing the state’s testing total to 339,361. About 71% of those tests returned negative. The state is reporting a seven-day rolling positivity rate of 11.6%, ranking Maryland among the states with the highest positivity rates in the nation, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Current hospitalizations, one metric Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration is following closely as it considers whether to reopen the state further, declined by 57 to 1,239. Maryland has 492 cases requiring intensive care, a 19% decline since ICU cases peaked at 611 on May 10. A total of 3,649 people have been released from isolation.

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With the metrics improving, Hogan allowed restaurants to start offering outdoor dining Friday. Camps, pools and some youth sports also may resume operating under limited circumstances.

The state has broadened the criteria for COVID-19 testing to include those who are asymptomatic. Hogan’s office said Saturday it was “encouraging” to see more people getting tested at the state’s nearly 100 testing sites.

“We are encouraged to see so many residents take advantage of our new Six Flags testing site [in Upper Marlboro], and even more encouraged that as our long-term testing strategy progresses, our statewide positivity rate has fallen to its lowest level in more than two months and COVID-19 hospitalizations are at a six-week low," the Republican governor said in a statement.

Hogan’s office noted that Maryland’s positivity rate peaked just below 27% on April 17 and it’s now under 12%.

Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, lauded Maryland for the drop in its positivity rate, but she stressed the state’s rate remains “higher than it needs to be.”

“Maryland has had one of the highest positivities out of most states, it’s been among the highest, so I’m really glad to see progress in bringing down the positivity rate, which means we’re probably expanding testing and that case group is slowing down, but we have more work to do,” Nuzzo said.

Health officials would like to see positivity rates below 5% percent, the rate the World Health Organization advises states and jurisdictions to maintain for two weeks before relaxing any of the measures enacted to reduce infections.

“Most states haven’t reached that positivity yet,” she added.

The rate of positivity is important because it provides insight into whether a community is conducting enough testing to find cases, according to Hopkin’s coronavirus resource center. If a community’s positivity is high, it suggests that community may largely be testing the sickest patients and possibly missing milder or asymptomatic cases. A lower rate may indicate a community is testing more patients with milder or no symptoms, according to Hopkins.

Hopkins researchers have been tracking testing nationwide to gauge the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and to learn whether enough testing is occurring. Hopkins is urging states to report the number of viral tests performed and the number of patients for which these tests were performed. States may not be distinguishing overall tests administered from the number of individuals who have been tested, Hopkins acknowledged, calling that “an important limitation to the data” available to track testing.

Residents 70 and older account for fewer than 15% of Maryland’s infections but 70% of the state’s deaths from the virus. More than half of the state’s cases, 52.9%, are people ages 30 to 59.

Race data is unavailable for about 20% of the state’s cases. Among those whose race was known, nearly 29% of Maryland’s infected residents and about 41% of its victims are black, a group that represents about 30% of the state’s total population. Nearly 25% of the state’s infected residents are Hispanic, a group that represents about 10% of Maryland’s population.

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About half of the state’s cases and about 45% of its fatalities from COVID-19 have been in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Baltimore County ranks third and Baltimore ranks fourth in cases and deaths. Outside of the 21224 ZIP code, which includes Baltimore’s Canton and Highlandtown neighborhoods, all of the state’s top ZIP codes by total cases are in Prince George’s or Montgomery counties.

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