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As Baltimore sees positive signs in COVID-19 fight, leaders say pandemic not over

Baltimore City is starting to see some encouraging signs in stopping the spread of coronavirus, but the city’s health commissioner said Tuesday, the pandemic has not gone away.

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Just a few weeks ago, city Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirsa called the trend of coronavirus in the city alarming. Now some positive signs, though the effort to contain the pandemic remains a marathon, not a sprint.

To restaurant owners, any progress in containing coronavirus is hopeful news. These have been very difficult months, made worse by uncertainty of how to operate.

“The openings and the closures, it’s hard to keep up with it. So, it’s like, do you hire staff? Do you fire staff? You are left on the limb. It leaves us in the worst space,” said Randy Bropleh, of Homemaid.

Dzirasa cited a recent decline in the daily average of coronavirus cases in Baltimore. Not yet at the 14-day mark, but a decrease that haven’t been seen in months.

For the first two weeks of August, the daily average of cases in Baltimore was 119, according to figures reported by the state. For the last four days, the average has dropped to 56 cases per day.

Deaths due to the virus are stable.

“Unfortunately, we are losing about one to three people a day to COVID. Something we want to be mindful of is how fatal this disease is,” Dzirasa said.

Dzirasa said testing has increased significantly in Baltimore — up to more than 3,000 a day. She gave no indication when restrictions may ease.

Restaurants remain under a 25% limit on indoor dining, one of the strictest in the state.

“We need folks to take this seriously and as our numbers start to come down hopefully, we can see an expansion of restaurant hours and indoor capacity,” City Councilman Eric Costello said.

As summer turns to fall, Costello said managing outdoor dining with cooler temperatures is something to consider.

“We will cross that bridge when we get closer to the colder months, November, December (and) January. But there is certainly the opportunity to have that discussion about outdoor heaters. Absolutely,” Costello said.

Dzirasa spoke to an online meeting with the Downtown Partnership. One question brought a sobering response–where do we go from here?

“We’ve got a little while, at least multiple months, if not a year or so, before we can fully transition back to normal,” Dzirasa said.

Restaurant owners welcome signs of progress in containing the pandemic.

“It’s a double-edged sword. You have people who have lost their jobs and can’t afford to go out. You have people who have a job, but they are afraid to go out. And then you have people who have the means to go out, but they are not patronizing the Mom and Pop shops,” said Derrick Faulcon, of Homemaid.

The health commissioner urged employers to make sure their sick leave policies encourage people to stay home if they are ill. Too many times, sick employees may feel they will be punished if they don’t show up.


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