Baltimore Mayor Scott urges people to stay home for New Year’s Eve

Colin Campbell, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott on Monday touted a 23% drop in coronavirus cases in the city over the past four weeks, but did not ease restrictions on restaurants and instead continued to ask residents to forgo holiday gatherings to curb the spread of the virus as New Year’s Eve approaches Thursday.

Scott said 628 people have been killed by COVID-19 in Baltimore and city hospitals remain near full capacity, with intensive-care units at 85% and acute-care units at 82%. The Democrat ordered both indoor and outdoor dining halted on his first day in the job earlier this month.

“We are nowhere near out of the woods,” Scott said Monday. “Our parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends and family continue to contract and die from this deadly virus. We know there are people out there with COVID-19 who aren’t showing any symptoms that are putting people they know and love and others at risk.”

Scott thanked those Baltimoreans who followed experts’ guidance and canceled their usual get-togethers with family and friends over the Christmas weekend.

“It wasn’t easy to make these adjustments — we all know that — but it was extremely necessary and lifesaving,” Scott said. “With New Year’s Eve coming up, it is imperative we continue to do everything we can to slow the spread of COVID-19 to keep our community safe, so that we can start fresh in 2021.”

Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, Baltimore’s health commissioner, reminded everyone that the city is under an executive order limiting gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 people outside.

Baltimore’s positivity rate was 5.8% as of Monday, the health commissioner said. That’s lower than the statewide rate of 7.42%, as of Sunday, according to the state health department.

The drop in cases is based on the city’s latest 7-day average of new cases, 208, Dzirasa said. But the number of cases remains higher than before the fall surge that began in November, she said.

Baltimore is averaging about four COVID-19 deaths per day, Dzirasa said.

“Please continue avoiding celebrations with individuals outside your household,” she said. “Gathering with individuals outside your household carries a high risk you that could be exposed to someone with COVID. ... Up to 50% of people who transmit COVID-19 don’t show any symptoms.”

Scott asked anyone in Baltimore who plans to ring in the new year to do so safely by wearing a mask, distancing from others and limiting any gatherings to members of their household.

“Now is not the time to throw a big party or celebration,” Scott said. “I know we all are looking forward to putting 2020 in our rear view, but we have to do it in a safe way.”