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'The Pandemic Is Not Over' Baltimore Mayor Weighs Mandatory Employee Vaccinations, Plans Booster Shot Roll Out As Cases Rise 471%

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott did not announce any new restrictions but he warned they could be coming without more people getting vaccinated.

"As the Delta variant continues to spread, we know that vaccines are the difference between life and death in our communities and for our residents," the mayor said at a Thursday morning news conference.

Scott said discussions are underway on whether to require vaccinations for city employees and to provide incentives for them to get the shot.

It follows the governor's mandate to vaccinate all hospital and nursing home employees statewide.

In Baltimore, no final decision has been made on mandates or incentives. "Nothing is final, and anyone else who told you anything else doesn't know what they're talking about," Mayor Scott said.

Baltimore has seen cases rise 471% in the past month.

"We are particularly concerned about increases in case counts among younger populations. Data for the past week shows the highest rates among the 20 to 29 age group with the second highest age group being those under the age of 10," Dr. Dzirasa, the city's health commissioner, told reporters.

A bright spot: First-dose vaccinations among African Americans have risen 12.2% since July.

Last week, WJZ spoke to a COVID-19 survivor who works for Johns Hopkins. She was initially reluctant to get the vaccine but changed her mind once she saw the surge in Delta-variant cases.

The other big announcement from the city involves booster shots: The federal government is planning to offer them beginning the week of Sept. 20 pending a green light from the FDA, and Baltimore leaders said they are prepared.

"Boosters will be rolled out first to individuals who were prioritized for vaccination at the earliest phase of the city's vaccine campaign," Dr. Dzirasa said. "This includes health care workers, first responders and individuals working in public safety among others."

She said the city is scouting locations for a semi-permanent booster vaccine site and would also offer them at various clinics around the Baltimore and would make sure there is equitable access in areas with lower rates of vaccination.

The boosters are important to boost immunity as there have been breakthrough cases statewide. Those are infections among the fully vaccinated.

Baltimore City lags behind the state in the vaccination rate with 65% of adults in the city having received at least one dose. Maryland's statewide average is close to 80%.

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