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Maryland reports 2,168 new coronavirus cases as rural counties continue to see surge

Maryland reported 2,168 new coronavirus cases Sunday and 18 deaths tied to COVID-19, the disease the virus causes, as data shows growing infection rates in rural areas ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

The state has reported 2,000 or more new cases in seven of the past nine days — a number not seen before this period. The state has now seen 1,000 or more cases reported for 18 straight days.

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The state also reported 1,237 people hospitalized with the virus, up from 1,229 Saturday. Hospitalizations have more than tripled since early October. With some hospitals reaching capacity, Maryland officials have ramped up a program to transfer patients between facilities.

Among those hospitalized, 268 required intensive care, down from 278 Saturday, while 18 more people were placed in acute care units for a total of 969 patients. ICU hospitalizations have more than doubled since the beginning of November.

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The new data brings the state to a total of 182,139 confirmed virus cases and 4,279 deaths since March. There has been an increase in demand for testing as the virus has surged, leaving long lines for testing at times in Baltimore and other jurisdictions.

On CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said that the state is still concerned about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday potentially exacerbating the surge. He and other officials have urged residents to skip large family gatherings for quiet dinners at home.

“We are pretty worried about it,” he said. “Our contact tracing shows that family gatherings [are] the No. 1 transmission event and it is just because you feel so comfortable.”

He said he was encouraged by a AAA survey that found that nearly 90% of state residents planned on staying home for the holiday.

“I think that this is a good thing because we are in the worst part of this crisis,” the Republican said.

As Maryland continues to set record highs in daily cases in November, the state is also testing at a record rate.

Maryland reported 49,894 completed tests Sunday, the second-highest daily total for the pandemic, behind only Saturday’s record of 51,495. More than 40,000 tests have been completed each of the past four days — a mark the state had never previously reached during the pandemic.

The state’s seven-day testing positivity rate was 6.82%, down from 7.13% Saturday. That figure stood at 4.54% just two weeks ago.

Statistics show the pandemic is continuing to disproportionately affect the state’s rural areas. Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties in Western Maryland, along with Somerset County on the Eastern Shore, have the highest rates of infection per 100,000 people in the state.

Allegany County, a rural county of 70,000 people that includes Frostburg State University, reported 139 new cases Sunday for a total of 2,421. The county now has a rate of 154.59 cases per 100,000 people, far and away the highest in the state.

The ZIP code in which the university is located, 21531, reported 29 new cases Sunday for a total 617. The region of roughly 15,000 people, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, has reported 187 cases in the past week alone.

Garrett County, the state’s westernmost jurisdiction with roughly 29,000 people, reported 26 new cases for a total of 496. The county has reported 346 cases in November and has a rate of 96.51 cases per 100,000 people as of Sunday.

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Somerset County, a rural county of about 26,000 people on the Eastern Shore, reported 15 new cases for a total of 742.

The county’s infection rate has skyrocketed in recent weeks, as officials have reported 303 cases this month. As of Sunday, the county has an infection rate of 108.75 cases per 100,000 people, the second-highest in the state.

Washington County, just east of Allegany County, has the fourth-highest infection rate per 100,000 people in the state, 52.4 cases, after it reported 92 new cases Sunday for a total of 3,601.

The county of roughly 151,000 people has reported 1,223 cases since Nov. 1, or more than one-third of its total case count since mid-March.

Officials reported that 61.3% of cases, 1,329, came from five jurisdictions within the heavily populated Baltimore-Washington 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 272 cases from Allegany, Garrett, Somerset and Washington counties represent 12.55% of the state’s total cases while only representing 4.57% of the state’s population of roughly 6 million people.

Baltimore County, the state’s third-most populated county with about 827,000 people, reported 354 cases Sunday, the most in the state. The county has reported 26,967 cases since mid-March.

White residents, who represent about half of the state’s population, are continuing to make up a larger portion of the outbreak.

Statistics show that about 45.31% of the 31,194 cases reported since Nov. 1 with racial data available were from white residents, or 14,134 cases.

Back in April, Black and Hispanic/Latino residents were more disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Since Nov. 1, the two demographics represent about 47.32% of cases reported, or 14,763.

Overall, the pandemic has disproportionately affected the state’s Black and Latino populations. Nearly 58.2% of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases where information on race was available, 90,590, 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 34.19% of all confirmed cases with 53,248.

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