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Mask mandate returning to Baltimore City parishes; Catholic Charities will require employees to be vaccinated

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott has announced the reintroduction of a mask mandate inside buildings located in the city. (CR file)

In response to Baltimore City resuming the mandate, the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced that parishes in the city will require Mass attendees, all religious staff and visitors to wear COVID-19 masks while indoors on parish campuses.

The announcements were made Aug. 5, and went into effect Aug. 9, at 9 a.m.

According to the archdiocesan Department of Communications, social distancing protocols will not be instituted at this time on city parish campuses.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott cited the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus in making the announcement requiring masks for vaccinated people and the unvaccinated.

“This pandemic is not over and we must all do our due diligence to protect ourselves and our neighbors,” Scott said. “While we know that masking is a sure way to slow the spread of COVID-19, we cannot stress enough the importance and urgency of getting vaccinated so that we can beat COVID-19 for good.”

The actual order from the city is being finalized. Based on the previous mask mandate, it will likely apply to all individuals 2 years and older, and to religious facilities. Other areas where it will likely be required include retail establishments, restaurants, fitness centers, and indoor recreation establishments and theaters.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Aug. 3 the state is not considering returning to a statewide mask mandate. A day earlier, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced, effective Aug. 5, that face masks must be worn in county-owned buildings.

Several Maryland school districts, Anne Arundel among them, will require face masks when students return for the 2021-22 school year.

In related news, Catholic Charities of Baltimore has mandated the COVID-19 vaccination for all of its employees, who number nearly 2,000 across the state. 

“Many Catholic Charities programs operate 24/7, with either very young or elder clients and residents at greater risk of infection or severe disease,” the organization said in an Aug. 5 news release.

According to the release, the mandate will start with employees at St. Vincent’s Villa, Villa Maria School, St. Elizabeth Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Caritas House Assisted Living, and St. Ann Adult Day Services. All staff at these sites must provide evidence of vaccination by Sept. 15.

“A full mandate across the whole organization, throughout its 80 programs in 200-plus locations, will move forward in the weeks that follow,” according to the news release. 

“Medical and religious exemptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis with appropriate documentation. This mandate will also include requiring all new colleagues to receive at least their first vaccine shot prior to beginning their employment,” according to the release.

Catholic Charities of Baltimore is the state’s largest private provider of human services.

That announcement followed the announcement of new vaccination protocols for state employees who work in “congregant settings.”

According to the announcement, effective Sept. 1, employees in 48 state facilities will be required to show proof of vaccination, or adhere to strict face covering requirements and submit to regular, ongoing COVID-19 testing.

“We know that right now the delta variant accounts for nearly 100 percent of the new cases currently being sequenced in Maryland and it accounts for 93 percent of all the cases nationwide,” Hogan said. “We also understand that it may cause more severe illness than earlier variants. We do need to take the delta variant very seriously.”

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