Philadelphia has become the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask policy to combat the recent increase in COVID-19 infections. The city’s top health official wanted to prevent a potential new wave. According to Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, COVID-19 cases have risen more than 50% in 10 days, which caused the guidelines to change. Health officials believe the recent spike is due to the highly-transmissible omicron subvariant BA.2. Within the recent weeks, the variant has become dominant in the U.S.
“If we fail to act now, knowing that every previous wave of infections has been followed by a wave of hospitalizations and then a wave of deaths, it will be too late for many of our residents,” said Bettigole. “This is our chance to get ahead of the pandemic, to put our masks on until we have more information about the severity of this new variant.”
What The Reinstated Mask Mandate Means For Philadelphia
The mask mandate will start on April 18th. As we have seen, most states and cities have dropped their masking requirements in February or March. Currently, the CDC put less focus on case counts and more on hospital capacity. Philadelphia’s ended its indoor mask mandate on March 2nd, and many were happy with the feeling of normalcy again. According to the CDC, the community spread in the city remains relatively low. However, confirmed cases have risen to more than 140 cases per day. Fortunately, this number is a fraction of what Philadelphia saw during the omicron surge.
One industry that has pushed back on the reimposed mask mandate is the restaurant industry. Restaurants are afraid their employees will bear the grunt of angry customers over the new rules. “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,” said Ben Fileccia, senior director of operations at the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association.
Bettigole said requiring a reimposed mask mandate will help businesses stay open. If a new wave is to happen, customers wouldn’t be able to frequent businesses on the count of businesses having to close. She wishes that the city didn’t have to go through this again. “But I am very worried about our vulnerable neighbors and loved ones.”
Many of us wait to see if other major cities will reimpose a mask mandate.