Baltimore City will stay in amended Phase 1 COVID-19 restrictions that ban indoor and outdoor dining, Mayor Scott announced Friday. He said he arrived at his decision after reviewing numbers that indicated a surging post-holiday spread and rising positivity rates.
“We're going to be there to support our businesses. We're going to be there to do whatever we can do to make sure that they remain strong and make it through this together,” the Democrat said. “But we will not put money over people.”
" class="wysiwyg-break drupal-content" src="/sites/all/modules/contrib/wysiwyg/plugins/break/images/spacer.gif" title="<--break-->">The mayor had said earlier this week that he would consider lifting some of the restrictions he set on his first day in office one month ago. On Friday, he said positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths, as well as projections from health experts, guided his decision to continue with current restrictions.
While the number of COVID-19 cases decreased in Baltimore last month, since Phase 1 was re-implemented, city Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said there has been a boost in cases and community spread of the disease this month tied to holiday gatherings. The data is stark: the city’s positivity rate jumped from 5.3% to 7.1% percent from Tuesday to Friday.
Dzirasa supported Scott’s decision, saying that keeping high risk locations such as indoor seating at bars closed will allow hospitalization rates to decrease. Baltimore’s intensive care units have only 10% of their beds left.
“We have not seen a return to normal or moved away from what we know is widespread community transmission,” Dzirasa said. “I remain concerned about our hospitals being overwhelmed.”
The city has lost 671 lives to COVID-19, averaging just over two deaths per day. A total of 33,522 Baltimoreans have gotten the virus; the latest seven-day average new case count is 221.
Restaurants and bars are allowed to remain open for delivery and takeout service, but some restaurant owners have complained the ban on indoor and outdoor dining has affected their bottom line. Councilman Eric Costello plans to introduce a bill to reduce the fees that third party delivery services like GrubHub charge restaurants next week.
Scott said he will continue to review data and announce next Friday whether he will lift any restrictions.
He has said that he will give business owners at least one week’s notice before implementing any new restrictions
Other Baltimore coronavirus restrictions also include caps at 25% of capacity for gyms, malls, museums, retail businesses and religious facilities.