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COVID-19 In Maryland: Positivity Rate Dips Below 5%, Hospitalizations Just Over 900

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Maryland's COVID-19 positivity rate has fallen below the 5% mark for the first time in nearly three months, according to data released Friday by the Maryland Department of Health.

The seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate dipped to 4.88% over the past 24 hours, a 0.24% decrease since Thursday. The last time the statewide positivity rate was this low was on Nov. 28 when it was 4.75%.

The statewide positivity rate peaked on Jan. 7 when it flirted with 30%.

Even as that metric and COVID-19 hospitalizations keep falling, Gov. Larry Hogan and state officials are encouraging Marylanders to get boosted. As an incentive, the state is rolling out a $2 million lottery.

"While our key health metrics continue to dramatically incline, we are ramping up our efforts to get every Marylander that we can boosted against COVID-19," the governor said Friday. "The goal of our $2 million VaxCash 2.0 Promotion is to reach those people who didn't realize the importance of getting boosted, who are on the fence, or who just haven't gotten around to it yet."

Pointing to the same declining metrics, the governor has called for the Maryland State Board of Education to rescind its policy requiring masks in schools.

Under the existing policy, schools can lift their mask mandates if they meet certain "off-ramp" requirements—if 80% of the county's population is vaccinated, if 80% of the school's students and staff are vaccinated or if the county's transmission rate is "low" or "moderate" for 14 consecutive days.

In a statement, the board said there was optimism about Maryland's improving numbers but noted there are "research-based off-ramps" in place for school systems to lift mask mandates.

"We look forward to the day when this dark COVID cloud has been mitigated. We will continue to listen and work with our State and local partners in continuing this work," the board said in part.

Maryland added 731 more COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases statewide to 968,648 since the pandemic began.

With hospitalizations falling by 73, the number of COVID-19 patients in Maryland hospitals stands at 913. That's down 73% from last month's peak of nearly 3,500.

The statewide death toll rose by 10 over the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 13,615 people who have died of COVID-19 since the outset of the pandemic.

Gov. Hogan has proclaimed this week Healthcare Heroes Appreciation Week and is asking Marylanders to show their gratitude for frontline healthcare workers' tireless efforts throughout the pandemic.

Maryland recently emerged from a 30-day state of emergency issued by Hogan in response to elevated hospitalizations and infections that pushed many hospitals to capacity levels. Yet healthcare leaders say hospitals still face nursing shortages.

Over the past few weeks, Hogan also issued executive orders aimed at shoring up workforces in nursing homes, hospitals and emergency medical services.

Of those currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maryland, 728 are adults in acute care and 171 are adults in intensive care. Eleven children are in acute care and three more are in the ICU, state data show.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 95% of Maryland's adult population has gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 89.6% of Marylanders ages 5 and up have gotten a shot.

There are 4,429,337 Marylanders fully vaccinated and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state has administered 11,185,889 million doses of the vaccine.

Of those, 4,662,089 are first doses, 2,173 in the last 24 hours. Another 4,096,160 are second doses, 3,157 in the past day. A total of 333,177 Marylanders have gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,58 in the past day.

The state has administered 2,094,463 boosters, 5,431 in the past 24 hours.

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