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Maryland adds 775 coronavirus cases Saturday, as positivity rate climbs above 4% again

Maryland officials announced 775 new cases of the coronavirus and 11 new deaths Saturday, and reported an increased positivity rate of just over 4%.

The additions bring the state’s totals of confirmed cases to 94,581 and of deaths to 3,440. The state has completed nearly 1.4 million tests, with over 20,800 more announced Saturday. Maryland has now tested more than 1 million residents, with about 9% having received at least one positive result.

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The state’s reported average seven-day testing postivity rate of 4.03% is up slightly from Friday, when the rate was under 4% for the first time after several consecutive weeks of decline.

The Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus research center, which tracks positivity rates across the country with a different formula from Maryland’s, measured the state’s rate at 5.7% through Friday’s data, one of 35 states with a rate above 5%. Maryland calculates positivity rate using the number of positive tests divided by total testing volume, whereas Hopkins’ rate is determined using the number of people with confirmed cases divided by the number of people tested, meaning individuals receiving multiple positive or negative tests are counted only once in the calculation.

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The World Health Organization recommends 14 straight days with a positivity rate beneath 5% before beginning lifting virus-related restrictions. Maryland’s reported seven-day positivity rate has been under 5% since June 25, though the state expanded its reopening process before hitting that benchmark.

The state’s reported single-day positivity rate of 4.34% gave Maryland 10 straight days with single-day rates below 5%, its longest such streak.

Just over half of Saturday’s new cases, 390, were in residents at least 10 years old but younger than 40. The state reported that the seven-day average positivity rate for those younger than 35 years old was 5.38%, more than two percentage points higher than those older than that age.

The positivity rate remains an important factor for officials determining whether to roll back restrictions and reopen businesses. However, nationally and in Maryland, reports of delayed testing resulted in a slower turnaround time results, reducing the benefits of testing and contact tracing. Many residents have waited longer than the recommended 48-hour time frame.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines recommend that states don’t enter a third phase of reopening until they experience a positivity rate under 10% for two weeks with a median time of test order-to-result of two days or less. Maryland has not released any information on test return times.

Baltimore counted another 136 cases Saturday for a total of 12,375. The city’s positivity rate remains above the state’s, at 5.32%, according to the state data. Prince George’s County, with a rate of 5.97%, and Worcester County, at 6.1%, are the only jurisdictions with higher positivity rates as of Saturday. Baltimore County is close behind Baltimore with 5.1%.

On Friday, U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams urged residents to wear face masks, wash their hands and maintain social distance.

“Baltimore is not quite in the red,” he said. “We have an opportunity now to either turn things back in a positive direction or to see things continue to go in a negative direction. The power to reopen really lies in each of our hands.”

The same day, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced loosened restrictions on restaurants to allow them to resume indoor dining at 25% capacity. Religious services, stores, casinos and indoor recreation establishments, such as bowling alleys, will be capped at 25% occupancy. The city also capped other indoor and outdoor gatherings at 25 people.

Some have criticized the mayor’s decision as too risky. A group of Fells Point restaurant owners said that although the indoor dining ban was lifted, they do not feel comfortable reopening indoor seating.

“Now is just not the time to be having people inside,” said City Councilman Zeke Cohen, who represents the district and praised the businesses’ decision. “We should be restricting more, not opening up more.”

Worcester County, home to the resort town of Ocean City, which sees its population swell in the summer months, has seen an increase in cases. The county had 682 total confirmed cases Saturday, an increase of more than double after reporting 306 infections at this point last month.

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On Saturday, state health officials also reported that there are 515 hospitalizations, down by 13 since Friday, and 127 are in intensive care, down by eight since Friday.

The state does not have race data available for almost 16% of its cases. Of those it does, about 37% of the infected are Black, about 30% are Hispanic and about 26% are white. Comparatively, those groups represent 31.1%, 10.6% and 58.5% of Maryland’s overall population, respectively.

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