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Hogan warns of surge but holds off on reimposing restrictions

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland will not be subject to increased restrictions — yet — even as state officials say increases in the virus are raising alarms.

Gov. Larry Hogan called on local officials to do more in the way of enforcing existing restrictions, including mask use and social gatherings.

Currently, Allegany and Dorchester counties are seeing some of the highest numbers of cases in the state. Hogan said the state Health Department is establishing a testing center at the fairgrounds in Allegany County.

Maryland Thursday reported an additional 1,198 coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, the most since July 25 and the first time there have been consecutive days of 1,000 or more cases since the end of July.

As of Thursday, Maryland’s rolling seven-day average daily case count was nearly 940 per day, a nearly 22% increase over the same period last week and a 48% increase compared to two weeks ago.

Total hospitalizations, while lower than the spring, have also been steadily climbing.

New infections per 100,000 population in Maryland have been climbing since Sept. 25 and is now at 14.98, according to the state Department of Health. That’s the highest it’s been since Aug. 2, when it was 15.42.

Hogan called on residents of the state to recommit to mask wearing and social distancing and avoid large gatherings.

“Just wear the damn masks,” the governor said.

He also cautioned against large family gatherings just ahead of the holidays.

Hogan, who weeks ago expressed a reluctance to impose severe restrictions used in the spring, did not provide specifics on what would trigger a need to tighten state executive orders.

He also did not provide specifics on why the current situation didn’t call for reimposing some restrictions eased as the state entered phase three of its reopening plan.

Maryland is far from alone in seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases. New confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. have climbed to an all-time high. Cases and hospitalizations are setting records all around the country.

Daily new confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. have surged 45% over the past two weeks, to a record 7-day average of 86,352, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Hogan said Maryland is in a much better position than in the spring and that the state is better prepared than most states to “withstand this next surge.”

“However, I cannot stress strongly enough that we cannot afford to let our guard down,” Hogan said. “The weeks and months ahead will be difficult, and our collective actions will determine whether we can continue safely on the road to recovery and if we can keep Maryland open for business.”

Hogan said the state has built a long-term testing strategy and a robust contact tracing operation. Maryland’s contract tracing operation is nearly 1,400 tracers strong, and the state has kept this operation at full strength to find patterns and identify where and how the virus is spreading.

He also said Maryland has kept in place a hospital surge capacity plan of more than 6,000 beds and continues to keep alternate care sites open, including the Baltimore Convention Center Field Hospital.

Emergency management officials have distributed more than 78 million units of personal protective equipment and have built up a 60-day supply of the most critical resources, Hogan said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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