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Baltimore closes church for COVID-19 violations for the first time

Baltimore health officials on Sunday closed a church in Northeast Baltimore, saying that it violated restrictions in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Officials said the Greater Grace World Outreach Church, a parish in the city’s Frankford neighborhood, was temporarily shuttered due to violations involving social distancing and a lack of face coverings.

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It marks the first time city officials have closed a church over social distancing concerns, city health department spokesman Jeffrey Amoros said in a statement.

The church was shuttered after the conclusion of a Sunday service. It had received a warning after similar violations in mid-December, officials said. The city has received citizen complaints about the church.

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“The Health Department provided a compliance sheet and is working with church leadership to ensure safe reopening,” Amoros said.

Church officials did not respond to a request for comment.

So far, health officials in Baltimore have temporarily closed about a dozen bars and restaurants for overcrowding, social distancing or masking concerns.

The city’s liquor board, meanwhile, has fined a number of establishments mostly small sums and revoked a liquor license over similar violations.

Officials have said they plan to step up enforcement for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. In a statement, the liquor license board reminded businesses that pub crawls and tours remain prohibited, and that they should expect to see an “increased presence” from inspectors, particularly in Federal Hill, Fells Point and Canton on the holiday and the weekend that follows it.

It comes as the city is maintaining capacity restrictions on bars, restaurants, churches and gyms, which state officials have removed. Face masks and social distancing are still required statewide.

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