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Ahead Of Halloween, Baltimore’s Coronavirus Case Numbers Approach July Peak

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Baltimore City Health Department handout
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  New coronavirus cases in Baltimore are up 120% from just four weeks ago and are approaching the case numbers the city experienced during a sharp spike in July.

“What this means is that Halloween is not the time for anyone to pretend we are not in an active pandemic,” City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said during a news conference Friday. She warned that the city will see another wave of COVID-19 “unless everyone continues to follow practical harm reduction guidance.” 

That includes not attending house parties, not doing traditional trick-or-treating this weekend and refraining from “parties or indoor spaces where social distancing is hard.”  

The city’s positivity rate also increased by 80% over the last 4 weeks. The city is averaging approximately 82 new cases per day, while the current 7-day average for new cases is 13.6 cases per 100,000 people. 

The city’s mortality rate has remained low, Dzirasa said, but deaths as a result of COVID are a lagging indicator that usually come several weeks after a spike in new cases. 

The city’s top health official said many are likely experiencing COVID fatigue.

“We are all tired, and COVID has forced us to stay indoors when the weather was beautiful over the spring and summer, and now is forcing us to remain away from our loved ones when we would usually be celebrating holidays together,” Dzirasa said. “But COVID doesn’t get tired, it doesn’t experience fatigue, it is a highly contagious virus that spreads through close contacts.”

Dzirasa cited two recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in telling residents to stay home: that family gatherings are a leading cause of the increase in new COVID cases around the U.S. and that repeated exposures for a minute or less can cause disease transmission.  

“We find ourselves at a crossroads,” she said. “I can’t imagine anything scarier this Halloween than a return to those [peak] summer case numbers.”

 

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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