Beginning at 5 p.m., Friday, July 24, 2020, Baltimore restaurants and bars must suspend indoor dining for at least two weeks as the city’s health department starts a review of COVID-19 data.
The review comes as the total number of coronavirus cases in the state surpassed 80,000, including a growing number of Baltimore city residents. City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said this week that her department would continuously monitor whether the suspension would continue after two weeks. She said restaurants could continue serving customers outside, and they could still offer takeout and delivery service.
Further, Dr. Dzirasa said those over the age of two would be required to wear face coverings in Baltimore. One caveat to face-covering applies to outdoor activities where people cannot engage in social distance. “These decisions were not easy, nor were they made to punish a particular industry,” Dr. Dzirasa stated. “Instead, these decisions are rooted in current data and trends being seen in COVID-1cases in Baltimore City and information about the transmission of the novel coronavirus. When considered together, this information warrants the implementation of restrictions to help halt the further spread of COVID-19.
” Through the hard work of the city’s clinical staff at the Health Department and at local hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies, Baltimore continues to increase local testing capacity, she said. Health officials noted that the city currently averages over 2,000 tests daily.
“However, we are seeing the number of new cases increase at a rate higher than what we would expect from an increase in testing capacity alone, and have seen an increase for multiple days in a row,” Dr. Dzirasa said. “While our fatalities have not dramatically increased, they have not decreased either. Fatalities or deaths as a result of COVID-19 are usually a lagging indicator of a spike in until weeks after a spike of positive cases has been identified.” She noted that a little over one month has passed since Baltimore City transitioned into phase 2 of its reopening plan.
“And in this months’ time, along withour epidemiologists and data team, I have consistently analyzed and reviewed the data on a regular basis, presenting regular updates to the Mayor and his executive team,” she said.“Two weeks after reopening, on July 4, our average daily case count in Baltimore was 63.4 cases per day. A week later, on July 12, our average daily case count was 109 cases per day almost doubling in a week’s time, and it continues to increase today.”
Social distancing continues to be the most effective method of reducing the chances of disease transmission, with the wearing of masks, when social distancing isn’t possible, serving as a vital additional layer of protection, according to Dr. Dzirasa.“We are in this pandemic for the foreseeable future and will have to make tough decisions to protect our community, and our most vulnerable. We remain committed to transparency and open dialog about how best to move forward,” she stated. “[This week’s] decisions have been made to reduce the chances of further disease transmission, and it remains necessary for us all to stay vigilant to protect ourselves and our loved ones.”