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Mandatory face coverings in public among coronavirus-related measures passed by Baltimore City Council

The Baltimore City Council considered a slew of measures targeting the coronavirus pandemic as its members were again are forced to conduct the city's business virtually. Council members are shown April 6 during their first virtual meeting.
The Baltimore City Council considered a slew of measures targeting the coronavirus pandemic as its members were again are forced to conduct the city's business virtually. Council members are shown April 6 during their first virtual meeting. (Kenneth K. Lam)

The Baltimore City Council pressed the mayor Monday to require all residents to wear a face covering when they go out in public to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The council unanimously passed a resolution calling for Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young to issue an executive order mandating everyone in the city wear either a mask or another kind of facial covering when they leave their homes.

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Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending people wear cloth or fabric face coverings, which can be made at home, when they go out to potentially crowded places.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks recently signed an order requiring everyone shopping in county grocery stores or other large shops to wear masks. The measure also applies to riders on the county bus system. Officials in Montgomery County and Washington, D.C., issued similar orders.

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City Council President Brandon Scott, who introduced the resolution, said Baltimore needs to follow suit. He and the council also are urging the mayor to issue an executive order requiring that all businesses implement “social distancing” measures and limit the number of customers inside at one time.

Young’s spokesman, Lester Davis, said the mayor discussed these precautions with other county leaders during a recent conference call. He got advice from Alsobrooks on how to successfully implement a face-covering requirement, and is now looking at how it might work best in Baltimore.

“We’re considering anything that’ll promote public safety,” Davis said.

The council also advanced a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to make “false statements" or impersonate a city official during a declared state of emergency.

Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur recently warned of fraudsters emailing people, claiming to be from a local hospital and offering them a COVID-19 vaccine for a price, though no such vaccine exists. Other scammers have offered nonexistent cures or tried to solicit people’s personal information through fake websites.

Scott says the bill will send a message to those who would seek to prey on people, and especially the elderly, during their most vulnerable time.

“When you have a crisis like this, you have to understand that people who are evil take every opportunity to wrong people,” he said.

Scott and Young are running against each other in the June 2 Democratic primary.

The council also passed a handful of other coronavirus-related resolutions: One calls for the city to put up all homeless people who need shelter in hotel rooms, and another throws their support behind the ACLU of Maryland’s request that the state release certain nonviolent offenders during the pandemic.

The state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services announced Monday that an inmate at the Jessup Correctional Institution died from COVID-19 complications. There are a total of 93 confirmed cases in the Maryland correctional system.

Democratic Councilman Zeke Cohen also called for the city, state and school system to work together to close a “digital divide” that makes online lessons difficult for thousands of Baltimore children. It’s unclear how long schools will remain closed because of the pandemic.

Schools CEO Sonja Santelises briefed council members last week, telling them the district is ordering thousands of new and refurbished Chromebooks for kids, but still falls short of being able to provide a device for every child who needs one.

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