BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Face coverings will be required for all Baltimore residents over the age of two starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 24, officials announced Wednesday morning.
Baltimore City bars and restaurants will no longer be able to seat or serve customers indoors, per Mayor Jack Young’s executive order signed Wednesday.READ MORE: 33-Year-Old Man Charged In Death Of 2-Month-Old Zorii Pitts
Outdoor dining is still allowed, as long as the seating is socially distanced and patrons wear masks unless they are seated and eating. Carryout and delivery is also still allowed.
“These decisions were not easy, nor were they made to punish a particular industry,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa.
Bars and restaurants already struggling amid the pandemic said this is going to make things even harder.
“You need to realize that it’s our lives, too,” Gia Blattermann, Owner of Gia’s Cafe, said.
Maryland’s Restaurant Association said in a statement that, “restricting restaurants will not stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Dr. Dzirasa said while testing capacity continues to increase, with over 2,000 tests daily, they are seeing the number of new cases increase at a rate higher than what they would expect from increased testing capacity along.
She said the city has seen an increase for multiple days in a row of new cases.
Two weeks after reopening, on July 4, the average daily case count in Baltimore was 63.4 cases per day. A week later, data shows, the average daily case count was 109 cases per day- almost doubling in a week, Dr. Dzirasa said.READ MORE: 3-Year-Old Boy In Critical Condition After Bowie Shooting
This comes just a day after Baltimore County announced they would require residents ages 2 and up to wear face coverings in indoor places.
Baltimore County’s Executive also called on the governor to ban indoor dining and close indoor bar service across Maryland after another day with more than 800 new cases.
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Calls for younger people to take the virus more seriously continue from city and state officials. Over the past month, according to the city’s data, test positivity has risen for people under the age of 40, and declined in that same period for people 40 and over.
Both the highest incidence rates of new cases and the highest test positivity rates are now in residents between 20-39 years old, the health commissioner said.
Certain ZIP codes, she said, specifically the 21224 ZIP code which houses neighborhoods including Canton, Highlandtown and Patterson Park have seen cumulative positivity rates as high as 22 percent among city residents.
The decision to suspend indoor dining at bars and restaurants was not one made lightly, she added, taking into account the number of bars and restaurants with indoor dining that have had to temporarily shut down in the last several weeks.
“Several cities and counties have reported stories of asymptomatic ‘super-spreaders’ attending bars, who later were found to have infected dozens of other people in the course of a single evening,” she said.
“I have always stressed that my administration would continuously monitor the data related to COVID-19, and that I would not hesitate to tighten restrictions if the data indicated we should,” Mayor Young said. “Today, I am taking steps to help safeguard and protect our residents, business owners, and their employees.”
The health department is monitoring several COVID-19 markers, including case counts, deaths, ICU and acute care hospital bed utilization, case positivity rates and the number of tests performed.
Governor Larry Hogan is set to speak at 5 p.m. Wednesday evening about the latest on coronavirus and reopening schools in the state, joined by State Schools Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon. You can watch live on WJZ or WJZ.com.MORE NEWS: Stimulus Check Latest: Is A Fourth Relief Payment Coming?