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The Covid-19 Pandemic

by Ian Round7:52 amJun 8, 20200

What you need to know as Baltimore moves to Phase 1 of coronavirus recovery

Covid-19 cases and deaths have trended down, but testing remains far below recommended levels for reopening

Above: Baltimore is gradually opening back up. Ouzo Bay restaurant on May 30, a day after Mayor Young said outdoor dining was permitted with customers six feet apart. (Fern Shen)

Today you can get a haircut and attend an outdoor church service in Baltimore.

Some businesses may resume work – with proper social distancing and under other restrictions – as the city takes more steps toward reopening after three months of communal lockdown to slow the spread of deadly Covid-19.

Construction can resume, hotels can reopen and summer camps can start, all with “appropriate safeguards in place,” according to an order from Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young. Essential workers may send their kids to childcare.

The new guidelines generally limit outdoor groups to 50 people and indoor groups to 10.

Salons and barber shops may serve customers only by appointment and must follow spacing and cleaning requirements.

Telework is still recommended in most business office settings.

Maryland barber shops and salon like this one in Mt. Washington are permitted to open today under a new executive order. (Fern Shen)

Maryland barber shops and salon like this one in Mt. Washington are permitted to open today under a new executive order. (Fern Shen)

Outdoor Worship and Food

Churches may resume services but only outdoors – either in parking lots where parishioners stay in their cars or in tented facilities. Face covering and social distancing are required. Indoor services are still banned.

Young announced on Friday that he was ending the local stay-at-home order, which he kept in place after Gov. Larry Hogan sent the state to Phase 1 of his “Roadmap to Recovery” late last month. Earlier last week, Hogan advanced Maryland into Phase 2, with the opening of nonessential businesses.

Outdoor restaurant service in Baltimore resumed on May 29 after Atlas Restaurant Group, a big campaign contributor to Young, put pressure on the mayor.

The high-end chain, with popular outlets in Harbor East and Fells Point, publicly announced it would open for outdoor seating a day before Young gave restaurants permission to do so.

Indoor service in restaurants and bars is still prohibited.

A church short on Covid-19 tests is turning away hundreds – and demands that Hogan provide more tests

Young’s decision to invoke Phase 1 (of three planned phases) has Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa’s imprimatur, and it comes after weeks of encouraging data showing declining numbers of new hospitalizations and deaths due to the coronavirus.

But Young set a low bar for the test positivity rate: less than 20% for 14 days, and an average of at least 1,000 tests per day. That’s four times more than the 4% positivity rate the World Health Organization recommends.

A high test positivity rate suggests only the sick are getting tests, and the government “is not casting a wide enough net to know how much of the virus is spreading within its communities,” according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

Young said sustained increases in deaths, hospitalizations, the positivity rate and other metrics could cause him to declare another stay-at-home order.

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