Mayor Scott To Lift Baltimore’s Mask Requirements July 1, Following Hogan’s Lead
Baltimore City will lift remaining mask mandates and a 15-month long pandemic-related state of emergency on July 1, Mayor Brandon Scott announced Wednesday.
The Democrat’s decision comes a day after Gov. Larry Hogan announced that Maryland’s state of emergency will end next month. Local leaders have had the authority to set tighter restrictions than those of the state throughout the pandemic; Scott historically maintained stricter mask, dining and occupancy measurements in the city.
But even as he followed in Hogan’s footsteps, Scott warned residents, especially those who are unvaccinated, that the pandemic is not over. “We will continue to follow the science and allow the data to drive our decision making. Folks must continue to get vaccinated so that we can leave COVID behind for good,” he said.
The city’s current mask mandate requires face coverings at indoor and outdoor venues, as well as ticketed events. After the mandate expires, workplaces and businesses may continue with mask requirements. “I ask everyone to remain courteous to each other whether you choose to wear masks or not,” Scott said.
Scott and Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa previously said they would only lift the remaining mask requirements after 65% of city adults received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of Wednesday afternoon, that number is 57.1%. Half of city adults are fully vaccinated.
Scott defended his decision to lift the mask mandate earlier than the promised threshold. “It’s not about flip-flopping. What I've always said…. is that we're going to be driven by the data,” he said.
He pointed to a number of promising data points outside of the city’s vaccination efforts. Over the last month, Baltimore has seen an 82% reduction in new COVID-19 cases and a 73% decrease in deaths, while the city’s positivity rate plummeted to 0.7%. The World Health Organization recommends that local governments see positivity rates below 5% for at least two weeks before they reopen; Health Department data shows the city has been below that threshold since April 17.
"We are literally averaging 15 new cases a day," Dzirasa said. “This is an extremely low new case rate for this city, one that I don't think that we've ever seen.”
She said the city will still work toward vaccinating 65% of adult residents, with an aim of 80%. Like Scott, the health official said that it’s too early to declare a full victory over the pandemic and urged those who are unvaccinated to change that status.
“The people who are still being hospitalized due to coronavirus and its variants are those who are not vaccinated,” Dzirasa said. “If you have not been vaccinated, please get vaccinated as soon as possible.”