Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott is easing several COVID-19 restrictions.
Restaurants and bars will no longer have a one-hour time limit for customers. Indoor dining is still limited at 25% capacity, and outdoor dining at 50% capacity.
Scott is also removing a 10 person limit on indoor gatherings and 25 person limit on outdoor gatherings. Instead, residents will have to comply with a given facility’s occupancy regulations.
The new guidelines will take effect at 6 a.m. Monday, Feb. 22.
Scott said at a COVID-19 update Wednesday morning that the city’s positivity rate is down 50% from a month ago. City health commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said they are cautiously optimistic.
“These modest allowances are sensible and based on an understanding that Baltimore residents will continue to heed public health guidance,” Dzirasa said at the mayor’s update.
But she also urged residents to be vigilant about COVID-19 variants and noted the continued shortage in vaccines.
“Now more than ever, we should remain vigilant keeping the safety of ourselves and our loved ones in mind,” Dzirasa said.
As of Wednesday, 9.4% of Baltimore residents have had at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the city’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard.
“Dr. Dzirasa and I will continue to analyze the data on a regular basis to monitor where we stand,” Scott said. “But this is not an invitation to act recklessly.”
In addition, Scott is limiting gym classes to 25% capacity or 10 people, depending on which number is higher.
Amateur sporting events, including high school games and practices, may also resume. Indoor sports gatherings are limited to 25% capacity with no more than 50 people per activity area.
Live performances may also take place, so long as performers are wearing masks and stay six feet apart. Adult entertainment venues remain off-limits.
During his COVID update Wednesday, Scott also announced $8 million in state grant funds for hotels struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funds will help cover expenses like payroll, rent and utilities for Baltimore City hotels.
Scott said hotels must have been open and operational prior to the pandemic to qualify for these funds. They must also have contributed sales tax revenue.
“While the pandemic is far from over, and we have a long recovery road ahead, these funds will help hotels continue to weather these unprecedented times and play a key role in our economic rebound from COVID-19,” Scott said.
The nonprofit Visit Baltimore will be managing the funds. According to state guidelines, the funds must be distributed by March 31. Hotels receiving them must open their doors by May 1.
Hotels can apply online starting Thursday. Applications are set to close March 7.