Philadelphia Does Abrupt About-Face on Mask Mandate

Drops it just days after it went into effect
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 11, 2022 3:24 PM CDT
Updated Apr 21, 2022 10:23 PM CDT
Philadelphia Brings Back Mask Mandate
A person wearing a face mask walks in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(Newser) Update: Philadelphia is ending its indoor mask mandate, city health officials said Thursday night, abruptly reversing course just days after city residents had to start wearing masks again amid a sharp increase in infections. The Board of Health voted Thursday to rescind the mandate, according to the Philadelphia health department, which released a statement that cited “decreasing hospitalizations and a leveling of case counts.” The mandate had just gone into effect Monday. Philadelphia had ended its earlier indoor mask mandate March 2. The health department did not release data to back up its reversal on masking, saying more information would be provided Friday, the AP reports. Philadelphia had become the first major US city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate, but faced fierce blowback as well as a legal effort to get the mandate thrown out. Our original story from April 11 follows:

Philadelphia is reinstating its indoor mask mandate after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, the city's top health official announced Monday. Confirmed COVID-19 cases have risen more than 50% in 10 days, the threshold at which the city's guidelines call for people to wear masks indoors, said Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, the health commissioner. Philadelphia is the first major US city to go back to requiring masks since cases declined at the beginning of the year, the AP reports. Health inspectors will start to enforce the mask mandate at city businesses starting April 18. The previous mask mandate was lifted on March 2.

All schools and day cares will also require masks. The city is reporting more than 140 cases per day, a fraction of what it saw at the height of the omicron surge, and hospitalizations remain low. But Bettigole said the recent increase in infections indicates the city might be at the beginning of a new wave, and city officials are seeking to stay ahead of it by requiring indoor masking. "As before, if an establishment, any type of establishment, chooses to be vaccine only, they can be exempt from the mask requirement," Bettigole said, per NBC Philadelphia.

(Read more mask mandates stories.)

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