May 11, 2020

By Wilborn P. Nobles III
Baltimore Sun |
May 09, 2020 | 7:09 PM

Maryland health department officials reported 1,049 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Saturday, a slightly lower count than the previous day, bringing the state total to 31,534.

The state’s total pandemic fatality count reached 1,510 after officials reported 57 new deaths from the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus. An additional 104 deaths are believed to be caused by the virus, but have not been not confirmed by a laboratory test.
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The state reported 1,665 hospitalizations — the second day in a row that hospitalizations have declined by nine — with 575 patients requiring intensive care. The number of ICU patients was up by four since Friday.

A total of 2,159 patients have been released from isolation.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has outlined a three-stage reopening plan, but it would occur only after the state sees two weeks of declines in the number of new deaths and cases requiring hospitalization and intensive care. During an interview Thursday with the website Barstool Sports, Hogan said officials will focus on restarting businesses and jobs requiring “low touch,” or minimal, direct contact between people as the state reaches a more manageable caseload.

The state has reported more total cases in the 40-49 age group than those over 80, but the latter group still far outnumbers the former in confirmed fatalities. The case data shows nursing homes and assisted living facilities have become epicenters of COVID-19 cases and deaths here and across the country.

Hogan has committed to universal testing at the facilities, and Mike Ricci, a spokesman for the governor, said the state deployed 3,100 tests for nursing home residents and staffers over the week, with 850 more swabs planned for the weekend. There are 16,000 nursing home residents and 36,000 staffers across the state, according to the Health Facilities Association of Maryland.
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Black residents continue to outpace other reported racial and ethnic groups in cases with more than 10,000, while white residents account for 6,976 of the cases in which the race is known. Hispanic and Asian residents make up a total of to a total of 6,337 and 647 of those cases, respectively. Nearly the same number of white and black patients have died, with 622 and 611, respectively — though black Marylanders make up about 31% of the state’s population.

Prince George’s County continues to lead all other Maryland jurisdictions in total cases, with more than 9,205. Montgomery County has the second highest tally in the state, followed by Baltimore County and Baltimore City.

Prince George’s County reported an additional 304 Saturday. Cases are also up by 267 in Baltimore City while Montgomery County reported an additional 239. In the Baltimore region, Baltimore’s 21224 ZIP code, encompassing Canton, Highlandtown, Bayview, Greektown and O’Donnell Heights, reported the highest number of cases at 458, surpassing Baltimore’s 21215 ZIP code by one case.

Ocean City, where the beaches and boardwalk will open to visitors Saturday, reported 13 cases on Friday, but data on the latest total out of ZIP code 21842 wasn’t immediately available online. Ocean City is located in Worcester County, which added 4 cases since Thursday, pushing the count there to 102.

Meanwhile, a Democratic state delegate from Montgomery County is raising questions about whether the 500,000 COVID-19 test kits Hogan helped the state acquire from South Korea last month have been distributed.

Del. Kirill Reznik sent a letter to Maryland Department of Health Secretary Robert Neall Saturday expressing concern “there has been no indication” that the kits, which in Reznik’s words were acquired “to great fanfare,” have been dispersed for use. He also questioned the wisdom of making the purchase in the first place, citing recent media reports that there actually was no shortage of such kits and that the most pressing need remains the chemical reagents that are to be used with them.

Reznik asked that the administration clarify whether the kits have in fact been dispersed and, if they have, to share the details of the distribution publicly.

Ricci said Saturday evening that the delegate’s letter was “wildly off base.” He said there are many indications that the tests have been dispersed, pointing to Hogan’s April 29 announcement of universal testing in nursing homes and a new screening site for poultry plant workers in Salisbury.

He also noted that the state partnered with two private labs that each have about 20,000 swabs on hand to conduct tests.

“Far from ‘sitting’ on any tests, the state is actively deploying them to help save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Ricci wrote in an email.

He did not breakdown exactly how many tests have been distributed and where.

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