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Scott Reinstates Baltimore Indoor Mask Mandate, Citing Delta Variant

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Emily Sullivan/WYPR
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Mayor Brandon Scott speaks a Thursday press conference. He announced Baltimore will reinstate an indoor mask mandate starting Monday.

Mayor Brandon Scott announced Thursday he will reinstate a Baltimore indoor mask mandate, as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus rips through the city and country.

“This is not fear mongering. This is reality,” Scott said at a news conference at Betty Hyatt Community Park. “We've lost so many more and we will continue to lose people if people don't get vaccinated.”

Starting Aug. 9 at 9:00.am., masks will be required at indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status. Masks have already been required at city buildings.

New COVID-19 cases have risen 374% over the last four weeks, according to city health data. The city’s testing positivity rate rose nearly the same amount over the same time period. Baltimore has seen about 71 patients hospitalized over the last seven days, an increase from two weeks earlier.

These data points indicate that the city should return to a previous phase of a reopening, according to guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

The CDC recently ​​recommended that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear a mask indoors in areas of substantial or high transmission. According to CDC data, Baltimore is now in the “substantial” risk category, with about 51 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 7 day average for the time period between July 27 and Aug. 2.

Gov. Larry Hogan has said he will not consider reinstating mask mandates. During the state of emergency tied to the pandemic’s onset that expired on July 1, Hogan gave local jurisdictions the authority to set tighter restrictions. Scott is the first local leader in Maryland to enact a reinstated indoor mask mandate; the mayor consulted with the Law Department and legal experts before moving forward with his announcement.

City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa pleaded one again that unvaccinated residents get their shots — which are proven to drastically lower one’s chances of getting seriously ill and dying from the virus — before it’s too late.

“The Delta variant is here, and it poses a serious threat to our unvaccinated residents,” she said. “I’m speaking to you not just as the Health Commissioner but as a mother of a child that is too young to be vaccinated. We have the ability to slow the spread COVID-19 and the actions we all take collectively will protect the most vulnerable among us.”