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‘It will be challenging’ to avoid winter COVID restrictions as Maryland's 7-day average of new cases rises for a third week

Maryland has also reported five straight days of no COVID-19 related deaths, the longest streak since March.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland’s seven-day average of new coronavirus cases continued a slow and steady climb Monday, maintaining a slight upward trend in infections for more than three weeks. The measurement shows the average number of new coronavirus cases recorded over the past seven days, a method of more accurately gauging infection trends.

Illustrating Maryland’s COVID climb, on September 26 the state averaged 461 new cases of the virus per day. By Monday, the number grew to 613 cases, a 33% increase.

With coronavirus restrictions returning in parts of the United States and Europe, doctors in Maryland said it was difficult to directly attribute the new rise in cases to any single factor. But experts did offer observed behavior and visuals that may point to a larger narrative at work, precisely when the nation needs to gird itself for winter.

“I think across the nation and here in Maryland, we're experiencing pandemic fatigue,” Dr. Mona Gahunia, an infectious disease physician with Kaiser Permanente, said. “We need to dig very deep right now with the simple measures we’ve been saying for months, and that also includes now getting a flu shot asap.”

Dr. Clifford Mitchell, director of the Environmental Health Bureau in the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, echoed concerns that sentiments of fatigue may lead to potential risk points for the state.

“We’re still getting sustained complaints about people not complying with social distancing, or wearing their facial coverings, in a variety of different venues,” Mitchell said. “It appears to be harder for some people to keep complying with CDC recommendations and guidelines from the department.”

RELATED: Coronavirus updates: Maryland sees upward trend for third-straight week

Yet virus data did reveal cause for relative optimism in Maryland, with five straight days of no COVID-19 related deaths recorded state-wide. The streak is the longest since March, with patient ages, infection acuity, and number of cases contributing to the dynamic, doctors said.

“There's a difference in the patients who're actually getting infected, from the beginning of the pandemic to now,” Gahunia said. “We're seeing a lot more younger people with infections now, and the good news with that is, they’re relatively healthier.”

Mitchell expressed optimism with the robust testing infrastructure constructed across the state, and said Maryland could avoid a return of social restrictions this winter, if the public’s resolve does not waver.

“It will be challenging,” Mitchell began. “The virus is relentless. But if we can maintain resolve as a state, then I think we have a possibility of maintaining a degree of control over this.”

RELATED: As COVID cases rise, nursing homes fear deaths could spike again

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