BALTIMORE - On Christmas Eve, Maryland's death toll continued to climb, as the state reported 60 deaths tied to COVID-19, along with 2,866 new coronavirus cases.
Maryland has now seen 976 deaths in December, the highest of any month besides April and May. The state has reported 1,462 deaths so far in November and December - about 27% of the state's overall virus death toll.
Maryland reported 1,760 people hospitalized with virus-related complications Thursday, down from 1,776 Wednesday. Hospitalizations hit a pandemic high of 1,799 last week.
Hospitalizations have skyrocketed since the beginning of November, when 523 people were hospitalized with virus-related complications.
Among people hospitalized, 426 needed intensive care, up from 419 Wednesday and the most since June.
The state now has reported 1,000 or more virus cases for 51 consecutive days and 2,000 or more cases for 27 of the past 30 days, including every day in December. More than 2,000 cases in a day was not reported before mid-November.
The more than 115,000 confirmed cases this month and in November represent about 44% of the state's total cases during the pandemic.
The new numbers come a day after the first Maryland nursing home residents were vaccinated. Pfizer said Wednesday that it agreed to a deal with the federal government to supply 100 million more doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, with an option to provide 400 million more.
Gov. Larry Hogan has urged Marylanders not to gather for the holidays, saying it is a crucial time in fighting the virus.
"You are safer at home for the holidays this year," Hogan said at a news conference last week in Annapolis. "It will save lives."
The new data bring the state to a total of 260,728 confirmed virus cases and 5,462 deaths since March.
The state's reported seven-day positivity rate was 7.12%, down from 7.36% Wednesday.The daily positivity rate reported Thursday was 7.73%.
Two of Western Maryland's hotspot counties saw a sharp dip in case rates, but one continues to see a virus surge.
Washington County now has the highest seven-day average case rate per 100,000 people at 76.7 as of Wednesday, up slightly from Tuesday's data. The county reported 190 new confirmed cases Thursday, more than 2.5% of its pandemic case total in a single day, along with seven more deaths. The county's death toll is now 134 and its seven-day positivity rate was nearly 15% as of Wednesday's data, the highest in the state. No other county had a positivity rate in double digits.
Allegany County, which had the highest seven-day average case rate per 100,000 people of any county ever statewide during the pandemic as of Dec. 6 at 198.41, has seen that case rate dip significantly in recent weeks, now down to 65.73 as of Wednesday. That's still the third-highest in the state and well above the statewide average of 38.03. Allegany County added four new deaths Thursday. The county has now reported about one case per 13.5 residents.
For context, states with a case rate above 20 per 100,000 people landed on Maryland's November travel advisory. Last week, Hogan announced an emergency order requiring state residents traveling out of state and Maryland visitors to get a negative test or quarantine, with exceptions for Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C..
Garrett County, Allegany County's western neighbor, has also seen its seven-day average case rate per 100,000 people dip significantly, falling from 76.81 as of Tuesday to 55.15 as of Wednesday. That case rate was at 122.11 as of Dec. 6.
Baltimore City added 11 new deaths Thursday. The city's seven-day average case rate per 100,000 people was just below the statewide average as of Wednesday, at 35.96.
Among those reported to have died Thursday, all but seven were age 60 or older. The exceptions were two people in their 40s and five in their 50s.
People in their 60s and older have made up more than 87% of deaths in Maryland. Add in people in their 50s and that figure climbs to 95%. Maryland's virus victims have been disproportionately Black.