BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore’s mayor is allowing restaurants and bars to open for indoor dining with restrictions as he aligns the city with the rest of the state.

On Friday morning, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced bars, restaurants, gyms, churches, malls and more were allowed to begin reopening at 50 percent capacity at 5 p.m. Friday. The change is in accordance with the state’s recovery plan.

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The move was a surprise to some as the city has been more restrictive than much of Maryland. It follows the governor’s sharp criticism of the city last week for moving too slowly to reopen some establishments like retail.

Young said he would not hesitate to slow things down if necessary. Both the mayor and Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa warned “the virus is still here” and poses dangers.

“There still remains a risk to going out,” Dzirasa said during a press conference Friday morning inside the War Memorial Building downtown.

Even though businesses are able to reopen, Young stressed the threat of contracting COVID-19 still exists.

“I want to be crystal, crystal clear: loosening restrictions restriction does not mean that the threat of infection is gone, or that these activities are risk-free,” Young said. “We will strongly recommend social distancing and hand washing with warm water for at least 20 seconds.”

“We will continue to monitor the data daily and if things take a turn for the worst I will not hesitate to reinstate restrictions,” Young added.

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The state’s overall positivity and hospitalization rates have been trending downward, but Dr. Dzirasa noted Baltimore is still averaging two to three deaths and 85 to 90 new cases each day.

While bars and restaurants are allowed to have indoor service, it must be at 50 percent capacity with other safeguards. Masks are mandatory.

At Kooper’s Tavern in Fells Point, owner Patrick Russell was hard at work trying to get a larger outside dining space set up. He told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren it will be “crucial” for his businesses with inside capacity restricted.

“Let’s go! Come on back,” was Russell’s message to customers.

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He praised the mayor for relaxing restrictions but said for many business owners, the less than six hours notice was far too little.

Maureen Sweeney Smith, the interim executive director of Fells Point Main Street, said some businesses were using a plan designed years ago to allow them to expand into the streets. A few parking spaces will be eliminated. She said other bars and restaurants would be expanding outdoors and hoped to continue outdoor dining through the holiday season.

Also under the mayor’s order, hair salons and other personal services businesses can open to half capacity. Customers must have appointments.

“It’s been a little frustrating,” said Leah Taylor of Smoke and Mirrors salon. She said the city could have given businesses more notice but that she was “excited to be back.”

Other new city openings include museums, the zoo, gyms, libraries, non-essential offices, pools, churches, malls, casinos and sports activities — all with restrictions.

But the mayor said Baltimore’s city-run public pools and playgrounds will remain closed for now.

Statewide, Governor Larry Hogan has allowed malls, casinos and gyms to open again.

 

Here’s a list of what can reopen in the city and to what extent:

  • Faith-based entities – facilities are permitted to reopen for indoor services, with the total number of people present not to exceed 50% of the building’s maximum capacity
  • Retail establishments and malls – shopping centers and malls with one or more enclosed pedestrian concourses may open to the general public, at up to 50% of maximum capacity.
    • Staff are required to wear face coverings while in areas open to the general public and areas in which interaction with other staff is likely, and social distancing should be promoted.
  • Personal services – beauty salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, tanning salons, massage parlors, and establishments that provide esthetic services or provide nail technician services will be allowed to reopen, at up to 50% of maximum capacity, by appointment only.
    • Staff will be required to wear face coverings while in areas open to the general public and areas in which interaction with other staff is likely. Services must be provided on an appointment-only basis. After providing services to each customer, staff must clean and disinfect the area in which services were performed in accordance with applicable guidelines from CDC and the Maryland Department of Health (MDH).
  • Recreational establishments – bowling alleys, bingo halls, pool halls, roller skating rinks, and social and fraternal clubs will be allowed to reopen to the public at up to 50% of maximum capacity
  • Foodservice establishments – restaurants, bars, clubs, and social clubs with dining facilities will be allowed to reopen indoor seating to the public at up to 50% of maximum capacity
    • All staff must wear cloth face coverings, no serving of food may be done in a buffet setting, all customers must be seated, and each table must be cleaned and disinfected between seatings in accordance with CDC and MDH guidelines.
  • Fitness centers will be allowed to reopen to the public at up to of 50% maximum occupancy
    • All staff must wear cloth face coverings, and sufficient cleaning materials must be provided for patrons to wipe down equipment between each use.
  • Childcare facilities – daycare facilities will be allowed to have up to 15 individuals per classroom
  • Youth camp programs (indoor and outdoor) – indoor and outdoor programs will be allowed to have up to 15 people in a space at any given time, including all staff and campers.
  • Libraries will be allowed to reopen to the public at up to 50% of maximum capacity
  • The Baltimore Zoo, the National Aquarium, and museums will be allowed to reopen to the public at up to 50% of maximum capacity
  • Nonessential offices – nonessential offices will be allowed to reopen to the public at up to 50% of maximum capacity; telework still strongly recommended
  • Pools – indoor and outdoor pools and aquatic centers will be allowed to reopen at up to 50% of maximum capacity.
    • Operators must determine the maximum number of people in a pool at any given time by dividing the square footage surface area of the pool (determined by multiplying the length of the pool by the width) by 36. This ensures 6 feet of separation between pool patrons in the water. The maximum number allowed in the pool shall be posted at the pool.
    • Pools must follow applicable MDH guidance.
  • Sports activities (indoor and outdoor) – Sports activities will be allowed to reopen at up to 50% of maximum indoor capacity for participants, and outdoors at up to 100% of maximum capacity for participants. Activities will not be open to spectators. If the activity takes places indoors, social distancing must be maintained and face coverings should be worn to the greatest extent possible.
  • Youth sports gatherings (indoor and outdoor) – Youth and amateur sports gatherings and events may resume sporting activities, at up to 50% of maximum indoor capacity, but not open to the general public. Social distancing must be maintained and to the extent possible, face coverings should be worn.
  • Casinos – casinos may reopen at up to 50% capacity, with appropriate safeguards in place.

Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke to WJZ’s Vic Carter earlier this week and said Maryland “did well” with its recovery and also supported the Baltimore mayor’s decision.

Fauci said Baltimore City, which is still in Phase One of the Reopening process while most of Maryland is in Phase Two, is taking the right steps.

“I think in many respects, even though it looks like, well, ‘Why are we in Phase One when others are in Phase Two?’ They’re doing it prudently. Because if they were at gateway, or Phase One, and then jumped inappropriately into a phase that they weren’t prepared for, then you risk the kind of rebounds that we’re trying to avoid.”

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.