Starting next week, masks will no longer be required indoors in Baltimore, Mayor Brandon Scott announced today, pointing to Baltimore’s decreased Covid case rate and touting the city’s handling of the pandemic as “a national model.”
“We’ve made a valiant stand against Covid-19,” Scott said at a press briefing. “Through everything the pandemic threw our way, Baltimore – as we always do – stood strong.”
But despite the end of Baltimore’s mask mandate – beginning on Tuesday, March 1 – the public still will not be able to enter City Hall .
Asked when he will reopen the building, as well as other city government offices, Scott offered few specifics.
“The next step is me talking with both the Council president and the comptroller, as they play a role, too,” Scott said.
“You should expect to hear from us and from them, hopefully, together – I’m going to ask them to be a part of this – within the next few weeks,” he continued.
Would the end of indoor masking affect the city’s Covid-19 policy for city workers? They have been told they must get vaccinated or submit to weekly Covid testing.
Scott confirmed “adjusting and changing the policies,” but again declined to specify.
Asked if lifting of the mask mandate will apply to workers and anyone else when they are inside City Hall, Scott said, “Yes, for City Hall as everywhere.”
“Though you’ll probably see me still me with one on,” he added.
Decline in Hospitalizations
Scott said his decision was made in consultation with Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa, who presented the data behind the decision. She said that as of Feb. 22:
• The Covid positivity rate was 2.03%, a 77% decrease from the positivity level of 8.72% one month ago.
• The seven-day average for new Covid cases was 18.37 per 100,000 residents, a 78% decrease from a month earlier.
• City hospitals were at 86% capacity in the intensive care units and 89% capacity in the acute care units.
• There were 161 Covid patients occupying beds in city hospitals, compared to January 22, when there were 696 hospitalized Covid patients.
• 76.8% of city residents five-years-old and up have received a first or single dose, and 67.4% are fully vaccinated.
Dzirasa said the decision to lift the masking requirement was driven “especially by the stark declines in hospitalizations and case rates and the large percentage of eligible residents who have received the vaccine.”
But she cautioned that Scott’s decision “is in no way an indication that the pandemic is over.”
She said masks, vaccines, testing and isolation remain an important tool in the fight against Covid.
“I still encourage individuals to wear masks in indoor crowded spaces, especially those that are poorly ventilated,” she added. “And businesses still have the right to require masking of patrons on their premises.”