COVID-19 Update - May 21, 2021

Fully vaccinated no longer required to wear a mask outdoors in Philadelphia

by Kate Dolan
Posted 5/21/21

The adjusted guidelines are the result of studies that show vaccinated people are not only protected from getting sick but also from passing the virus to others. Philadelphia will require masks to be worn indoors for now, waiting until vaccination rates rise.

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COVID-19 Update - May 21, 2021

Fully vaccinated no longer required to wear a mask outdoors in Philadelphia

Posted

As of today, May 21, fully vaccinated Philadelphians are no longer required to wear a mask outdoors in the city.

At the COVID-19 update press conference on Wednesday, Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole announced Philadelphia’s updated mask guidance in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent lift of the mask mandate.

“The CDC’s announcement that masks are no longer necessary for fully vaccinated people has generated a lot of talk and a lot of anxiety,” said Dr. Bettigole. “But at its root, it’s great news.”

“It means that people who are vaccinated are safe, regardless of what other people around them decide to do about vaccine,” said Dr. Bettigole, emphasizing that fully vaccinated residents can attend outdoor performances, outdoor gatherings and sporting events, including Phillies games, beginning this weekend.

The adjusted guidelines are the result of studies that show vaccinated people are not only protected from getting sick but also from passing the virus to others. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second shot of Pfizer or Moderna, or two weeks after the single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

While the CDC’s new guidelines will allow fully vaccinated people to go without masks indoors, Philadelphia will require masks to be worn indoors for now, waiting until vaccination rates rise.

“We can’t be satisfied that some of us are safe,” said Dr. Bettigole, acknowledging the disproportionate COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths faced by Black and Brown Philadelphians. The vaccination rates of Black Philadelphians between 20-44 years old are lagging, with only 21% having received at least one dose compared to 49% of all residents.

The city’s COVID-19 case counts, positivity rates and vaccination stats will be reviewed during the week of June 6 and the city will determine whether or not to fully adopt the CDC’s guidance on June 11 and lift the mask mandate completely for vaccinated residents.

On Thursday evening, the CDC’s data for Philadelphia County showed that 63.4% of residents over 65 years old are fully vaccinated and 43.5% of residents over 18 are fully vaccinated.

This was the first press conference as Acting Health Commissioner for Dr. Bettigole, a family physician and public health doctor who’s worked for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health for a number of years.

Dr. Bettigole summarized the COVID-19 numbers, saying that the 14-day average case count is 200 and the positivity rate has been below 5% since May 2.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Dr. Bettigole. “But we’ve seen clear improvement over the past few months as more and more Philadelphians received their vaccines.”

On Thursday morning, 101 new cases of the coronavirus were announced, bringing the total number of cases among Philadelphia residents to 142,836 since the beginning of the pandemic. Total deaths among residents rose to 3,594 after the health department confirmed 13 new deaths on Thursday. Philadelphia hospitals were treating 233 patients with COVID-19 on Thursday morning.

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