Baltimore cancels summer events, including Artscape, Fourth of July celebrations

Baltimore has canceled all special events through the end of August, including Artscape, AFRAM and the city’s Fourth of July celebration.

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young Wednesday said the city canceled the events out of concerns for public health. The news comes as Baltimore maintains a stay-at-home order to limit the spread of COVID-19 ahead of the Memorial Day weekend holiday.

“We believe this is the best move for the health of the city and its residents,” Young said.

State’s across the nation, including Maryland, have started loosening restrictions set to reduce the spread of the disease.

Larger metro areas, such as Baltimore, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, however, maintain stay-at-home orders out of fear the disease will spread.

Most public health experts, including former Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, warn that opening non-essential businesses, and allowing more residents to return to work are steps that are happening too soon.

Maryland Health Department has confirmed 42,323 cases of the disease since the eruption started roughly three months ago, which includes 777 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours. As of Wednesday 2004 residents have died of the illness.

Baltimore has recorded 4,152 cases of this particular coronavirus, and the number of new infections increased by 676 cases in the last seven days.

Other popular events in the city have already canceled or continue to search for ways to hold virtual versions of the event.

Organizers of HONFest, the annual street festival celebrating caricatures of working-class Baltimore women, will hold a virtual event on June 13 and June 14.

Events later in the year, such as Hampdenfest, the popular neighborhood festival known for toilet races and attracting some of the city’s best bands, is in doubt.

Benn Ray, an owner of Atomic Books and one of the festivals organizers, wrote in an email that most business are not in a place to provide the sponsorships required to host the event. Topping sponsorship concerns, he said, are health concerns. Organizers aren’t fully comfortable encouraging people to crowd into limited spaces, even outdoors, this September, he said.

The city’s major sporting events also face an uncertain future and are trying to salvage some if not all of their schedule.

The Maryland Jockey Club, which postponed the Preakness Stakes set to run earlier this month, said recently it intends to run the race at Pimlico Race Course on Oct 3.

Major League Baseball continues to try and hammer out a plan to allow play to begin at some point this summer, but it’s unknown if, or when, the league will permit fans to attend games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The NFL’s Baltimore Ravens also have pre-season games scheduled at home on Aug. 14, Aug. 30, and are slated to open the regular season in the city on Sept. 13.

The loss of major events  that draw hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors means the loss of substantial revenue for a number of city businesses, including hotels, restaurants, and various retailers.

Canceling the events also adds to the financial pain at City Hall. Revenues earned largely from visitors to the city, such as Baltimore Convention Center fees, admission, and hotel taxes, were already projected to fall $40 million in the coming fiscal year.

Young left the door open to reconsider holding the events if there’s a dramatic turnaround in the spread of the disease.

“It’s always a possibility to take a second look at something, and I am open to that, but I will also be guided by our health professionals, and the data that they provide to tell us whether it’s safe to do that,” he said.

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