R.I. fitness clubs fined for refusing to close during two-week COVID-19 ‘pause’

WARREN, R.I. — An owner of fitness clubs in Rhode Island is defying an order from Governor Gina M. Raimondo for all gyms and recreational facilities to close for two weeks as health officials try to slow an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases.



a man holding a phone: The owner of Maxx Fitness Clubzz, Matt D'Amico, leaves his facility in Lincoln on Wednesday. He has decided to stay open despite the governor's orders for fitness clubs to close for two week. He said the spring closure was financially devastating.


© John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
The owner of Maxx Fitness Clubzz, Matt D’Amico, leaves his facility in Lincoln on Wednesday. He has decided to stay open despite the governor’s orders for fitness clubs to close for two week. He said the spring closure was financially devastating.

The two-week pause that started Monday closed bars, gyms, and casinos, asks most high school students to learn from home, and orders companies to have most employees work from home.

Matt D’Amico, who owns The Maxx Fitness Clubzz franchises in Lincoln and Warren, opened as usual on Monday, however, and has remained open since then. He said that closing would be financially devastating.

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“We did it in March and the shutdown lasted 10, 12 weeks. I just can’t survive it again,” D’Amico said. “It’s not about profitability — it’s landlords, equipment rentals, payroll and staff. And, I don’t think it’s right, when everyone else gets to stay open.”

The Health Department issued $500 fines at both locations and ordered the facilities to close immediately and stay closed until the restrictions are lifted.

But D’Amico has refused to shut down. Both Maxx locations were open and busy Wednesday.

“You can say we’re fighting for freedom. It’s what it is,” D’Amico said. “I invested millions of dollars.”

Raimondo ordered the two-week pause in an attempt to stem the rising wave of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, which led to the opening of field hospitals on Monday. Rhode Island was up to 59,005 confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with 1,032 new cases, 11 more deaths, and 408 people hospitalized.

The governor’s office and Health Department referred questions about Maxx Fitness Clubzz to the state Department of Business Regulation, where a spokesman declined to comment “as it is an ongoing and actively evolving situation.”

The fitness clubs are the first businesses to be cited since the pause began on Monday. “I have legal counsel, and we’ll take it day by day,” D’Amico said. “I don’t think fitness centers should be singled out… I believe I have constitutional rights to be able to operate my business.”

D’Amico said his fitness centers have complied with other coronavirus-related all of the Health regulations, keeping the facilities clean and screening staff and customers for COVID-19 symptoms. Health officials told them that some visitors to the fitness centers had tested positive for COVID, but they inspected the facilities and found no problems, he said.

“We have a bunch of customers, and a lot of new members are signing up,” Stephen Couture, the manager of the Lincoln club, said Wednesday.

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Norwalk LA Fitness ordered to close after violating reopening rules

NORWALK — Norwalk’s LA Fitness location was ordered to close on Tuesday after health officials found members weren’t wearing masks or adhering to social distancing while exercising.

The facility also failed to enforce revised capacity limits, according to Norwalk Health Director Deanna D’Amore. Gyms are currently supposed to be operating at 50 percent capacity.

D’Amore said both the city health and police departments signed a closure order due to repeated violations of reopening rules.

“Staff and patrons were cooperative and left the premises as they work to correct these issues,” D’Amore said.

The gym must submit a written COVID-19 safety plan outlining how it will adhere to the rules before it’s allowed to reopen, D’Amore said. The facility can reopen once the plan is reviewed and approved by the health department.

On Tuesday night, the club had a notice posted on its website stating it would be closed from 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 1 to 5 a.m. on Dec. 4 due to a “national emergency.”

The closure comes a day after Gov. Ned Lamont said he would not close gyms or indoor dining despite rising coronavirus case numbers.

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State close to topping 17,000 deaths as Fauci gives grim warning

The total of pandemic deaths in Florida edged closer to 17,000 on Sunday as the state reported another 28 fatalities related to COVID-19.

Florida also tallied another 4,865 coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 807,412 since the pandemic began in March.

Overall, 16,997 people have died, including 208 non-residents who died in Florida.

Most of the 28 deaths reported Sunday happened in recent weeks but were just confirmed in the past day.

With cases spiking across the nation, the country’s leading infectious diseases expert warned the U.S. will face a rising death toll and “a whole lot of hurt” in the coming weeks.

We need to make an “abrupt change” in public health precautions nationwide, Dr. Anthony Fauci told The Washington Post in a story published Saturday night.

His comments contradict President Donald Trump’s claim that the nation is “rounding the turn” on the virus.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Washington Post the U.S. was likely to see 100,000 or more cases a day this winter.

“It’s not a good situation,” Fauci said. “All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.”

The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has now surpassed 9 million, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

More than 46.3 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 across the globe.

Worldwide, nearly 1.2 million have died from the highly infectious coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. The U.S. has the highest number of deaths, with at least 230,811 as of 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

On Friday, Florida reported 5,592 new cases of COVID-19 — the most new cases in one day since Aug. 15, when the state tallied 6,352 cases. Florida reported 7,569 cases on Sept. 1, but much of that spike was due to a backlog of lab results.

On Saturday, the number of new cases dropped to 2,331.

South Florida

Broward County: 726 additional confirmed coronavirus cases and three more deaths. The county has a known total of 86,961 cases and 1,555 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. The death tally includes 29 non-residents.

Palm Beach County: 332 additional cases of COVID-19 and no reported deaths. The county now has 52,779 confirmed cases and 1,612 deaths, including 24 non-residents.

Miami-Dade County: 918 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 15 more deaths. The county now has 186,809 confirmed cases and 3,684 deaths, including 22 non-residents.

Testing and positivity rates

Public health experts say the virus is considered under control when the COVID-19 test positivity rate is under 5%.

Florida exceeds 5% in one of its measures for assessing the positivity rate for testing of residents.

In the first calculation, the state reported a daily positivity rate of 4.32% on Sunday, down from 6.31% on Saturday.

This method of calculating positivity counts new infections only, but also counts repeat negative

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Boston COVID-19 positive rate is a “wildfire” close to becoming an “inferno”

Boston’s COVID-19 positive test rate is a “wildfire” that is close to becoming an “inferno” if officials fail to take more precautions, according to one expert.

The city’s positive test rate has doubled in a month and a half to 7.8%, and shows no sign of dropping.

And Boston is not alone. Last week, 121 of the state’s cities and towns — more than a third of the 351 total Massachusetts municipalities — are in the high-risk “red zone.”

“7.8 % is a wildfire. We’re getting close to an inferno,” said Dr. Todd Ellerin, director of infectious diseases at South Shore Health. “The time is now to take our foot completely off the accelerator and onto the brakes; otherwise the governor, his leadership team and the state Department of Public Health will be forced to put their foot on the emergency brake. It may already be too late to avoid that.”

Boston Health Chief Marty Martinez told reporters on Friday that the city is considering stopping indoor dining or rolling back other restrictions as coronavirus cases continue to mount.

The city shut down both indoor and outdoor dining, as well as a range of other businesses, at the start of the pandemic before gradually allowing them to reopen over the summer.

But stopping indoor dining will not be enough to reverse the infection rate, Ellerin said. Because 80% of the coronavirus clusters have been in people’s homes, he said, they should wear masks at home, as well as elsewhere, and everyone who can work from home should.

Because people need ventilation, they also should open windows about 6 inches when they’re in a room, Ellerin said, and they should think twice about having people with whom they don’t live over for Thanksgiving.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said shutdowns or stay-at-home orders are not the solution.

“What you have to do is look at what’s driving the increase; is it restaurants, is it bars, is it sports activities?” Adalja said. “You can fix it. … It always boils down to testing, tracing and isolating.”

Dr. Jeffrey Singer, a Phoenix-based general surgeon and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, agreed that lockdowns are not the answer, nor, he added is “micromanaging.”

“It’s a fool’s errand to think that if you lock down long enough, the virus is going to disappear,” Singer said. “We should give people who run businesses the freedom to come up with their own solutions, based on CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines. One size does not fit all. The more flexibility you have, the more compliance your’e going to get.”

But Ellerin said it’s unclear if individual behaviors will be enough to reverse the positivity rate.

“This virus can be unforgiving and relentless,” he said. “We have to act aggressively now because before we blink, the positive test rate could be 10 to 15%. Everything should be on the table because we are

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‘If you get close, wear a mask’

President Donald Trump struck a slightly new tone on mask-wearing at a rally on Thursday, telling a group of largely maskless, shoulder-to-shoulder supporters that he thinks wearing a mask is appropriate when social distancing isn’t possible.



Melania Trump standing in front of a crowd


© Evan Vucci/AP


After making the case that “lockdowns” to prevent the spread of coronavirus don’t work, Trump told rallygoers in Tampa, Florida: “We know the disease. We social distance. We do all of the things that you have to do.”

“If you get close, wear a mask. ‘Oh, it’s controversial.’ It’s not controversial to me. You get close, you wear a mask. Social distance, social distance,” he told the audience.

The audience he delivered this message to was largely maskless. They were packed so tightly that several people required medical attention due to the heat and a nearby fire truck had to cool supporters down. Staff was also seen without masks.

Video: See what Dr. Fauci thinks about Biden’s mask plan (CNN)

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Trump has openly questioned whether masks are effective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, White House Coronavirus Task Force members including Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams and others.

CNN previously reported that the President said during an ABC town hall in September that “there are a lot of people that think that masks are not good.”

Asked for a specific example, Trump said waiters.

“They come over, they serve you and they have a mask. And I saw it the other day, where they were serving me and they’re playing with the mask. I’m not blaming them. … They’re playing with the mask. … They’re touching it and then they’re touching the plate. That can’t be good,” Trump said.

The President has occasionally donned a mask and said they’re important. But his actions send a different message to supporters: The White House, Trump’s reelection campaign and Vice President Mike Pence have largely disregarded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance, state guidelines and local public health officials, permitting large crowds of rallygoers to stand shoulder to shoulder and not mandating mask-wearing. And he notably stripped off his mask after returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center when he was treated for Covid-19.

The White House did host a socially distanced, mask-required event at the White House to hold the swearing-in ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. A late September White House event for Barrett’s nomination was deemed by health experts a superspreader event.

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Synaptive Medical Announces Close of $17M Preferred Share Financing

Funding to advance Synaptive’s suite of fully automated cranial and spinal equipment and software designed to optimize personalized patient care

TORONTO, Oct. 29, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Synaptive Medical, a leader in automation and robotics, announced today it has completed a sale of preferred equity totaling $17,000,000 USD. The investment was made by Sensegain Group, a leading asset management firm in China. Ms. Jing Yang, Board Member & Senior Partner of Sensegain, will join Synaptive’s Board of Directors.

Sensegain Group is headquartered in Beijing with multiple locations globally and has developed a strong partnership with industry leaders, as well as deep insights into sectors including TMT, Healthcare, and Advanced Manufacturing in China, United States, Canada, Israel, and other countries. Sensegain maintains a value investment principle and “Global + China” beliefs that help to maximize the value of portfolio companies and partners internationally. Synaptive management team worked tightly with Sensegain Group international team and the two parties are of great confidence that this investment will serve as a bright start of a long-term collaboration with each other.

This funding will enable Synaptive to further expand the availability of its suite of fully automated and integrated hardware and software products that enhance healthcare providers’ capabilities in diagnostic imaging, as well as surgical planning, navigation and visualization in the neurological and orthopedic spaces. Synaptive’s products have been uniquely designed to optimize workflow and enhance medical decision-making to improve patient outcomes.

In addition, Synaptive is announcing a new distribution partnership with Cicel Science and Technology Company, Ltd. of Beijing, for entry into the China market.

Marc Buntaine, CEO of Synaptive Medical, stated, “This investment is a testament to the confidence new investors have in Synaptive’s mission to provide state-of-the-art products that enable surgeons and healthcare professionals to provide safer patient-specific care in highly delicate cranial or spinal procedures for neurological disorders or injuries each year. With this financing, we are further committed to broadening the availability of our product offering to enter the greater China market with our new partner, Cicel.”

Cameron Piron, president and co-founder of Synaptive Medical, added, “We are excited to bring a new board member to our group with a strong background in finance and the China market.”

Synaptive offers products which provide world-class MRI cranial imaging, enhanced surgical planning, visualization both before and during surgery, and efficient data management throughout the clinical workflow, including medical informatics AI research. Synaptive’s products are modular and designed for seamless integration both within the Synaptive suite and with other products, so hospitals may purchase Synaptive offerings either individually or together, to best suit their needs.

About Synaptive Medical

Synaptive Medical Inc., a Toronto-based, global medical device and technology company solves surgical, imaging, and data challenges to improve the quality of human lives. Synaptive’s integrated suite of products – bridging MRI, surgical planning, navigation, and robotic visualization – delivers novel information with automated efficiency across all stages of clinical intervention.

About Sensegain Group

Sensegain Group is a leading asset management group headquartered

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U.S. adds 73K more cases; Dr. Anthony Fauci says end of COVID-19 ‘not even close’

Oct. 28 (UPI) — The United States’ top infectious diseases expert says the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t even close to being finished, as another 73,000 cases were added nationwide — bringing the tally for the past week well over a half-million.

There were about 73,200 new cases on Tuesday, according to updated data from Johns Hopkins University. Over the past seven days, there have been about 503,000 new cases.

There were nearly 1,000 coronavirus deaths Tuesday, the most in a week, the data showed.

“Unfortunately, we’re right now in the middle of what’s going to be referred to … as the mother of all outbreaks over the last hundred years,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a discussion at the Yale Institute for Global Health.

“And we’re not even close to being finished with it yet.”

For weeks, Fauci and other top health experts have warned of rising cases in the coming months as the pandemic enters a period of colder weather, when more people gather indoors, and flu season.

Fauci said he’d hoped the United States would use the summer to get a better grip on the health crisis before the winter months, but said “we are not well positioned” to handle the outbreak over the next few months.

“We need to continue with masks, safe distancing, and the other public health measures that we are adhering to now for at least a year,” he added.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 8.78 million infections and about 226,800 deaths in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins. Worldwide, there have been 44 million cases and almost 1.2 million deaths.

Tuesday, President Donald Trump listed “ending the pandemic” as one of the accomplishments of his first term.

“From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration has taken decisive actions to engage scientists and health professionals in academia, industry, and government to understand, treat, and defeat the disease,” the White House said in a statement.

Trump has repeatedly clashed with scientists, including Fauci, and dismissed their proposals and advice for controlling the crisis. Trump has also consistently ignored safety guidelines like distancing and wearing masks at a number of gatherings at the White House and on the campaign trail.

Fauci has previously said mixed messages coming from the Trump administration about the pandemic has been a major obstacle in defeating the coronavirus.

“I am very disturbed by the intensity of divisiveness we are seeing,” Fauci told the Yale Institute for Global Health. “I have received serious threats to my life, there are federal agents guarding my office.”

In Wisconsin, health officials reported a record Tuesday for deaths in a single day. The state’s positivity rate has risen to about 26%. They also say hospitals are becoming overwhelmed and facing staff shortages.

“There is no way to sugarcoat it, we are facing an urgent crisis and there is an imminent risk to you and your family

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Close to ‘exponential spread’ in some parts of the US, former FDA official says

The country is facing another cycle of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it may be the hardest yet, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday.



a car parked on a city street filled with lots of traffic: People wait in their cars at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at SISD Student Activities Complex on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)


© Cengiz Yar/Getty Images
People wait in their cars at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at SISD Student Activities Complex on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)

“I think we’re right now at the cusp of what’s going to be exponential spread in parts of the country,” Gottlieb said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“If we took aggressive steps right now, we could potentially forestall the worst of it, but we’re not going to do that,” because there’s a lot of fatigue and “policy resistance to taking strong action,” he said.

“We really have two or three months of the acute phase of this pandemic to get through,” he said. “This is going to be the hardest phase, probably.”

Worst number of cases yet

That’s as the country continues to report the most number of cases we’ve seen to date. The seven-day average of daily new cases reached an all-time high of 68,767 on Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The previous record of 67,293 was set July 22.

“Unfortunately, I think the statement about ‘new record’ is going to be repeated over and over again in the days and weeks to come,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

“I expect that those numbers will continue to climb. Hospitalizations are going to continue to climb.”

The abysmal week was marked by the two worst days of daily new cases reported since the pandemic began. More than 83,000 new cases were reported both Friday and Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins.

To be clear: This surge reflects an onslaught of new infections — not just increased testing, contrary to what skeptics claim.

“You know why we have cases? Because we test so much,” President Donald Trump claimed at a rally Saturday in North Carolina. “And in many ways, it’s good. And in many ways, it’s foolish.”

But the seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases has soared 23% in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins data. The seven-day average of new tests performed has risen only 2.87% over the past week, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

And we are long past the point of just urban, heavily populated areas being the only places hit hard. South Dakota’s test positivity rate is 23%, the state’s health department said Monday. That means of every 100 people tested, 23 have been infected. The World Health Organization in May advised governments not to reopen until test positivity rates were 5% or lower for at least 14 days.

States to receive 36.7 million rapid tests

The federal government is shipping 36.7 million rapid Covid-19 tests, and states should be

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Group sees 14% increase in child Covid-19 cases with close to 800,000 US kids infected

The group, which represents pediatricians, says about 792,188 children have been infected in the US as of October 22. According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 8.6 million Americans have been infected with the novel coronavirus.

The AAP said 94,555 new child cases were reported from October 8 to October 22.

Severe illness and deaths from Covid-19 are still rare among children. As of October 22, children represented between 1% and 3.6% of total hospitalizations, depending on the state. Between 0.6% and 6.9% of all child Covid-19 cases resulted in hospitalization and in states that reported the information, up to 0.15% of all children with Covid-19 died. Sixteen states reported no child deaths.

The AAP said it started collecting this data in the absence of regular releases of information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC provides a national number of cases by age in its data tracker, but the age data isn’t released on a regular schedule. The AAP reports on numbers of cases among children weekly.

With the CDC numbers it is also hard to know where the cases are coming from, as there are no geographic indicators provided with the CDC’s age data.

What you need to know about coronavirus on Monday, October 26

The AAP’s count is not totally complete, because not all states report data in the same way. The cases are likely undercounted, according to the organization. These numbers come from 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. A smaller subset of states report information about hospitalizations and deaths by age.

The AAP recommends that children wear masks, avoid large crowds and keep a healthy distance from others. It also suggests all children 6 months or older get a flu shot. Pediatricians say it’s even more important than ever to get a flu shot before the end of October.

With two respiratory diseases circulating at the same time –flu and coronavirus — will be confusing to doctors, parents and caregivers. Plus, hospitals and clinics could be overwhelmed with the double burden.

As another wave of the pandemic approaches, the nation's food banks are being hit on three fronts
The two viruses cause similar symptoms but a study published September in JAMA Network Open found that children hospitalized with Covid-19 were more likely to have fever, aches, diarrhea and vomiting than were children with the flu.
Children with Covid-19 also tended to be older and have at least one underlying health condition. Babies under a year old with certain underlying conditions such as asthma or diabetes may also be more likely to have severe illness from Covid-19.
Covid-19 and seasonal flu in children led to similar rates of hospitalization, intensive care admission, and need for a ventilator to help breathing, the study found. The CDC says 189 children died from flu over the 2019-2020 season.

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Quarantine List, Dorchester To Close Schools

MARYLAND — This week Maryland saw an increase in coronavirus cases as testing ramped up. Results from more than 30,000 tests were reported by state health officials Sunday, capping off a week in which one school system closed its buildings, citing increasing coronavirus positivity rates, and three states added Maryland to their quarantine lists because of the number of new cases.

Nearly 800 cases of coronavirus were added to Maryland’s tally Sunday morning, marking the fourth consecutive day of at least 700 cases reported in the state.

The state’s coronavirus positivity rate is 3.17 percent on a seven-day rolling average, according to the Maryland Department of Health, which is comparable to last week’s 3.14 percent positivity rate. It remains under 5 percent, which is the recommended benchmark positivity rate for reopening established by the World Health Organization.

Cases Reported This Week

  • Sunday, Oct. 25 — 792 cases

  • Saturday, Oct. 24 — 796 cases

  • Friday, Oct. 23 — 712 cases

  • Thursday, Oct. 22 — 743 cases

  • Wednesday, Oct. 21 — 492 cases

  • Tuesday, Oct. 20 — 590 cases

  • Monday, Oct. 19 — 497 cases

More than 140,200 people in Maryland have tested positive for the virus, state health officials reported Sunday.

Prince George’s County has the most cases in Maryland, with 32,225 overall as of Sunday, according to the Maryland Department of Health. Next is Montgomery County with 25,147 total cases of the virus, followed by Baltimore County with 20,208 and Baltimore City with 17,440.

Montgomery County added over 100 new cases daily 10 times in two weeks, according to state health officials.

On the Eastern Shore, Dorchester County Public Schools closed its school buildings after an increase in coronavirus positivity in the district. The positivity rate was 6.1 percent in Dorchester County, according to the school system’s superintendent, who reported Wednesday, Oct. 21, the district had reassessed its plans.

“Over the last six days the Dorchester County community has seen an increase in its COVID-19 positivity rate,” Superintendent Dave Bromwell said in a statement Oct. 21. “The positivity rate has increased exponentially to make Dorchester County the 3rd highest in the state of Maryland over this short period of time.”

As a result of the metrics, Dorchester County was returning to phase one of its reopening effective Tuesday, Oct. 27.

A recent spike in coronavirus infections prompted three states to put Maryland on its list of state with quarantine orders.

When travelers from Maryland head to Connecticut, New Jersey or New York, they will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

As long as Maryland averages more than 604 coronavirus cases a day in a seven-day period, it will remain on the list of troubled states. Those on the list have a positive case rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents in the last seven days.

Here is data on coronavirus in Maryland for Sunday, Oct. 25, from the state health department:

Courtesy of Maryland Department of Health.
Courtesy of Maryland Department of Health.

Related:

Jacob Baugmart contributed to this report.

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