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Maryland coronavirus hospitalizations hit highest total since early August

The number of people hospitalized in Maryland due to complications from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, reached their highest total since early August on Wednesday as the state reported 684 new coronavirus cases and seven new deaths.

Current hospitalizations jumped by 30 to 501 Wednesday. The state has seen a steady increase in hospitalizations since late September, when there was a low of 281 people hospitalized. Among those hospitalized, 114 needed intensive care, nine more than Tuesday.

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The state’s ICU hospitalizations have trended upward since Sept. 20, when 68 people required ICU care. Wednesday marked the 16th straight day at least 100 people required intensive care.

Maryland and Washington, D.C., joined 43 states that have seen cases spike in the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center. No states are seeing a decrease, while the remaining six are essentially flat for the past week.

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Research indicates that cooler fall and winter weather may spread the virus more easily, especially with more indoor gatherings. Experts also warn “pandemic fatigue” could lead to an uptick in cases.

Wednesday’s batch of new numbers brought the state to a total of 142,425 confirmed cases and 3,969 deaths since March.

The data come a day after the state reported its highest number of new daily cases since Aug. 9. Maryland has seen the 15th-most deaths and the 31st-most virus cases among states, according to Hopkins' data.

The state also released its latest batch of contact tracing data, indicating smaller gatherings may be driving the virus’ spread in Maryland.

Among contact-traced cases between Oct. 18 and Saturday, 62% of people said they did not attend a gathering of 10 or more people, higher than the cumulative tracing data. About half went to one or more high-risk location, while 29% did not go to a high-risk location.

The state defines high-risk locations as places where there is “prolonged exposure to other people” — including stores, weddings, parties and restaurants. In September, Gov. Larry Hogan allowed indoor restaurants to open their doors to 75% capacity.

The two-week average of new daily cases has spiked this month, growing from 488 Sept. 30 to 679 Wednesday.

Cases among younger people continued to increase, with 35% of Wednesday’s new cases coming among Marylanders in their 20s and 30s, and more than half coming from those in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Among Marylanders reported Wednesday to have died from the virus, all were at least 60-years-old, including three age 80 or older.

Black Marylanders, who have been killed disproportionately by the virus, made up most of the deaths reported Wednesday. Black residents make up 31% of the state’s population but have accounted for about 41% of deaths since the virus came to Maryland in March.

Black and Latino residents have made up about 61% of cases in which race is known thus far even though they make up less than half the state’s population.

Maryland’s seven-day positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests returning positive over a week, was 3.36% Wednesday, essentially flat from Tuesday.

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Hopkins' calculation of the rolling positivity rate was 2.64% as of Tuesday, up slightly from 2.55% as of Monday. Hopkins' data provider recently changed its positivity rate calculation, which significantly reduced the value for the metric it reported.

Currently, the state measures its positivity rate by taking the percentage of positive tests out of the total number of tests. Hopkins uses a metric that divides the number of new cases divided by the total number of tests.

Prince George’s and Montgomery counties continued to drive a significant number of the new cases, accounting for about 40% of cases reported Wednesday.

Prince George’s has had the most cases per capita statewide thus far during the pandemic, followed by Baltimore City, Baltimore, Dorchester and Montgomery counties, respectively, according to The Baltimore Sun’s coronavirus data as of Tuesday.

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