By Elise Devlin and Nate Gilgeous
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writers
Mayor Brandon M. Scott announced Wednesday that Baltimore City will ease its COVID-19 restrictions starting Friday.
Scott and Letitia Dzirasa, Baltimore City Health commissioner, said the decision to ease the city’s COVID-19 mandates followed consultation with public health partners and evidence that public health data is improving.
“I am proud of our residents for putting in the hard work that has set us on this path to recovery,”Scott said.
“As we begin to regain a sense of normalcy within our communities, my administration, in conjunction with our Health Department and hospital partners, will begin reevaluating our COVID-19 mandates on a bi-weekly basis and hopefully continue on this positive recovery trend we are seeing in our city,” he explained.
Dzirasa noted that the city’s metrics have dropped dramatically since a surge that occurred during the last holiday. She also pointed to the increasing number of vaccinations.
“Reviewing the restrictions at more frequent time intervals will allow us to rapidly adjust as needed based on the data,” Dzirasa said, explaining that the Health Indicator Assessment Period will decrease from every four weeks to a reevaluation every two weeks. “In the meantime, we need residents to continue doing their part as we reopen businesses – wear your masks, practice social distancing, and get your vaccine when you’re eligible to do so.”
Under the current mandates, indoor dining in Baltimore operates at 25 percent of capacity as well as gyms, retail, shopping malls and recreation. Outdoor dining is permitted at 50 percent of capacity. Scott’s new order remains stricter than the reopening plan allowed under Gov. Larry Hogan’s statewide order, which lifts capacity restrictions at restaurants and opening up large indoor and outdoor venues to 50 percent capacity.
As of 6 a.m. Friday, Baltimore City’s maximum occupancy will increase to 50 percent at religious facilities, fitness centers, retail establishments and malls, and outdoor recreational establishments. All indoor recreation sites, except hookah/cigar lounges, will be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity as well. Hookah and cigar lounges are allowed to operate their retail spaces at 50 percent capacity, but no smoking is allowed on site.
Scott said that maximum occupancy of casinos, libraries museums, zoos and aquariums will increase to 50 percent. For foodservice establishments, he said outdoor dining can resume at 75 percent capacity. If space is tented, the tent needs to be open on all sides. Indoor dining can resume at 50 percent capacity. Bars without food licenses are also allowed to operate — 75 percent outdoors, 50 percent indoors.
Indoor theaters are limited to the lesser of 50 percent occupancy or 100 persons, he said, while outdoor entertainment venues are limited to the lesser of 75 percent occupancy or 250 persons.
“It is clear that our city remains ahead of the spread of COVID-19, but we must continue to do our part,” Scott said. “As the continued ease of restrictions is justified by our public health indicators, my administration remains unwavered in doing the right thing over the popular.
“I encourage Baltimoreans to remain serious about this pandemic and continue to wear their masks and adhere to our public health guidelines so that we can continue to see positive outcomes within our communities,” Scott added.