Kim Eshleman, director of the Baltimore City health department’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, and other Baltimore officials on Wednesday warned residents about the dangers of fireworks, heat-related illness and COVID-19 ahead of Fourth of July weekend. Image via Facebook Live.

Baltimore officials on Wednesday reminded residents to avoid illegal fireworks displays during the Fourth of July weekend, while being mindful of heat-related illnesses and taking precautions against COVID-19.

In May, the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts announced that the city had cancelled its annual Fourth of July fireworks show this year due to continued concerns about coronavirus “super-spreader events.”

But city officials on Wednesday emphasized that residents are still prohibited from their own fireworks displays this holiday weekend.

Lt. Del Holmes, of the Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshall, said fireworks, including sparklers, are illegal in Baltimore City. They are also dangerous and can cause “life-changing” injuries, he said.

“Thousands of injuries have been seen in the emergency room each year due to fireworks being mishandled,” Holmes said. “Causing a range of injuries, firecrackers large and small contribute to 11% of ER treatments. Sparklers, thought to be safe for kids, can reach temperatures up to 2,000 degrees.”

Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said BPD officers will be patrolling over the weekend in search of people setting off fireworks, shooting guns into the air, and participating in other unsafe activities.

Community members can anonymously report locations where fireworks are sold, stored or ignited by calling Metro Crime Stoppers’ tip line at 1-866-7LOCKUP or by visiting www.metrocrimestoppers.org.

Instead of fireworks, Holmes suggested safer options, like glow sticks, noisemakers, confetti-filled balloons, and using a projector in the backyard to watch fireworks displays online.

“We’ve seen fireworks cause injury,” Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby said. “We’ve seen fireworks create fires. We’ve seen fireworks destroy lives … Let’s ensure that we’re enjoying ourselves, but let’s do it in a way that we keep ourselves, our community and our city safe.”

Kim Eshleman, director of the health department’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, said there is another danger ahead: heat.

This week, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa issued a Code Red extreme heat declaration, which lasts through June 30. A Code Red is declared when the heat index, or how hot it feels, reaches 105 degrees or higher.

“Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year and even more heat-related illnesses,” Eshleman said.

Signs of heat exhaustion, she said, include nausea, confusion and heavy sweating.

Heat exhaustion can lead quickly to heat stroke, which can be deadly, and includes symptoms such as dry, hot, flushed skin; nausea; and rapid or slowed heart rate.

To prevent heat-related illness, Eshleman recommended fans to circulate air; drinking water regularly; eating well-balanced, light, well-regulated meals; limiting intake of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages; and using a wet cloth to cool skin.

Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles, even for short periods of time, Eshleman added.

Baltimore City’s cooling centers are open today until 7 p.m.

Mayor Brandon Scott said that although Baltimore is continuing to make progress with vaccinations, COVID-19 remains a threat.

“We’ve said this repeatedly: we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “People are still dying. We have to continue to push people to get vaccinated.”

In Baltimore, 59.4% of residents have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 53.3% of residents are fully vaccinated, as of Wednesday.

“We cannot let ourselves get comfortable with those numbers,” Scott said. “We have to continue to see them grow and continue to push our neighbors, our family members, our friends, everyone that we work with, people that we care about, to get vaccinated.”

Baltimore will lift its mask mandate Friday, July 1.

Scott added, however, that people can still wear masks in public and private settings, and businesses can still maintain their own mask requirements.

“I strongly urge every unvaccinated person to continue to wear a mask when unable to socially distance or when they are in large crowds,” Scott said.

For information about walkup vaccination sites and vaccine registration, visit covax.baltimorecity.gov.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...