Maryland reported 1,840 new cases of the coronavirus and nine more deaths Sunday as new cases continued to surge in Western Maryland and in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., corridor.
Sunday’s additions bring the state’s total to 165,930 cases of COVID-19 and at least 4,153 people who have died due to the illness or complications from it since mid-March.
As of Sunday, 938 people in Maryland were hospitalized due to complications from COVID-19, 17 more than Saturday.
According to health officials, 20 more virus patients were placed into intensive care units, bringing the ICU total to 238. The state has seen the number of intensive care patients rise steadily this month, up from 127 on Nov. 1.
The statewide seven-day average testing positivity rate was 6.57% Sunday, 0.41 percentage points higher than Saturday.
Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, which recently changed its methodology for tracking positive cases to include all viral tests performed, had the state’s rate at 5.40%, one of 42 states above 5%.
The World Health Organization recommends that governments wait until their jurisdictions experience positivity rates below 5% for 14 consecutive days before easing restrictions on businesses and gatherings.
Maryland is now reporting its highest positivity rates since mid-June, when the rate was declining while the state increased testing capacity. The state has not seen a daily positivity rate below 5% since Nov. 7, when it was at 4.21%.
While statistics show the majority of cases originate from the populated Baltimore-Washington, D.C., metropolitan corridor, infection rates show that Western Maryland is undergoing an outbreak disproportionately larger than the rest of the state.
Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties — the three jurisdictions in Western Maryland that border West Virginia and Pennsylvania — now have the state’s top three infection rates as calculated by cases per 100,000 people based on a seven-day average.
Allegany County — a largely rural jurisdiction with a population of roughly 70,000 people — reported 86 new cases Sunday for a total of 1,606.
The county has reported more than half of its total cases, 831, since Nov. 1 and now has an infection rate of more than 100 cases per 100,000 people. The county’s seven-day average positivity rate is at 13.31% as of Sunday, the second-highest in the state.
Frostburg State University, which is in Allegany County, moved in-person classes to remote learning for the rest of the semester last week. The ZIP code in which the college is located, 21532, reported 29 new cases Sunday for a total of 430, more than one-quarter of the county’s reported cases.
Garrett County, the state’s largely rural westernmost jurisdiction with roughly 29,000 people, reported 31 new cases Sunday for a total of 305.
While the county’s total case number does not compare with more populated areas, its rate of infection has soared this month to 49.24 cases per 100,000 people after being as low as 10.83 cases per 100,000 people as recently as Nov. 3.
The spike in new cases also has caused the county’s seven-day average positivity rate to surge to 14.15%, compared with 6.04% on Nov. 9. It was the state’s highest infection rate Sunday.
Washington County, just east of Allegany County. now has the third-highest infection rate per 100,000 people in the state, 37.64 cases, after it reported 83 new cases Sunday for a total of 3,038.
The county of roughly 151,000 people has reported 660 cases since Nov. 1, or nearly 22% of its total case count since mid-March.
The county’s seven-day average positivity rate was 8.43% Sunday, the state’s fifth-highest rate state behind Garrett, Allegany, Somerset (9.71%) and Prince George’s counties (8.46%).
Baltimore County reported the highest number of cases Sunday with 272, with its seven-day average positivity rate also rising to 6.93%.
Officials reported that about 65% of cases, 1,199, came from five jurisdictions within the populated Baltimore-Washington, D.C., corridor: Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties as well as Baltimore City. Roughly 65.5% of the state’s population lives in those jurisdictions.
For comparison, the 200 cases from Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties are about 10.87% of the state’s total cases, while the three jurisdictions only represent about 4.13% of Maryland’s overall population.
The pandemic continues to disproportionately affect the state’s Black and Latino populations. Nearly 59.4% of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases where information on race was available, 84,191, were found in Black or Hispanic residents. The two demographic groups represent less than half the state’s population.
In comparison, white residents — who constitute more than 58% of the state’s population, or about 50% when accounting for those who also identify as Hispanic or Latino — represented about 33% of all confirmed cases with 46,745.