COVID-19 transmission soars over New Year’s in Maryland; positivity rate climbs to 26%

·2 min read

BALTIMORE — While Maryland health officials weren’t reporting COVID-19 data on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, the state’s metrics were soaring to nearly unprecedented heights, according to the state’s online data.

By Sunday, the seven-day average positivity rate had reached 26.09%, nearly equaling levels from the very beginning of the pandemic, when tests were very scarce. The rate could be an indication of the rapid transmission of the virus’s omicron variant in Maryland — and that more testing is needed.

More than 400 people were hospitalized with the virus while the data was offline during the New Year’s holiday, and 113 people died from the virus.

By Sunday, a new record of 2,550 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. The numbers have crippled hospitals and their emergency departments.

Between Dec. 31 and Jan. 2, more than 36,000 new cases were reported in Maryland. Sunday, the state’s seven-day average case rate was 174 per 100,000 people, far beyond the virus’s previous peak at this time last year, during which the case rate topped out at 53 per 100,000 people.

Localities have scrambled to stand up new coronavirus testing sites amid the overwhelming wave of infections, as hospitals have cancelled non-urgent surgeries and struggled to make room for the influx of patients. Meanwhile, the state Department of Education has insisted schools should resume in-person instruction Monday at the conclusion of winter breaks. The state has yet to institute any sweeping new restrictions, although many local counties have reinstated face mask mandates for indoor public locations.

In an email, Maryland Department of Health spokesman Andy Owen highlighted funding allocations made by the state to combat the surge.

“As Governor Hogan announced on Dec. 21, the state has committed $100M in additional funding to support hospitals and nursing homes as they deal with the current surge, and we are taking a series of actions to support additional demand for testing. Just this past Friday, the state opened two new major testing sites in Anne Arundel and Harford counties,” Owen wrote.

In sum, 11,632 Marylanders have died from COVID-19, and the state has reported more than 730,000 cases, many of them in the last few weeks.

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