/Philadelphia Reinstating Indoor Mask Mandate After Moving Into Level 2 Of 4-Tiered COVID-19 Response System – CBS Philly

Philadelphia Reinstating Indoor Mask Mandate After Moving Into Level 2 Of 4-Tiered COVID-19 Response System – CBS Philly

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s indoor mask mandate is coming back. The city said Monday that it’s reached the Level 2: Mask Precautions stage of its four-tiered COVID-19 response system and it will reimpose the mask mandate on April 18.

Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said the city will provide businesses with a one-week educational period before the mandate goes back into effect.

“We hope by having folks whenever they’re in public, indoor spaces we can get ahead of the wave and keep it from reaching a peak like we saw in January with the omicron variant,” Bettigole said. “If we can do that, we can literally save the lives of vulnerable Philadelphians. At this level of transmission, we do not believe that there is any reason to panic or enjoy any activities that we enjoy and are important to use. Our city remains open.”

Bettigole said any business that requires proof of vaccination will be exempt from the mandate.

“So as before, if an establishment — any type of establishment — chooses to be vaccine only, they can be exempt from the mask requirement, and that’s something we did before when we had the mask requirement in place,” the health commissioner said.

The city is reporting 142 new cases per day, which is more than 50% higher than 10 days ago, Bettigole said.

Bettigole said the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 remains low, at 46 people.

“Recently, we’ve been watching COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise in several European countries and in some places, in the U.S, and now we’re starting to see cases here in Philadelphia rise,” Bettigole said. “This looks like we may be at the start of a new COVID wave like Europe just saw.”

Mayor Jim Kenney said on Twitter, “Our city remains open; we can still go about our daily lives and visit the people and places we love while masking in indoor public spaces.”

Our city remains open; we can still go about our daily lives and visit the people and places we love while masking in indoor public spaces.

— Jim #VaxUpPhilly Kenney (@PhillyMayor) April 11, 2022

Bettigole said the city is asking all businesses to start hanging up masks-required signs in their windows and having conversations with their staff about reminding people to wear their masks while indoors.

The Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association says it’s “extremely disappointed” with the city’s decision to reinstate the indoor mask mandate. It claims the city did so without “any input from the mitigated community.”

In a statement, the PRLA said:

“Restaurant workers have suffered severe backlash when enforcing these rules in the past and, unfortunately, this time will be no different. Philadelphia restaurants have done all they can to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 — from hosting vaccine clinics to sponsoring coronavirus test giveaways — while working to keep business in the city. It’s deflating to hear that the city plans to bring back the mask mandate, especially without having conversations with anyone from the industry about timing and approach.”

“Restaurants, caterers, event venues, and so many others in the hospitality industry have taken extreme caution to keep their guests and employees safe throughout the pandemic. These last few weeks have been no different. Similarly, Philadelphians and visitors have been confident enough in their decision-making to know when they should wear masks and when they do not. This announcement is a major blow to thousands of small businesses and other operators in the city who were hoping this spring would be the start of recovery. While the rest of the Commonwealth has moved forward navigating life with COVID, Philadelphia has stepped back by imposing another mandate and expecting it to be enforced by businesses and their employees.”

Ben Fileccia, the senior director of operations for the PRLA, said the city’s metrics should be adjusted.

Statement regarding the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s decision to reinstate an indoor mask mandate beginning April 18. @prlaorg pic.twitter.com/PLwTfX9OEf

— Ben Fileccia (@BenFileccia) April 11, 2022

“Unfortunately, metrics came about with a different variant,” Fileccia said. “We’re dealing with a whole different issue right now, and at this point, the restaurants are still really struggling. And it’s one more obstacle for these folks to jump over to recover the industry.”

Philadelphia becomes the first major U.S. city to reimpose an indoor mask mandate.

CBS3’s Matt Petrillo contributed to this report.

Stay with CBSPhilly.com, CBS News Philly and CBS3 on-air for the latest on this developing story.