Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Photo by soomness.
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Photo by soomness.

Effective at 5 p.m. today, Baltimore City will lift restrictions on many large, outdoor gatherings to slow the spread of coronavirus, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced.

The mayor also loosened restrictions on events in large indoor rooms, such as hotel ballrooms, banquet rooms and meeting halls, allowing them to open at 50 percent capacity.

In a statement, Young said the city has seen “tremendous progress” in its data tracking the COVID-19 pandemic. He urged Baltimoreans to continue following health guidelines that limit the spread of the virus, such as wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, when out in public.

“This lifting of restrictions on mass gatherings is low-risk if individuals continue to practice social distancing and other mitigation tactics, like wearing a face covering, but not without risk,” he said. “Residents who choose to go out should still continue to do so safely.”

Baltimore City is still in the second phase of its reopening plan, and outdoor events that still require a city permit–like street festivals and fireworks displays–and conventions remain prohibited.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said the city’s daily case counts showed most residents have been following those safety measures.

Since reaching a record high of 205 new cases on May 27, Baltimore has seen the number of new cases continually decline, according to city data.

The city hasn’t surpassed 100 new cases in a day since June 3, when 107 new cases were reported.

Officials reiterated that face coverings are still required in any retail establishment and on public transportation, per Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order.

According to the city’s dashboard, Baltimore will be eligible for phase three if the number of cases and deaths decreases for 14 days, the number of hospital beds in use remains below 80 percent for two weeks, the average number of tests reaches an average of 2,000 per day, and the average rate of positive tests dips below 10 percent for 14 days.

The city’s testing data shows the rate of positive tests reached 11.1 percent on May 29, and has been below 10 percent every day since. But testing has lagged behind, failing to reach the 2,000 mark from May 28 to June 17, the most recent period for which complete data is available.

Early results released for the period between June 18 and June 25 appear to show the number of tests has continued to dip. Young and Dzirasa have cited the need to ramp up testing in the city as one of the reasons they’ve taken a more deliberate approach to reopening the city.

As of June 24, the most recent date for which data is available, 85 percent of acute care beds in the city and 83 percent of intensive care units were in use.

Under phase three, libraries, museums and retail stores could increase their capacity from 50 percent to 75 percent, and restrictions would be loosened on crowd sizes at places of worship, outdoor events and indoor venues.

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...