BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore City eased its mask mandates Friday, aligning itself with Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement and the CDC guidelines.

Starting immediately, people will not be required to wear face coverings while outdoors, unless they are attending events at outdoor venues, such as concerts, sporting events and other live performances.

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“The CDC’s latest guidance demonstrates the clear benefits of being vaccinated for Baltimore City residents,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “By getting vaccinated, we can start returning to pre-pandemic activities, beginning with being outside without a face covering.”

At Druid Hill Park on Friday, when the news of the mask mandate lifting broke to Sister Kilolo she broke into dance and didn’t hold back.

But not everyone is as thrilled.

“Sounds like it’s sending the wrong idea, it’s a mixed message,” said Sarah Jones, Baltimore resident.

However the City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa still recommends masks for those who are not yet fully vaccinated. Masks are also still required indoors at restaurants, unless eating or drinking, and while shopping or on public transportation.

“A lot of people out here who haven’t received a vaccine who say they’re not going to get a vaccine. They’re not gonna have a mask on, so how can we protect ourselves?” asked Sarah Jones, resident.

“Until we reach herd immunity, we still urge residents to be mindful of how their activities may unintentionally contribute to disease spread,” said Dr. Dzirasa. “Although we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, today’s announcement marks the beginning of a new chapter in Baltimore’s response, and increasing our vaccination rate will be the key to lifting further restrictions.”

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“It’s kind of like putting a muzzle on a dog- not that we’re dogs or anything- but I think it’s good for us to interact a little bit closer. I hope nobody gets sick,” said resident Dari El.

People are continuing to transmit the virus and Baltimore City on Friday just passed 1,000 total COVID-19 deaths.

Mayor Scott also announced an exemption that will allow Baltimore-area colleges and universities to hold in-person commencement and graduation ceremonies for the 2021 season. All ceremonies must be held in accordance to public health guidelines.

“The Baltimore City Health Department has been engaged in conversation with local colleges and universities to assist with planning for outdoor commencements,” said Health Commissioner Dzirasa. “These guidelines will ensure that the 2021 graduation season is both celebratory and safe.”

The guidelines for safe commencements will require universities and colleges to:

  • Hold ceremonies in an outdoor venue with a 25% capacity limit for outdoor events, similar to Camden Yards and the Preakness. Colleges and universities will have to determine how they limit tickets to graduates to accommodate this requirement.
  • Maintain social distancing between members of different households.
  • Require masks at all times.
  • Provide a sign in or ticketing mechanism that tracks participants and guests in attendance for contact tracing purposes.

“Our students deserve the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments after pushing through an incredibly challenging, unprecedented year,” said Mayor Scott. “I thank Commissioner Dzirasa for working closely with our colleges and universities to develop a plan that allows students, faculty, and families to commemorate this important milestone in person.”

For more information about Baltimore City’s COVID-19 response, visit coronavirus.baltimorecity.gov.

St. Mary’s County, Queen Anne’s and Kent counties also announced Friday that they would be following the governor’s lead and lifting outdoor mask mandates.

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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.

Paul Gessler