BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland’s COVID-19 hospitalizations fell below the 3,000-mark for the first time since earlier this month as its positivity rate has dipped to 18%, according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Health.

Yet even as key metrics fall, local healthcare leaders are warning Marylanders not to let their guard down as the potential exists for those figures to climb once again.

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Hospitalizations fell by 68, bringing the total of COVID-19 patients in Maryland to 2,983. Of those hospitalized, 2,423 are adults in acute care and 523 are adults in the ICU, while 28 children are in acute care and nine are in the ICU.

With the state reporting an additional 8,897 COVID-19 cases, a total of 922,361 cases have been confirmed in Maryland since the outset of the pandemic.

The statewide positivity rate stands at 18%, a 0.85% drop compared to Wednesday. That’s a significant drop from the nearly 30% positivity rate recorded Jan. 7.

An additional 70 deaths were reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the state’s death toll to 12,684 since the pandemic reached Maryland.

Maryland is in the midst of a 30-day state of emergency issued this month by Gov. Larry Hogan in response to surging infections and hospitalizations, which pushed several hospitals to near- or at-capacity levels. Hogan is expected to provide an update on the state of emergency Thursday afternoon.

Appearing Sunday on CBS News’ Face The Nation, the governor acknowledged that hospitalizations and the positivity rate have faded over the past few days but was reluctant to call it a downward trend.

Last week, the governor announced the state would distribute 20 million N95 and KN95 masks through health departments and other partners across the state.

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Hogan has attributed the surge in cases to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, which he previously said is “now clearly the dominant variant among our state’s lab-confirmed cases.”

In recent weeks, the state has ramped up its testing operations in an effort to keep up with public demand. That includes opening 20 new testing sites statewide with support from the Maryland National Guard.

Hospitals statewide have freed up beds and scaled back non-emergency procedures, with 14 shifting to crisis standards of care, in response to the COVID-19 surge.

Hogan issued an executive order on Jan. 4 empowering the Maryland Department of Health to regulate hospital capacity and resources, and authorizing retired, out-of-state and graduate nurses to practice. Another order shored up EMS response.

There are 4,351,111 Marylanders fully vaccinated and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 93.9% of the state’s adults have gotten at least one dose. Among Marylanders age 5 and older, 88% of residents have gotten at least one does of the vaccine.

The state has administered 10,842,150 doses of the vaccine.

Of those, 4,587,508 are first doses, 6,067 in the last 24 hours. Another 4,020,331 are second doses, 4,803 in the past day. A total of 330,780 Marylanders have gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 111 in the past day.

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The state has administered 1,903,531 boosters, 13,217 in the past 24 hours.

CBS Baltimore Staff