City moves to strongly recommending masks in indoor public spaces due to decreasing hospitalizations and a leveling of case counts
PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia announced today that residents and visitors are strongly encouraged, but not required, to wear a mask in indoor public spaces. This change follows a recent leveling-off of case counts and a decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the City. This change is effective immediately following the Board of Health’s vote on Thursday night to rescind the requirement.
“Philadelphia’s Health Department continues to monitor the local status of the pandemic, and I am grateful for their continued guidance to the public so that we can all stay safe and keep our city open,” said Mayor Kenney. “As cases level off and hospitalizations fall, we still strongly encourage Philadelphians and visitors to our city to wear masks, but will not require their use. Masks are still an incredibly effective way to protect ourselves and protect those around us—including people who are immunocompromised, and all the young children who are not yet eligible for vaccines. I thank Dr. Bettigole, the Health Department, and their healthcare partners—and every resident doing their part to fight the pandemic—for keeping our city safe and open.”
“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,” said Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, Philadelphia’s Health Commissioner. “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.”
All residents are permitted and encouraged to wear a mask in any setting. Businesses and other institutions are allowed to be more strict than the City’s COVID-19 policies, so some businesses may require proof of vaccination or require that everyone wears a mask. Schools may set their own mask policies and it is strongly encouraged that students and teachers continue to keep each other safe by wearing a mask. Masks will continue to be required in healthcare settings and congregate settings such as nursing homes and shelters.
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. 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.
Based on the data showing that hospitalizations have not continued to rise, the City will no longer use the response levels introduced earlier this year. “Response levels worked as intended and helped act as an early warning system to level off this current rise in cases,” added Dr. Bettigole. “People responded by being careful even prior to the mandate, and so we believe that a strong recommendation is adequate rather than a mandate at this stage of the pandemic.”
The City will continue to distribute weekly COVID-19 updates every Monday with data, announcements, and resources for the public. More information is available at www.phila.gov/COVID.