**FILE** Courtesy of covidlink.maryland.gov

COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Maryland reached a record high Monday after spiking by nearly 200 cases, a sign that the worst of the pandemic may be yet to come as the omicron variant rapidly spreads.

The number of hospitalizations is now at 2,746, up 196 from Sunday, according to state health department data. For perspective, the daily cumulative total was 97 on July 1 and was still below 500 as recently as Nov. 14.

From late November when the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus was first detected in South Africa, hospitalizations have shot up exponentially. The number surpassed 2,000 for the first time on Dec. 28 and has increased every day since.

Additionally, more than 14,200 new coronavirus cases and 26 related deaths were reported Monday, bringing the state’s totals to 751,450 cases and 11,658 deaths since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.

The state’s seven-day average daily positivity rate increased to 26.87%, a 0.78% jump over the past 24 hours, according to the data. By comparison, the average rate was 0.54% on June 28, roughly six months after coronavirus vaccines were introduced to the general public.

As of Monday, about 86% of Maryland residents who are eligible for a coronavirus vaccination had received at least one dose of a vaccine, while roughly 4.3 million are fully vaccinated, according to a state-run dashboard.

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