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Maryland Reports Largest Rise Yet In Coronavirus Cases 4 Days After Reopening

The Maryland Department of Health reported 1,784 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, setting a new high mark four days after the state began reopening its economy. Maryland is now reporting 41,546 cases, including nearly 2,000 people who have died from the disease.

Along with the new positive tests, 5,368 people tested negative for the coronavirus in the 24 hours leading up to 10 a.m. ET — meaning roughly 25% of the 7,152 tests in that period resulted in positive diagnoses.

The spike in new cases comes more than two weeks after Maryland's previous high of 1,730 cases, The Baltimore Sun reported.

The overall number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Maryland fell by 26 to 1,421, the health department said. Of that number, 537 people are in intensive care.

Maryland remains under a state of emergency. But as of Friday afternoon, retailers, hair salons and churches were allowed to reopen at 50% of their maximum occupancy under a "Safer at Home" policy.

When Gov. Larry Hogan set May 15 as Maryland's reopening day, he said in an executive order that he was easing the shutdown because two key statistics — total hospitalizations and the use of hospital beds — were either stable or decreasing.

In that order from last week, Hogan said Maryland was able "to trace the contacts of up to 1,000 new cases per day" — a mark far surpassed by Tuesday's testing results.

Hours after the coronavirus numbers were released, Hogan announced a new push to increase testing in Maryland, dropping criteria and issuing an emergency order to allow licensed pharmacists to order and conduct tests.

"Beginning this week, we are able to offer appointment-free #COVID19 testing across the state, including for those who do not have symptoms, marking a critical milestone in Maryland's long-term testing strategy," Hogan said via Twitter.

He added, "We are also authorizing and actively encouraging the state's hundreds of pharmacies to directly order and administer #COVID19 tests."

Many of Maryland's cases are along a broad corridor stretching from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore. More than 12,000 cases have been confirmed in Prince George's County, east of the District. Montgomery County, which includes Bethesda, has nearly 9,000 cases. Baltimore County has nearly 5,000.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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