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Masks Are Small Inconveniences Compared To Cancelled Ravens Games, U.S. Surgeon General Says


U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned Baltimoreans Friday of the consequences of not following public health measures in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press conference with city Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzarasa, Adams said Baltimore’s partial re-openings will be “taken away from us if we can’t heed basic public health measures, like standing six feet from one another and wearing a mask,” Vice Admiral Adams said.

“They are small inconveniences compared to the large inconvenience of missing your homecoming, missing your prom, missing Ravens play in the fall,” he said.

Baltimore is showing alarming spikes in new COVID-19 cases that outpace those of April and May. As of Friday, 12,200 have been diagnosed and 400 Baltimoreans have died.


The Surgeon General’s appearance in Baltimore coincides with an executive order of Mayor Jack Young that reopens indoor dining services at 25% capacity and tightens restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, capping them at 25 people. Religious facilities, retail establishments and malls, indoor recreation venues and casinos are allowed guests at 25% occupancy. 

Young suspended indoor dining services about two weeks ago; his decision to reopen them has been criticized by public health experts and city officials alike. Young has said the reopening is an attempt to financially support the restaurant and service industry. 

The spike means now is not the time to let your guard down, Dziarasa said.

“It may be a little while before we're able to regain a true sense of normalcy,” she said. “I understand the desire to get back to normal. But right now, it's best to accept that face masks and social distancing is going to be part of our normal routine.”

Adams said that despite Baltimore’s poor metrics, the city has the chance to turn alarming trends around. 

“We can choose not to heed these public health precautions and we will continue to stay in a restricted state and potentially see more things closed down,” the Surgeon General said. “The power is in your hands.”

Health Commissioner Dzirasa said Baltimore can trace new cases to some specific types of events, including opening restaurants, family gatherings and indoor and outdoor parties. 

“It's in those environments, those closed indoor spaces where you may not be socially distancing, you may be eating with individuals outside of your household with your mask off that that transmission is much more likely to occur,” she said.

Much of the recent spread has occurred at large family gatherings, Adams said.

“Please understand that just because you're around people you're related to doesn't mean that you're immune from the virus at that point or that someone around you may not have the virus,” he said. “Up to 50% of people can spread this disease without ever even knowing that they were sick. So now is the time to hold off on these large gatherings.”  

If Baltimoreans want sports in the fall or in-person classes to resume, Adams said, the quickest way to get there is by staying home when possible, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.


Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.
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