Baltimore City sees record low positivity rate, fall festivals canceled

Posted at 5:37 PM, Aug 18, 2020

BALTIMORE — Governor Larry Hogan says Baltimore City’s positivity rate has dropped to the lowest point since the pandemic. Still, the city is taking precautions ahead of the fall. BOPA has postponed the Baltimore Book Festival until 2021 and Light City until 2022 and the Baltimore City Health Commissioner said it's still very serious.

"We've seen a slight decline in the number of new cases in the past just few days but certainly we want to see a sustained decline of new cases over a 14-day period as we think about transitioning from phase to phase," said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa.

Right now in the city, indoor dining is allowed, but on a limited basis and we’ve seen safety orders fluctuate with rising case numbers. It’s those changes that are causing confusion about what is safe and what’s allowed.

Today, Dzirasa joined the Downtown Partnership and City Councilman Eric Costello this morning for their weekly coronavirus recovery webinar to give an update on COVID-19 in the city and answer lots of questions submitted by the public.

"So where do you think we go from here? How long would you consider social distancing to be necessary?" asked Costello.

Dzirasa is optimistic there will be a vaccine in the next few months but said social distancing and masks will be the norm well into the fall.

"Say we were to get a vaccine by the end of this year. We also need to ensure pretty widespread vaccination of a good portion of our population and we would likely start with those who are most vulnerable," said Dzirasa.

She expects issues comparable with what we saw in testing dissemination.

"It took us awhile to get to the point where we had test kits and we have enough supply and so I would hope that we would take lessons learned from some of the challenges we had with producing tests and swabs and be prepared for a COVID vaccination," said Dzirasa.

During the webinar, she also addressed some common misconceptions, saying not everyone needs to get tested.

"If you have been generally safe, if you’ve been staying home, if you’re abiding my social distancing, then I wouldn’t advise getting a test just to get a test," said Dzirasa.

She also says while research continues, she warned you could get COVID-19 more than once.

"Right after an infection, there’s typically a period of immunity, which we think lasts maybe a couple of weeks. But it’s not indefinite. So certainly you could have had it in March and you could be subject to get it again in August," said Dzirasa.

She said another thing to think about in the fall is the flu season and she encourages everyone to make plans to get a flu shot, which are usually available late August or early September.