Maryland reported 892 new coronavirus cases and 10 new deaths Thursday, and hospitalizations have increased for the third straight day, as the state prepares to institute new mask requirements and a travel advisory for certain states.
The total number of cases in Maryland has reached 87,177 and 3,357 people have been killed by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, as of Thursday. While the number of people currently hospitalized has dropped significantly since the peak in April, that number rose by 14 cases from the previous day to 585.
As the U.S. continues to grapple with outbreaks amid reopening efforts across the country, Maryland has seen more than 500 new cases a day for more than two weeks, and the state surpassed 1,000 new cases per day twice in the past week.
According to the state health department, Maryland’s average positivity rate dropped to 4.57% from 4.77% on Wednesday, when Gov. Larry Hogan issued orders expanding mask-wearing requirements and advising against travel to certain states with high positivity rates.
Hogan said it was time for a “‘stop sign’ in further reopening plans” and that the state would not move into the next phase of reopening until it was “prudent” to do so.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, everyone older than 5 must wear masks inside all public buildings, including restaurants, houses of worship, gyms, casinos, stores and office buildings. That order will supersede an April requirement for masks inside grocery stores, pharmacies and on public transit.
Masks also will be required outdoors whenever it is not possible to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from others.
Johns Hopkins, which calculates the positivity rate differently, says Maryland’s rate is 6.36%, and includes Maryland toward the bottom of a list of 32 states with higher than the 5% positivity rate.
The World Health Organization recommends 14 straight days where the rolling average positivity rate is under 5% before governments begin easing virus-related restrictions.
Maryland calculates its positivity rate by dividing the number of positive tests by the total testing volume over a seven-day period. Hopkins uses the number of people tested, or the combination of new cases and people who tested negative.
The state says it has conducted 1.19 million tests, and 806,788 people have tested negative.
Three Maryland jurisdictions — Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County — have seven-day average testing positivity rates above the recommended 5% rate as of Thursday. Baltimore’s positivity rate was 6.07%, Baltimore County’s rate was 5.59%, and Prince George’s was 5.96%, according to the state.
Montgomery County, an early hotspot for outbreaks, has seen its positivity rate drop to 3.64%. But the Washington suburb’s 17,397 cases represent nearly 20% of the state’s total and remains second in total cases only to Prince George’s County’s 22,183 as of Thursday.
Baltimore County had the third-highest total Thursday, with 11,615 cases, and Baltimore City was fourth, with just over 11,000.
Of the 585 people currently hospitalized, 446 are in acute care, up 20 patients from Wednesday, and 139 are in intensive care, down six from the day before. The total number of people ever hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maryland has reached 12,500, and 5,592 have been released from isolation.
The state announced three new coronavirus testing sites Thursday, including a one-time drive-thru testing event at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen on Aug. 4. The Ocean City Convention Center will also open for drive-thru testing this weekend, and Cecil County will begin administering tests at a vehicle emission inspection site Tuesday.
The virus most severely affects older people and those with pre-existing conditions and compromised immune systems, but people ages 20-59 continue to represent the bulk of Maryland’s cases.
The more than 5,000 cases in people over age 80 accounted for only about 6% of Maryland’s cases, according to state data, but three in 10 of those cases were fatal.
By contrast, people in their 20s, 30s and 40s represent more than half of the cases and less than 1% of the deaths, according to state data.
Blacks and Latinos, who represent less than half of Maryland’s population, continue to see a disproportionate number of cases. Maryland is about 60% white, 30% Black and 10% Latino.
Black people accounted for 37% of the Maryland coronavirus patients whose race was known, and 5% of those patients died from the virus, according to state data.
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Latino patients represented 29% of the state’s coronavirus cases for which the patient’s race was known. About 2% of those cases were fatal.
White people represented 26% of the state’s cases, with roughly 7% of those cases resulting in death.
The state’s official coronavirus death toll does not include an additional 131 victims whose infections weren’t confirmed by a laboratory test. That number stayed the same from Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the number of jobless claims in Maryland dropped again last week to 23,893, according to the state.
While that number is down by more than 9,400 from the prior week, it remains exponentially higher than before Hogan ordered people to stay home and all nonessential workplaces closed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Only 2,090 jobless claims were filed the week ending March 7, before most Maryland businesses closed in response to the pandemic.
Baltimore Sun reporters Pamela Wood and Jeff Barker contributed to this article.