Scott Lifts Baltimore City’s COVID-19 Dining, Private Gatherings Restrictions
Mayor Brandon Scott announced Wednesday he will lift Baltimore’s pandemic-related restrictions on dining and private gatherings, beginning next week. He attributed his decision to improvements in city COVID-19 rates that health experts say are tied to vaccination, but urged residents continue to follow CDC guidelines.
“While we are easing some restrictions, we must still remain vigilant and guided by the public health recommendations, particularly with summer approaching,” the Democrat said. And while 40% of Baltimoreans have received at least one vaccine dose, “that still means that out of every three people you encounter on the street, two are not yet fully vaccinated, meaning this is not over,” he continued.
Beginning 6:00 a.m. on Monday, capacity restrictions will lift at restaurants for both indoor and outdoor dining. Through Scott’s newly updated executive order, indoor diners will be required to remain seated, while outdoor dining services may allow standing room for patrons.
Scott has enacted stricter restrictions than Gov. Larry Hogan throughout the pandemic; the Republican has set statewide rules but allowed local leaders to set tighter ones. Scott’s announcement brings Baltimore nearly in line with the state’s current restrictions.
A 50% capacity restriction will remain at the Baltimore Convention Center, banquet facilities, community halls, social clubs and indoor venues that host live performances, sporting events or movie screenings.
City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said the city has seen marked improvement in COVID-19 rates: Baltimore’s new case count is approximately 129 cases per day, a decrease of 45% from four weeks ago. The city’s positivity rate is 2.8%, a decrease of 43% from two weeks ago.
The intensive care unit and acute care unit capacities at Baltimore hospitals remain high at 88% and 87% respectively. “However, we've seen an overall decline in the total number of COVID patients in both the ICU and acute care units,” Dzirasa said.
She attributed the progress to the city’s growing vaccination rate but stressed that Baltimore is not in the clear just yet.
Like other jurisdictions across the country, Dzirasa said, Baltimore is seeing waning interest in people who want to get vaccinated. “But it's critical that we continue to strive for at least 80% of the population being fully vaccinated, especially if we want to try to avoid fall and winter COVID-19 disease surges,” she said.
“Vaccinations remain the key in returning to some sense of normalcy,” Dzirasa said.
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children between the age of 12 and 14 on Wednesday; a clinical trial showed it provides 100% protection againstCOVID-19 for the age group. Dzirasa called the trial “really incredible news” and said eligible city youth should get the vaccine to stay protected during summer activities like camp and work.
She emphasized that Baltimoreans should continue to follow the CDC’s public health recommendations, which include wearing masks indoors, avoiding large gatherings and avoiding contact with unvaccinated people.
"If you are fully vaccinated, you can be in a private residence with others fully vaccinated without a mask, or those unvaccinated so long as they are not at high risk," Dzirasa said.