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Scott Lifts Baltimore’s Final Pandemic Restrictions

A woman walks near an abandoned mask at a park in Tokyo Friday, May 15, 2020. Japan's prime minister announced Thursday the end of a state of emergency for most regions of the country, but restrictions are being kept in place in Tokyo and seven other high-risk areas. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Eugene Hoshiko/AP
A woman walks near an abandoned mask at a park. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Mayor Brandon Scott lifted Baltimore’s final mask mandates and state of emergency on Thursday morning, signaling the city’s gradual creep toward post-pandemic life.

Face coverings will no longer be required at indoor and outdoor venues. Workplaces are able to maintain their own mask mandates. City Hall will not fully reopen yet; hearings, bill sessions and council meetings have been held virtually since the pandemic first hit.

The mayor had previously pledged to keep Baltimore’s mask mandate in place until at least 65% of city adults received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. He backtracked earlier this month, after Gov. Larry Hogan announced that Maryland’s state of emergency would end on July 1. Scott followed suit the next day.

“I'm going to always take the guidance of our lead health professionals,” Scott said at a Wednesday news conference. “And if we need to adjust, we will adjust quickly. We will not be afraid to do that. Because we're always going to put the saving of lives over everything else.”

At the same news conference, the mayor encouraged Baltimoreans to “be courteous” as they encounter masking requirements they may not agree with at businesses.

Like cities across the country, Baltimore has seen a steady decline in new cases, testing positivity rates and deaths from COVID-19 as more residents get vaccinated. Health Department data shows the city’s case count is down 73% from four weeks ago, while deaths are down nearly 80%.

The World Health Organization recommends that local governments experience positivity rates below 5% for at least two weeks before reopening; Baltimore has been below that threshold since April 17.

Despite this, Scott said at a June 16 news conference, the pandemic is far from 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.

At the same news conference, City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said the city will continue to work toward vaccinating 65% of adult Baltimoreans, with an aim of 80%.

“The people who are still being hospitalized due to coronavirus and its variants are those who are not vaccinated,” she said. “If you have not been vaccinated, please get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

WYPR's Sarah Y. Kim contributed to this report.

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.