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Baltimore City Will Lift Indoor Mask Mandate On March 1

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Mayor Brandon Scott said Thursday the city's indoor mask mandate will be lifted on March 1.

The mandate for municipal employees will also be lifted on that date, but Scott said protocols will remain in place for students in Baltimore City Public Schools.

"We will continue to monitor our COVID-19 metrics and make informed decisions, should another variant of concern emerge across our communities," Scott said.

Ultimately, Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises and the Board of School Commissioners have to decide to lift the mandate in the classroom. On Tuesday, the Maryland State Board of Education removed its mask requirement, returning the decision to local districts.

But the board's vote will not take effect until the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review, a panel of state delegates and senators that oversees regulations or standards in the state, holds its own vote, scheduled for Friday.

The mayor said he would consult with City Council President Nick Mosby and Comptroller Bill Henry about reopening City Hall to the public. He expects an announcement within the next few weeks.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said that, as of Feb. 22, the citywide positivity rate is 2.03%, a 77% decrease from a month ago.

And the city's seven-day average case rate is 18.37 cases per 100,000 residents, down from 81.99 cases per 100,000 residents a month ago.

And as of Tuesday, the intensive care units in the city were at 86% capacity and acute care units were at 89% capacity, Dzirasa said. Of the people hospitalized in the city, 161 have COVID-19, she said, compared with 696 on Jan. 22.

The health commissioner said 76.8% of all Baltimoreans age 5 and up have received a first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine or single-shot dose, and 67.4% of residents fully vaccinated.

While the case rate did go up from the Feb. 18 until now, Dzirasa said officials believe this new data reflects an update from the Maryland Department of Health that includes older reinfections. The state health department earlier this month added 24,800 cases of reinfection dating back to September.

"Overall, we are encouraged by the significant decline in case rates and positivity that we've seen in the past several weeks," Dzirasa said.

She emphasized the pandemic is not over, but is instead entering another phase, and masks, vaccinations and other protocols such as quarantining and isolation are still the best tools to limit the spread of the virus.

Businesses still have the right to require masks in their establishments, she said.

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