Maryland COVID-19 cases spike as MDH dashboard is partially restored

For the first time in over two weeks, Maryland’s health department reported the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state. The numbers do not look good.

Monday afternoon, the MDH reported that “top-line” COVID-19 data was restored and it showed that an additional 28,541 cases have been confirmed since Dec. 3, the last day of full reporting before the cyberattack was discovered.

The website also showed the seven-day average for the testing positivity rate had jumped from 5.4% on Dec. 3, to 10.2% on Dec. 20.

Deputy Health Secretary Dr. Jinlene Chan said in a statement released Monday that delta remains the dominant variant of the coronavirus in the state. She urged residents to use all the tools available to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“Please get vaccinated, get a booster when you are eligible and get tested if you have symptoms or plan to travel,” Chan said.

In the same statement, MDH Secretary Dennis Schrader said ” I want to thank the team of people who have been working diligently over the past 16 days to bring our COVID-19 data reporting back (online).”

Not all the data has been restored to the MDH website. At present, the number of COVID-19 deaths in Maryland is still unavailable.

Chip Stewart, the Chief IT Security Officer for Maryland, explained that, as the investigation into the cyberattack continues, IT staff will continue to go step-by-step to restore data functions in different areas.

“As a result of this containment approach, some services are still unavailable,” Stewart said. “This was an intentional decision and was the cautious and responsible thing to do with regards to threats, isolation and mitigation.”

During a 15-minute phone call with reporters, Stewart and the Deputy Secretary for Maryland’s Department of Information Technology, W. Lance Schine, were asked to characterize the event they referred to as a “network security incident.”

Asked if they were dealing with ransomware or another form of cyberattack, Stewart said “Because this is an ongoing criminal investigation, our primary focus is recovery activities … restoration of services. We don’t want to disclose any details about the investigation at this time.”

When asked if reports that MDH employees would have to get new laptops as a result of the incident, Schine explained that MDH laptops are being scanned “to ensure their safety.”

Schine added, “If we find that a laptop was affected by this event, we will clean it and restore it to the employee.” But, in the meantime, Schine said, “Employees are being given loaner computers, so they can continue their work.”

Along with restoring data on the MDH site related to coronavirus data, Stewart said “Systems related to Medicaid operations, including eligibility verification and provider payments, are back online.” Birth and death certificate information has been made available as well, he said.

News about the dramatic rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the state came on the same day Gov. Larry Hogan announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus, despite having received two shots of the Moderna vaccine, and then following up with a booster shot. The governor said in a tweet that he was “feeling fine at the moment.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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