It’s estimated to cost about $38,000 per year to incarcerate an individual in America, a sum that includes a cell, three meals per day, perhaps a work assignment behind bars but no educational or life skills training to prepare prisoners for successful reentry.
Further, young people of color tend to receive longer prison sentences, which effectively wipes out a large portion of their lives, meaning they’ll receive little to no job training and education.
One organization is seeking to change the narrative. HTP Homes, Inc., a minority and woman owned tax exempt entity, provide skills-based on the job training in construction trades for jobless young adults from 17 to 24. Those include formerly incarcerated returning citizens.
The nonprofit began a crowdfunding campaign to help secure grant money from the USA Today/Gannett A Community Thrives program, which supports projects that contribute to community building with a preference for those impacting historically underserved individuals and groups.
The more than $2 million initiative allows organizations to apply to raise money for a specific project. Those chosen, work to raise money through a crowdfunding campaign, making them eligible for more than 100 grants.
More than a dozen grants are set for distribution ranging from $25,000 to $100,000. With support from donors, HTP Homes seek to raise the $64,500 needed to launch its skills training initiative in Baltimore. The “Building Second Chances” fundraiser will close on Oct. 16, 2020.
“Here people can make a difference. It may sound small to people, but it’s something that can grow; each one, teach one,” said Raymond P. Lewis, the principal at RP Lewis & Associates.
“We have a goal of $64,000, but think of what they can do with $164,000,” Lewis noted. “We are the richest country in the world with the largest number of inmates, and most are of color, and they never get a chance at an education or to vote.
Going into the final days of the all- important census count, Maryland has a 96.3 percent response rate, placing the state high up on the list of states that have responded.
Pending legal action, the Census count could end on September 30, 2020.In July, President Donald Trump suddenly decided to speed up and end the count by September 30.That action spurred lawsuits in California by a National Urban League- led coalition seeking to extend the count beyond Trump’s deadline.
Additionally, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Asian Americans Advancing Justice have asked a federal judge in Maryland to extend the time for the census count.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced legislation this month to allow for the continued count, while Census Bureau officials have also asked for more time.“There is current and ongoing litigation, but the one thing I can tell you is that what is going to hold true is that time is running out, and people need to respond,” declared David C. Cook, the chief public information officer at the U.S. Census.
Cook expressed concern about African Americans who are historically undercounted.“When you look at the Black and African American community, children under five typically are undercounted for various reasons,” Cook stated.
“Just to be clear, if you have a child that’s born on or after Apr. 1, 2020, they don’t need to be on the form. It’s who lived in your house as of Apr. 1. Also, Black males 18 to 25 are historically undercounted, so we’ve been targeting that demographic, and we’re letting people know that it is safe to respond. We don’t share your information. It’s the law.”
Everyone can still respond online, by phone, or by mail. Census officials continue to implore Americans that it’s vital to cooperate if a census taker arrives at your home. Census results shape the future of communities. Census data informs how billions of dollars in federal funds are distributed for health clinics, school lunch programs, disaster recovery initiatives, and other critical programs and services for the next decade.
The most recent available count shows states whose residents have had the most significant response are Idaho (99.7 percent), West Virginia (99.6 percent), Hawaii (98.9 percent), Washington (98 percent), and Maine (98 percent). While the nation’s overall response rate stands at 93.6 percent, six states haven’t yet reached 90 percent – Alabama (85.6 percent), Montana (86.9 percent), Mississippi (87.1 percent), South Carolina (87.7 percent), New Mexico (88.6 percent), and Arizona (88.9 percent).
The Census is working on getting residents across the country to respond as they faced many challenges, Cook noted. “As a nation, the number of households who answered the doorbell is more than 90 percent. Knowing that the count continues,” Cook observed. “Looking back at the 2020 count, the self-reported rate was at 63 percent, so we know that we have to stay out in front of people and get them to respond.”
The Community Action Agency of Anne Arundel County has appointed Dr. Lenny Howard as the agency’s Director of Youth Development Services.
The agency’s CEO, Dr. Charlestine Fairley, says Dr. Howard brings vast experience in helping youth and young adults achieve academic goals, learn coping strategies for social and emotional management, build life skills, and foster character development.
Noting Dr. Howard’s previous stints as a school counselor and principal, executive coach and mental health counselor, and his career as a college administrator and professor, Dr. Fairley said the new appointee is the right person for the job.
“Dr. Howard has a demonstrated passion for helping young people achieve success,” Dr. Fairley stated in a news release.
The anti-poverty agency for all of Anne Arundel County, the nonprofit Community Action Agency began in 1965 and serves more than 10,000 county residents each year.
In 1968, the agency was designated the anti-poverty agency by the Anne Arundel County Council. It serves local residents through its programs developed to offer homelessness prevention, free mental health services for children and their families, Early Head Start for pregnant women and infants and toddlers, Maryland Energy Assistance, and programs to prepare youth for education success and workforce preparation.
The agency’s mission is to empower people in reducing poverty and building resilient communities. Its vision includes being recognized as the leader in addressing poverty and improving the quality of life in Anne Arundel County communities.
“Dr. Howard is providing full-time direction and leadership to the Agency’s comprehensive treatment, prevention, and education services for youth,” the agency said in the news release.“He will oversee the addition of new and innovative programming developed to help youth navigate the challenges they face.”
The Community Action Agency’s Youth Development Services has been serving children and youth, ages five to 24, since 1972. The Agency’s Youth Development Services office is located at the Stanton Center, at 92 West Washington Street in Annapolis.
“Dr. Howard is the right person to guide Youth Development Services as we expand our programming to benefit children and youth living in Anne Arundel County,” Dr. Fairley said.
The Baltimore Times is among the latest Black-owned businesses to have received a generous $10,000 grant from PayPal. Earlier this summer, the Internet giant issued a $530 million pledge to provide support for Black-owned businesses.
“I’m grateful for the PayPal grant for $10,000, which is intended to help you pay your mortgage, taxes, and other bills,” said Baltimore Times Publisher Joy Bramble. “The grant came at the right time for us.”
In partnership with the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), the PayPal Empowerment Grants for Black Business Program awarded up to $10,000 to more than 1,000 African American-owned businesses affected by COVID-19 and civil unrest.
The funds are earmarked to help companies avert layoffs, repair any property damage, cover operational costs, purchase new products and services, and assist with marketing.
“We recognize the critical challenge of access to capital that Black-owned businesses face.
Please know that this grant program is part of a larger commitment from PayPal to invest in Black and minority- owned businesses and communities,” PayPal officials said in a statement.
In June, PayPal announced a $530 million pledge to provide support for Black-owned businesses and start-ups. Part of the pledge included the $10,000 grants to 1,000 businesses.
“For far too long, Black people in America have faced deep-seated injustice and systemic economic inequality,” Dan Schulman, president and CEO of PayPal stated. “Black lives matter and we need to drive transformative change. We must take decisive action to close the racial wealth gap that sustains this profound inequity.”
Schulman continued: “PayPal is uniquely positioned to help in this area, and we are committed to doing our part to address the unacceptable racial divide by advancing a more just economy and society.
“We’ve listened to leaders in the Black community about the challenges facing Black business owners and the support and investments needed to sustain Black-owned businesses and create long-term economic opportunity.”
The company’s commitment includes short-term, medium-term, and long-term investments in the community, including:
$10 million fund for empowerment grants to Black-owned businesses impacted by COVID-19 or civil unrest. These grants will provide direct support to business owners to cover expenses related to stabilizing and reopening their businesses.
$5 million fund for program grants and employee matching gifts for PayPal’s nonprofit community partners that are working to strengthen Black business owners by providing them with microloans, technical assistance, information, mentoring and access to digital solutions to speed their recovery from the impact of the pandemic.
The company said it would expand the PayPal Gives Employee Matching Gifts program. PayPal will match $2 for every $1 employees donate and $10 for every volunteer hour dedicated to racial and economic justice efforts in local communities, up to $500,000.
$500 million commitment to create an economic opportunity fund to support and strengthen Black and underrepresented minority businesses and communities over the long term, and designed to help drive financial health, access and generational wealth creation.
“AEO advocates for economic inclusion and works to create transformational change in the marketplace for small businesses,” said Connie Evans, the president and CEO of AEO. “Now, more than ever, it’s critical to invest in Black-owned businesses, create a more equitable system and break through the barriers that have historically challenged Black business ownership and wealth creation.”
PayPal also is committing $15 million to strengthen its internal diversity and inclusion programs to foster greater awareness, build equity, and support recruiting, hiring and career advancement of Black and minority employees.
These initiatives build on the extensive financial health and small business empowerment programs PayPal already supports.
They will “add a particular emphasis on Black-owned businesses, sharpen the focus of that work, accelerate the deployment of PayPal’s resources and fuel employee engagement,” the company wrote in a news release.
Statistics have revealed that minorities comprise about 60 percent of those currently on the United States organ transplant list, yet, in 2019, only 32 percent or of donors were from those communities.
Health officials note that, while donors and recipients are not matched based on race or ethnicity, the chances of finding a match and having a successful transplant are increased when both are closely matched in terms of shared genetic background. They say this underscores why it’s crucial to close this gap.
Desert Storm Veteran and Maryland Resident Daronta Briggs and The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) have an essential message for communities of color, which they hope to resonate particularly during August, which is designated as National Minority Donor Awareness Month.
“Organ tissue donation is so important for minorities. It’s important to promote the idea of those become organ donors so that they can help those in need,” said Briggs, who was diagnosed in 2008 with end-stage renal disease.
Briggs received a kidney transplant in October 2012 and he says he “feels like new money now.”
UNOS officials noted that Briggs was one of 28 individuals in 2012 to receive a kidney transplant at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda. That year, 16,487 such operations occurred in America.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, African Americans represent 13.2 percent of the overall U.S. population, but more than 35 percent of all patients receiving dialysis for kidney failure.
Sixty percent of those currently on the U.S. transplant waiting list are minorities, with more than 32,000 being African American.
“You have to have a positive mindset and understand what it means to be an organ tissue donor,” Briggs said. “It makes a difference in someone’s life and allows them to have a second chance. I’m a big advocate of UNOS and my own nonprofit called the Veterans Transplantation Association.”
Briggs started his nonprofit four years ago and had implemented a mentorship program for veterans currently on dialysis.
“I want to give back to my community, and this is how I feel I should,” he said.
Born in Hampton, Virginia, Briggs served in the U.S. military during the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s. It was during his out-processing that he began to realize a health problem.
“I had protein in my urine, some kidney issues, and I had hypertension,” Briggs said.
However, it wasn’t until nearly two decades later when he realized how much his health had declined.
“I was told I needed to start dialysis, and it was a shock because of all of the uncertainty, and when you hear the words’ end-stage renal and dialysis,’ it was unsettling,” he said.
At the time of his diagnosis, Briggs had worked in the Virginia Department of Corrections, and he was married with four daughters.
“I had to tell my daughters who I needed to take care of, and I had to tell my human resources supervisor that I couldn’t work anymore,” Briggs recalled.
He was also told it would take at least six years to get a new kidney. In 2010, he learned of a special program for veterans at the Walter Reed Medical Center that allowed his transplant to occur after just a two year wait.
“I became motivated and, during dialysis, which happened three days a week from 8 a.m. to noon, I’d stay awake and read, and I even wrote a book,” Briggs said. “I wanted to be aware of my surrounding and prepared. I wanted to be able to use this experience to help others.
“With medicine now, and despite the side effects, I have a better quality of life, and I’m able to do the things that I wanted to do before but couldn’t because I was on dialysis.
“I want to be able to share my story with others and help others. I’m a minority, and I want other minorities to understand that they can do this. They can donate organ tissue, and they can be recipients.”
For more information about organ donation and transplants, visit: www.unos.org
Justice Heughan graduated from P- TECH Carver Vocational High School in Baltimore last year with an associate’s degree in Computer Information Sci- ence. He now works for the tech giant, IBM.
The first in his family to go to college, Justice was hired in December as a mainframe sales apprentice but delayed joining so he could take a few more col- lege courses.
In March, the coronavirus pandemic hit, but IBM kept its commitment, and Justice joined IBM this summer.
“I am surprised since the pandemic hit that IBM was able to keep its commit- ment,” Justice said. “The way businesses operate; you never know what programs have to stop or what funding might end. Now that I’m actually here and working, I’m soaking it up right now. I’m blessed.”
Justice credits the P-TECH program for his success. He said it took a real com- mitment, lots of hard work, and dedica- tion to achieve the milestone.
“I wanted to gain as much experience as I could. I had some difficult hours,” Justice said. “For my senior year, the school began at P-TECH at 7:45 and then I’d get on a bus and go to the col- lege where I had classes all day. On the weekends, I worked at the airport, so I was busy all of the time.”
The P-TECH enables students to graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in a STEM field in six years or less.
It was launched in 2011 and reportedly included 110 schools across eight U.S. states and Australia, Morocco, and Taiwan.
In June, IBM’s P-TECH program graduated 29 students in its first class at West Baltimore’s Carver Vocational Technical High School.
While all of the students received high school diplomas, 12 of them including Justice, completed a six-year program in four years and earned their associate degree in cybersecurity or computer information systems along with their high school diploma at no extra charge.
The program included paid summer internships with IBM and college courses at Baltimore City Community College.
IBM counts among many tech compa- nies reportedly trying to boost diversity in the tech workforce with programs like P-TECH.
Through P-TECH, IBM offers gradu- ates not just an associate degree, but first-in-line job opportunities with IBM. As the P-TECH industry partner, IBM supplies mentors, resources, internships and job placement.
“P-TECH has given me exposure to different career pathways,” Justice said. “My father always told me to take advantage of every opportunity, and P-TECH has given me so many.
“It is nice to have someone who is invested in my future.”
When asked what advice he would pro- vide to students considering a traditional high school or P-TECH, Julius used a famous phrase. “Just do it,” he said about P-TECH. “There’s nothing wrong with [traditional] high school but P-TECH offers you so much. The biggest motiva- tor for me was my mentor.”
#FIYAH! — LIVESTREAM THURS. 7.30.20 12PM ET — DR. ANTHONY FAUCI
During a 30-minute interview with BlackPressUSA that was streamed live over Facebook, YouTube, and www.BlackPressUSA.com, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke of the importance of convincing African Americans to participate in clinical trials. He also said that school re-openings should depend mainly upon the location and the infection rate in a given area.
Fauci also said a viable coronavirus vaccine is likely only a few months away.
“The fundamental principle is that we should try as best as we possibly can to get children back to school because we know the psychological aspect of that and the unintended consequences for mothers and fathers who may need to stop working, so we should try to get back to school,” Dr. Fauci said when asked about the impact of the pandemic on the upcoming school year.
“However, paramount needs to be the safety, health, and welfare of children, teachers, and families,” Dr. Fauci added.
“We live in a big country. Some places have low incidents and can open schools while some are high. Some areas rate of infection is so high where it’s not prudent to open schools. You don’t want to endanger their health.”
A member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Fauci has at times found himself at odds with President Donald Trump. For example, earlier this year, the president announced that he would withdraw U.S. funding and support for the World Health Organization (WHO). However, Dr. Fauci told BlackPressUSA that he still maintains a close relationship with the organization.
“I still work closely with the World Health Organization,” said Dr. Fauci. “I’m on a weekly phone call with them, and I signed a memorandum of understanding. We’re all in with the WHO.”
During the interview, which included National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., Dr. Fauci also demonstrated the proper way to wear a facemask.
“Early on, there was a shortage of masks because we didn’t want to take masks away from health providers who needed them,” Dr. Fauci remarked. “It’s easy to get a cloth mask now.”
Dr. Fauci explained further that, “when there are droplets when someone sneezes or coughs, you [are protected]. You can take it and wash it with soap and water or stick it in the washing machine.”
Addressing the disparities surrounding COVID-19 and other illnesses, Dr. Fauci pointed to many African Americans, Latinx, and Native Americans occupying essential jobs that provide employees with little — or no — protection.
“On the one hand, there’s a greater opportunity and risk of getting infected, but even as important is that once you get infected, you have prevalence and incidence of co-morbidities that make it more likely you’ll get a severe outcome from the infection,” Dr. Fauci noted.
“Those co-morbidities are like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and lung disease. It’s very clear that African Americans have a higher incidence, and the reality is that you suffer more.”
The hospitalization rates per 100,000 people are stunning when comparing African Americans and Caucasians, Dr. Fauci proclaimed.
“In many respects, it’s unacceptable that it should be that way,” he said, noting that the hospitalization rate per 100,000 African Americans stands at 247, compared to 53 per 100,000 whites.
“In other words, that’s almost five times the chance of getting hospitalized even though African Americans comprise just 13 percent of the [U.S.] population,” Dr. Fauci observed.
“That’s more than something we need to deal with.”
Dr. Fauci added that there are five fundamental things everyone could do to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Wear a mask, avoid crowds of more than 10, keep a distance of at least six feet, locations should seriously consider closing bars and getting people who go to bars to stop or do it outside, and wash hands frequently either with soap and water or alcohol Purell.”
Clinical trials are vital, Dr. Fauci said.
“We hope that we will have an effective vaccine by the end of the year, which means that as we get into 2021, we want to distribute it for those who could benefit,” he added.
“We need to spend extra effort to protect African Americans, and the way you find out if the vaccine is effective is the enrollment in a vaccine trial. It would be a terrible shame if African Americans stayed away from clinical trials, and they didn’t provide for themselves the vaccine that could protect them.”
Dr. Fauci suggested that he wears a mask everywhere goes and demanded that doing so shouldn’t be about politics.
“This is about protecting each other. We’re all in this together,” Dr. Fauci said.
“I’m pleased to see that we now have the president talking about wearing a mask where he didn’t before, and the vice president wears a mask everywhere he goes. We’ve got to pull together.”
Whether reinfection of the coronavirus can occur remains somewhat of a mystery, Dr. Fauci explained.
“When you get infected with any virus, generally, when you recover, your body has made a good immune response to recover,” Dr. Fauci noted.
“We know that happens in people who had COVID-19. We don’t know what the duration of that is. There are varying levels of antibodies in people who recover, and what we’re following is how long they last. Some people find that it doesn’t last very long.”
“There are other types of immunity that go beyond, and they’re called T-cells or cellular immunity, which may also play a role in protecting people from being infected. Likely a degree of protection is pretty good for a finite period.
“There are no well-documented cases of people actually being re-infected. There have been some anecdotally stories of people recovering who seemed to have gotten infected, but we don’t know. There’s no real hard evidence that’s happening.”
When the coronavirus pandemic began to rage in March, schools and colleges were among the first casualties as education officials had to close their doors to ensure safety.
Sasvi Kulasinghe was sent home from her studies at the University of Mary- land. She immediately took an interest in finding out how she could make a tangible impact in her community.
Isuru Herath (Cornell University ’23) co-leads Telehealth in Baltimore with Sasvi Kulasinghe.
“From the news and my own mother, who is a physician, I learned that the transition to telemedicine has been quite difficult for some community members, especially elderly individuals,” Kulasinghe said. “A lot of seniors either have flip phones or phones without video ca- pabilities, which makes telehealth visits much more difficult and less effective. Video conferencing allows the physician to provide more comprehensive care, as they can actually see and evaluate the patients’ symptoms and signs more ef- fectively.
“Thus, when I heard about ‘TeleHealth Access for Seniors,’ I was very eager to join, as it allowed me to address an im- portant need in the community.”
Telehealth for Seniors is a national nonprofit that provides seniors and low- income communities with devices, in- structions, and free tech-support to connect them to their physicians via a mobile device.
Telehealth enables caretakers to virtu- ally screen patients, answer questions, and make treatment recommendations without exposure to a hospital or clinic where they could contract or spread the coronavirus.
Locally, they are donating devices to clinics in the University of Maryland Medical System and the Mobile Medical Care clinic, which serves predominantly low-income communities in need of telemedicine appointments “As we adjust to living in this new re- ality, it has become evident that COVID-19 has exacerbated existing in- equalities. Inner-city communities, as well as the elderly, seem to be the most healthcare to patients in need.” Herath and Kulasinghe agreed that supporting Telehealth for Seniors is es- sential, particularly during COVID-19.
“As we navigate this pandemic, it’s re- ally important that everyone continues to follow social distancing guidelines to keep each other safe,” Kulasinghe said. “By breaking these rules, we may be putting vulnerable populations at high risk without even knowing it. To return to any sense of normalcy, we all have to play our part in protecting each other. It’s more important than ever to be mindful and considerate of others.”
To support our nonprofit’s initiative, donations of used devices are encouraged. To do so, visit “Device Donation Form” at https://www.telehealthforse- niors.org/support-us. Further, monetary donations can be made on the organization’s gofundme vulnerable populations during this pandemic,” said Kulasinghe, the nonprofit’s Baltimore lead.
‘“Telehealth Access for Seniors” is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that was formed to respond to these challenges by donating camera-enabled devices to clinics that serve patients from these populations so they can attend doctor’s appointments virtually. We also provide comprehensive guides and tech-support to help set up and use the devices.”
Isuru Herath, who attends Cornell University and co-leads Telehealth in Baltimore with Kulasinghe, said the organization is a straightforward way to give back to the community, as funds are spent based on the state they are raised in.
Ellicot City resident and sophomore at the University of Maryland, College Park, Sasvi Kulasinghe is the Baltimore lead at TeleHealth Access for Seniors.
“So monetary donations from Mary- land will be used to buy tablets for pa- tients in the Baltimore-DC metropolitan area. Additionally, patients keep these devices, allowing them to connect with their loved ones,” Herath said. “This is especially beneficial for elderly patients, who may often feel isolated during the quarantine. Donating to our organization is a great way to support each other in these trying times and help provide
African Americans in Baltimore have suffered as much as anyone because of the coronavirus pandemic. To add to all the other stressors, many haven’t been able to work remotely.
One local nonprofit is bringing hope to Baltimore, by providing free training in coding and tech fundamentals, helping them launch careers in technology.
NPower, a nonprofit that creates pathways to economic prosperity by launching digital careers for military veterans and young adults from underserved communities, continues to recruit Baltimore residents for its next remote learning semester that begins in September.
The organization noted that nearly 90 percent of NPower graduates had found full-time employment after completing a six-month program.
Kendra Parlock, NPower’s executive director, said young adults, minorities, and women of color can apply for these tech training programs that have led to jobs with companies like Amazon, Under Armour, and the Department of Defense— helping to turn their lives around in less than a year.
There’s a lot of training and a whole list of programs where we match students with mentors who provide professional development. Also, people can graduate and receive top pay,” Parlock said, adding that NPower, is funded by corporations, grants, and foundations who are trying to bring more diversity to technology. “Students don’t pay for anything, and are placed in paid internships for training.”
Students who enter NPower” s free, six-month program, earn industry-recognized certifications and graduate with the competencies of an IT professional with one to two years of experience.
NPower also places students in paid internships with corporate and nonprofit organizations. About 90 percent of NPower graduates get a full-time job or continue their education.
“Not only are we changing life trajectories for individuals from vulnerable communities, but we are also strengthening the overall competitiveness of U.S. businesses hamstrung by today’s limited pool of IT talent,” added Parlock, who has more than 20 years of experience helping businesses rebuild and expand.
NPower’s mission to bring more diversity to the tech industry by empowering and offering men and women of color, the opportunities, and resources to succeed was boosted in 2018.
That’s when Citi Foundation awarded NPower a $1.64 million, two-year grant in 2018 to increase enrollment of young women of color in their training program to 40 percent by the year 2022 and to increase the onboarding for women of color to their instructional team to 40 percent. The “40 by 22 Initiative” was an intentional effort to deploy new strategies and share best practices on attracting and preparing women of color for a career in technology, the organization said in a news release.
As of January 2020, NPower’s 40 by 22 Initiative has increased the enrollment of young women in their program 105 percent. They have helped 378 women of color launch tech career With close to half of young women unemployed before the program, the average salaries of young women after completing their fundamental training reached $42,500. In contrast, women takin advanced offerings earn $77,000.
“We are targeting people who come from non-traditional paths, so in many cases, they’re coming with some major hurdles,” Parlock said.
To enter the program, individuals at least must have earned a GED and are between 18 and 24
Because of the pandemic, the fall semester will take place virtually. To learn more about NPower, visit: www.npower.org.
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.”