Philadelphia’s indoor mask mandate begins today


Philadelphia revives its inner mask requirement Monday to combat the spread of the latest variant of COVID-19 and minimize the risk of overwhelming hospitals.

Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole last week called for mandatory mask-wearing as a precautionary measure. She said it was not yet clear whether the latest rise in cases would have the same impact on hospitals as last winter’s surge. The recently growing number has reached the city’s threshold to increase from its lowest COVID response level to its second, which includes an indoor mask requirement.

The seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 population, while still well below this winter’s peak, has more than doubled over the past month in New Jersey and increased by about a third in Pennsylvania.

“I suspect this wave will be smaller than the one we saw in January. But if we wait to find out and put our masks back on, we will have lost our chance to stop the wave,” Bettigole told a news conference.

Philly dropped its mask mandate less than two months ago. While some residents told The Inquirer last week that they support the return of the mandate, others are reluctant to go mask once again. Even some city council members have expressed concerns. And on Saturday, a group of businesses and residents filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court, claiming the city’s mandate is “a renegade standard not found anywhere else in the world” and contrary to CDC recommendations.

READ MORE: The return of masks to Philadelphia is attracting both eyes and support from residents. Can health officials close this gap?

Here’s what to know about Philly’s mask mandate:

Masks are required in all indoor public places, including schools, businesses and restaurants.

The exception: Any business can require proof of vaccination instead of requiring customers and employees to mask up.

READ MORE: Here’s where you should wear a mask in Philadelphia

Philly appeared to be the first major American city to restore a mask mandate against the latest COVID variant, dubbed BA.2.

The decision sparked a conversation last week about whether other cities or states should follow suit, but so far most leaders are holding back. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he was surprised by Philly’s decision and would be “shocked” if New Jersey reinstated such a mandate based on current data. according to NJ.com.

READ MORE: Philadelphia’s revived mask mandate is the nation’s talking point, but no other city is following suit

We do not know. It all depends on the COVID data.

Health officials moved the city to response level 2 last week, a level called “mask precautions,” after Philly exceeded two out of three self-imposed benchmarks. The average number of cases had risen above 100 per day and cases had increased by more than 50% in the previous 10 days.

If any of these measures fall below the benchmarks – and hospitalizations remain below 50 – health officials could revert to response level 1 and delete the mask mandate again.

However, if the numbers increase, the city could also end up in response level 3, called “caution”. In addition to mandatory masking, the city would like require you to present proof of vaccination, vaccine exemption or a negative COVID test taken within 24 hours to eat out.

READ MORE: Philly’s new COVID system makes it hard to stay unmasked. We calculated the numbers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that “any mask is better than no mask” but also pointed out that cloth masks generally offer the least protection.

Where possible, you should aim to wear a more protective KN95 or N95 mask. You can find them at local pharmacies, home improvement stores, and hardware stores.

You can also find them online – including countless retailers on Amazon – but be sure to check the list of CDC-approved manufacturers to make sure your mask is not fake.

Graphic editor John Duchneskie contributed to this article, which also contains information from The Associated Press.

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