Starting Monday, Baltimore City will lift the remaining coronavirus-related restrictions included in phase one of the state’s recovery plan, but the city is waiting until key metrics improve further to enter phase two, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced Friday.
Houses of worship will be allowed to resume outdoor religious services with no more than 50 people in attendance, and the city is still encouraging virtual worshipping.
Religious organizations can apply for tent permits to use during services, which will be issued after gaining approval from fire and building inspectors.
To use the tents, religious organizations must require congregants to practice physical distancing and to wear face coverings.
The city will reopen child care centers with a limit of 10 people per room.
Hair salons and barber shops in Baltimore City will be allowed to reopen by appointment only with no more than five people per 1,000 square feet.
Hotels will be able to reopen after implementing health safeguards.
Retail stores will continue to only be able to provide curbside pickup, with customers not yet allowed in stores.
Summer camps will also be able to reopen with no more than 10 people per room, including campers and staffers, or 50 people per outdoor space.
Young said the city will launch its six-week Bmore Summer Fun program, providing children ages 5-12 years old with outdoor sports, crafts, STEM activities, nature play and more at green spaces, starting July 6.
The program will run Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Reginald Moore, director of the Department of Recreation and Parks, said that before the coronavirus pandemic 1,300 children registered for the program.
But due to COVID-19, the program will only be able to host about a third of the children that Rec and Parks normally has during the summer, Moore said.
The program will include groups of no more than nine children each, plus a counselor who will stay with that same group of kids for the duration of the program. There will also be no off-site trips or activities, Moore said.
“The openings announced today have been discussed thoroughly by our health professionals and we feel as though, if done right, these items can be safely done,” Young said.
Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said city officials are “cautiously optimistic” about entering phase one of recovery after improvements in several health metrics.
Dzirasa said the city has seen an increase in the number of tests performed daily, averaging about 1,000 tests per day in the most recent weekly average.
The city has also seen a decrease in the percentage of tests that have come back positive, with a positivity rate between 10-13 percent for the past several weeks, Dzirasa said.
She added that the number of COVID-19 patients in the city’s acute and intensive care units has held steady.
Effective at 5 p.m. today, Maryland jurisdictions can enter phase two of the state’s recovery plan, Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Wednesday, ultimately leaving it up to local leaders to determine when their jurisdictions would begin that second phase.
But Baltimore City is not yet ready to begin phase two, Young and Dzirasa said.
“We think it would be reckless to jump ahead to phase two when we haven’t fully been in phase one,” Dzirasa said.
She added that while the activities under phase one are lower risk, people should continue taking precautions to limit the spread of coronavirus, including physical distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands and staying home if ill.
Before beginning phase two, Dzirasa said city officials will be looking for a sustained decrease in the average rate of new COVID-19 cases per day, a sustained decrease in average number of coronavirus-related deaths per day, an increase in the average number of tests performed daily, a decrease in the city’s COVID-19 positivity rate “over an extended period of time” and a decrease or holding steady of the number of patients in acute and intensive care units.
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