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Philadelphia Lifts Indoor Mask Mandate Days After Being Reinstated


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Philadelphia has lifted its indoor mask mandate in most settings, city health officials said Friday, doing an abrupt 180 days after reinstituting the mandate.

The Department of Public Health said masks are strongly encouraged, but not required, in indoor public spaces.

Businesses and residents reportedly pushed back against the renewed mandate and filed suit in state court in Pennsylvania to overthrow the health edict.

The Board of Health’s vote to rescind the mandate came after board members met in private to discuss the lawsuit.

Despite the pushback, health officials cited a “leveling off of cases” when scrapping the mask requirement.

 

“We have said throughout the pandemic that we will respond based on the data available. In implementing our mask mandate, we had promised to continue to monitor hospitalizations and to review the need for the mandate if hospitalizations did not rise following the rise in cases,” Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, Philadelphia’s Health Commissioner, said in a statement Friday morning.

WPVI reported:

She added, “We are grateful to see that Philadelphians once again stepped up, responding to this pandemic with solidarity and care for each other. And that response and the data demonstrating its effectiveness makes it possible for us to announce today that we are rolling back Philadelphia’s mask mandate in favor of a strong recommendation for indoor masking.”

Bettigole told the Board of Health at a public meeting Thursday night that hospitalizations had unexpectedly gone down 25% in a matter of days.

“We’re in a situation that we really had not anticipated being in this soon but it is good news,” she said, according to a transcript of the meeting. “So I’m really very happy…to say it appears that we no longer need to mandate masks in Philadelphia and that we can actually move to simply a strong recommendation.”

The city said after rising steeply between the end of March, when cases were staying at 50-60 per day, and mid-April, rising to a peak of 377 cases on April 14, cases have leveled off and were averaging 242 per day as of April 21.

Hospitalizations in Philadelphia peaked on April 17 at 82 and have fallen over the course of the week, reaching 65 on April 21, according to the city.

“Of note, this leveling off of cases and the decrease in hospitalizations has occurred while numbers continue to increase in the surrounding states and counties, a testament to the seriousness with which Philadelphia approached this wave of infection,” the health department said.

Based on the data showing that hospitalizations have not continued to rise, officials said the City of Philadelphia will no longer use the COVID-19 Response levels introduced earlier this year.

Masks will continue to be required in healthcare settings and congregate settings such as nursing homes and shelters.



 

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