Philadelphia to end mask mandate days after reinstating it
Philadelphia has ended its indoor mask mandate. Officials from the city’s health department announced Thursday night that this abruptly reversed course after mask-wearing city residents had to revert to wearing masks due to an increase in infections.
The Board of Health approved the repeal of the mandate on Thursday, according to the Philadelphia department of health. The statement cited “decreasing hospitalizations” and “a leveling of cases”. “
The mandate was in effect Monday. Philadelphia had already ended its indoor mask mandate in March 2.
The health department did not release any data to support its decision to reverse the ban on masking but said that more information would be made available Friday. Philadelphia had become the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate, but faced fierce blowback as well as a legal effort to get the mandate thrown out. Few masks were worn at the Philadelphia 76ers’ home playoff game on Monday, even though they were required under city rules.
Officials fromCity said that the mandate would be lifted on Friday morning.
“The City will move to strongly recommending masks in indoor public spaces as opposed to a mask mandate,” the health department said in a statement.
When the city announced April 11 that the mandate was coming back, the health commissioner, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, said it was necessary to forestall a potential new wave driven by an omicron subvariant. She stated that Philadelphia had passed the threshold at which rising cases are considered unacceptable and that masks should be worn indoors.
” “If we don’t act now, knowing that every previous wave in infections has been followed with a wave hospitalizations and then a tsunami of deaths, it will soon be too late for many residents,” Bettigole stated at the time.
Cases and hospitalizations continued to rise at least through Monday, when the health department reported 82 patients in the hospital with COVID-19 — up nearly 80% from a week earlier — with confirmed cases up 58% over that same span to 224 per day. These numbers are still far below the wintertime omicron surge.
The restaurant industry had resisted the city’s reimposed Mask mandate, claiming that workers would bear the brunt customer anger over these new rules.
Several residents and businesses filed suit in Pennsylvania to overturn the renewed mandate.
“We were very pleased to see Philadelphia make the correct decision to rescind the mask mandate,” said the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Thomas W King III, who was among those involved in last year’s successful legal challenge to the statewide mask mandate in schools. The issue was brought up during Thursday night’s debate among the three Democratic candidates for the open U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania. This occurred just a few minutes before the mandate was announced to be ending. Notably, Lt. Governor. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Malcolm Kenyatta, a state representative from Philadelphia, voted against the mandate.
“We have to move past COVID,” said Fetterman, adding that “we have to live with this virus, and I don’t believe going backwards with a mask mandate or with closures is appropriate.”
U.S. Conor Lamb, a suburban Pittsburgh representative, said he didn’t like wearing masks but believed Philadelphia officials were doing what was best for everyone. “
Most states and cities have dropped their masking requirements since February and March, according to new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These guidelines put less emphasis on case counts and more attention on hospital capacity and stated that most Americans can safely remove their masks.
The Justice Department, meanwhile, said it is appealing a judge’s order that voided the federal mask mandate on planes and trains and in travel hubs. The CDC requested that the Justice Department appeal the decision made by a Florida federal judge earlier this week.
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