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Baltimore restaurants, churches and casino can increase capacity to 50% next week

Baltimore will allow places of worship, casinos and retail establishments to operate at half capacity starting next week, loosening the city’s coronavirus-related restrictions while still taking reopening more slowly than the state allows. A player at the Horseshoe Casino is shown in a June 26, 2020, photo.
Baltimore will allow places of worship, casinos and retail establishments to operate at half capacity starting next week, loosening the city’s coronavirus-related restrictions while still taking reopening more slowly than the state allows. A player at the Horseshoe Casino is shown in a June 26, 2020, photo. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore will allow places of worship, casinos and retail establishments to operate at half capacity starting next week, loosening the city’s coronavirus-related restrictions while still taking reopening more slowly than the state allows.

Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said Friday that while leaders in some parts of the state feel comfortable moving with the state into Stage Three of the coronavirus reopening plan, Baltimore officials are not there yet.

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Still, he said, the city is ready to move forward Tuesday at 5 p.m. on some reopening steps.

Indoor dining will be allowed at 50% capacity, up from 25%, as will religious services, malls, casinos and indoor recreation establishments such as movie theaters.

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Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday that all businesses — including entertainment venues — could open starting Friday night. However, local government officials have the authority to keep more restrictive rules in place.

The Republican governor eased capacity restrictions on religious services and retail establishments to 75% and allowed movie theaters and live entertainment to reopen at 50% capacity, or up to 100 people at indoor venues and 250 at outdoor venues, whichever is less.

Baltimore has generally moved more slowly than the state in its reopening. While it has seen encouraging signs recently, it was only last month that the White House singled out Baltimore as one of the nation’s areas of concern for an outbreak.

Jennifer Martin, a deputy city health commissioner, said Friday that throughout the month of August, Baltimore’s positivity rate and seven-day average number of cases and deaths declined. She said the city remains concerned about an elevated risk of disease transmission at large gatherings.

“While we are encouraged by the current data trends, there still is cause for the city to remain cautious as we move forward,” she said. “This pandemic is not over, and we must all remain vigilant to ensure that our case numbers and deaths continue to decline.”

Young urged people not to hold cookouts or parties over Labor Day weekend.

“We’re still in a pandemic,” he said, “one that’s built to spread rapidly in large groups.”

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