Philadelphia Orders Masks Back on Indoors

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People wearing masks walk through a shaft of light on a street in Philadelphia, Pa., on March 3, 2021. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

The Epoch Times

By Beth Brelje

The City of Philadelphia plans to reinstate indoor masking for COVID-19 mitigation as cases are on the rise. Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole made the announcement April 11.

“I’d hoped we wouldn’t be meeting like this again, but here we are,” Bettigole said in an online press conference. “Starting today, I’m asking businesses and institutions in Philadelphia to dig up those old ‘Masks required’ signs, start hanging them in your windows, and start having conversations with your staff about reminding people to wear their mask while they’re indoors.”

As of Monday, Philadelphia was averaging 142 new cases per day and 44 hospitalizations. That is a case increase of more than 50 percent compared to the previous 10 days, Bettigole said.

The city’s mandate is at odds with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It considers the community level “low” and recommends that people may choose to mask at any time. The CDC only calls for people with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 to wear a mask.

Bettigole explained that local decisions are made based on local conditions, and indicated the condition is poverty.

“I think we’ve all seen here in Philadelphia how much our history or redlining, our history of disparities have impacted, particularly our black and brown communities in the city,” Bettigole said. “And so it does make sense to be more careful in Philadelphia than perhaps in a more affluent suburb.”

The Philadelphia mask mandate goes into effect on April 18, to give businesses time to educate their staff and post signs. The city had only dropped the indoor masking mandate on March 2, meaning folks in Philadelphia will have had 48 days of mask-free breathing before masking is implemented again.

Schools are currently on spring break in Philadelphia and had agreed to require masking for one week after school is back in session, in case students come in contact with COVID-19 during break. If the mask mandate is still in effect after that, it will apply to schools too.

Bettigole said the Omicron wave took the lives of nearly 750 people in the city in three months.

“I suspect that this wave will be smaller than what we saw in January, but if we wait to find out and put our masks back on, we’ll have lost our chance to stop the wave. If we mask up now and find hospitalizations don’t increase in the U.S. in response to this variant the way they have in the UK, then great. We can take off our masks with a sense of relief,” Bettigole said. “But if we fail to act now, knowing that every previous wave of infection has been followed by increased hospitalizations, and then a wave of deaths, it will be too late for many of our residents. This is your chance to get ahead of the pandemic, to put our masks on until we have more information about severity and new variant, and to choose to protect each other as we have throughout this pandemic.”

A live public chatroom rolled in time with Bettigole’s comments and was filled largely with negative comments, such as “People, don’t forget this when you vote,” “Thanks for keeping shootings down,” and “It is over Bozo.” Many said they would refuse to mask up again.

Republican Senate Candidate Kathy Barnette posted a tweet in opposition of the new mandate.

“Democrats should take their own advice and start following the science. I’m traveling over 1,500 miles a day. I’m spending more time with the voters in Pennsylvania than any other candidate and I can tell you that people feel squeezed. People feel very unnerved about the direction our country is headed. Most know that something fundamentally has gone wrong in how our country is being run right now,” Barnette told The Epoch Times.

“In a rare moment of lucidity, [Dr. Anthony] Fauci finally admitted what most Americans already knew, ‘[COVID] is not going to be eradicated and it’s not going to be eliminated. We must all learn to live up with some degree of the virus.’ In other words, Americans should continue their lives as usual and take the necessary precautions to stay healthy. What Democrat leaders in Philadelphia are doing is draconian, an abuse of power, and absolutely unnecessary.”