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Baltimore City Indoor Mask Mandate In Effect As More Businesses, Employers Requiring Proof of Vaccination

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Samantha Claassen owns Golden West Cafe in Hampden and welcomes Baltimore's renewed indoor mask mandate, which went into effect Monday morning.

"Having the city say we must have masks is a wonderful first step in the right direction because it means citywide people are going to be expected to do this. So it's much less stressful for the staff," Claassen told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren.

She never stopped requiring masks in her restaurant.

"We are so over covid. I just want this to end, and I know that if we take these precautions, we can help stop the spread," she said.

Claassen shut down for a few days last week out of an abundance of caution after a staff member was exposed to covid. Thankfully, no one tested positive. Her entire staff is vaccinated.

"In the last ten days, we have seen a lot of small businesses in and around Baltimore close—if not for actual verified cases—for exposure," Claassen told Hellgren.

Some venues like Ottobar are mandating vaccines or testing to attend shows.

"All of these measures are precautionary. We really don't want to go back to the time when nobody could go see anything," said owner Tecla Tesnau.

She said a picture of your vaccine card on your phone will suffice as proof. The negative test must be within 72 hours of entering. Before customers purchase tickets for shows at Ottobar, a pop-up window explains the rules.

"We felt it was really important to lead the way as what we see the industry standard heading towards anyway," Tesnau said.

Claassen says she's considering mandating proof of vaccination for her diners but is still working through how to implement such a policy.

"Taking a step like that is progressive. It keeps us all a lot safer and it aggressively works toward stopping the spread," she said.

Ari, a customer who declined to give her last name, believes individual businesses should decide whether to mandate masks instead of the government.

"It doesn't make sense because the state doesn't have a mask mandate. So someone can come from Baltimore County and drive to the city and you have to wear a mask here," she said.

Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel Counties have no mask mandates for businesses. Anne Arundel does mandate face coverings in buildings run by the county like libraries. Prince George's and Montgomery Counties are joining Baltimore City with an indoor mask mandate.

"We're entering into what feels like a new phase of the pandemic where we have a group of people who are vaccinated and therefore have some level of protection and a group of individuals who aren't vaccinated," Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa told Hellgren. "…But we know that vaccines are safe and effective." She said there has been a slight increase in vaccinations recently. "Where I get particularly concerned is for our residents who are unvaccinated," Dr. Dzirasa said.

Baltimore rabbis made a video encouraging vaccinations.

Covid-19 Message From Our Local Rabbanim: Get Vaccinated by BmoreHealthy on YouTube

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is now requiring everyone to wear masks for mass and all other events inside their buildings.

More employers are requiring vaccinations including Sinai Hospital operator LifeBridge Health and the Baltimore City Housing Authority.

"Things have really changed in terms of transmission," Dr. Dzirasa said. …Now we know that even vaccinated individuals can spread the disease just as easily, and it's more transmissible now."

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