City mask policies relaxed, with exceptions

by Kate Dolan
Posted 7/7/21

The mask mandate was lifted in June as part of Philadelphia’s reopening, but there are still exceptions in place.

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City mask policies relaxed, with exceptions

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The mask mandate was lifted in June as part of Philadelphia’s reopening, but there are still exceptions in place.

Mask policies have caused confusion for residents at times throughout the pandemic and reopening brings its own uncertainty, as the health department strongly encourages those who are not vaccinated to continue to wear masks.

Masks are still required in healthcare institutions including temporary community healthcare events such as vaccine clinics and blood drives. Congregate facilities such as prisons, shelters, and adult day programs will still require people to wear masks.

While on planes, trains, buses, taxis or ride share vehicles — any public transportation — people must wear masks. All indoor childcare settings including schools, camps, and early childhood education and childcare centers will require masks.

Even though children are less likely to become seriously sick, the CDC mask guidance still recommends that children wear masks around people not in their household.

Business owners can set their own indoor mask policies, requiring customers and employees to wear them. The end of the mandate only means that the Philadelphia Department of Public Health will not enforce actions against people not wearing masks.

Businesses can also allow their employees and guests not to wear masks, as is the case for the Weavers Way Co-op. In a letter to co-op members from store General Manager Jon Roesser June 30, the store updated its mask policy to reflect the city and state’s guidance. Effective July 5, employees no longer need to wear masks, and there will be no requirement or request for guests to do so.

The letter acknowledged the co-op employees’ commitment to the guidance and safety of everyone in the store over the past 15 months.

“Many members of our staff are eager to be given more flexibility. For well over a year, they've masked up without fail, and they followed all of the other pandemic-related rules we put in place as well,” Roesser writes in the letter. “As soon as they were able, the overwhelming majority of our staff (more than 85%) lined up to get vaccinated.”

Pointing to the city’s dropping COVID-19 rates, Roesser writes, “it is as good a time as any to give our employees more freedom.”

News of the more easily transmitted Delta variant spreading in the UK, Portugal and other places in the world is also causing some experts to question whether mask mandates were lifted too soon or what will happen if there is a fall surge.

Acting Health Commissioner of Philadelphia, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, wrote an open letter this week encouraging vaccination as the best means to face the danger of the Delta variant, which she estimates will arrive in the city this month.

“The good news, really the amazing news, is that people who are fully vaccinated are protected against this variant. But people who aren’t vaccinated at all, and people who only got one dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, are in danger,” Dr. Bettigole writes.

“This variant is putting young, healthy people in the hospital at rates we have not seen before with other COVID-19 variants. And young adults are the group in Philadelphia with the lowest rate of vaccination.”

Over the last two weeks, the city has averaged 25 new cases of COVID-19 a day and the positivity rate among those tested has remained at 1%.

As of the evening of Thursday July 1, 58% of Philadelphia adults were fully vaccinated, and 72% of Philadelphia adults had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

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