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Philadelphia Ends Mask Mandate, Days After Reinstating It

Philadelphia’s indoor mask ban is coming to an end, city health officials announced Thursday night, changing course only days after residents were forced to reintroduce masks due to a spike in illnesses.

According to the Philadelphia health department, the Board of Health agreed to repeal the rule on Thursday, citing “decreased hospitalizations and a leveling of case counts.”

The mandate took effect on Monday. Philadelphia’s previous indoor mask ban had ended on March 2nd.

The health agency did not offer any data to support its decision to reverse masks, instead stating that further information will be released on Friday. Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, the interim health commissioner, informed the Board of Health at a public hearing Thursday night that hospitalizations had dropped by 25% in only a few days.

According to a transcript of the meeting, she stated, “We’re in a scenario that we really hadn’t expected to be in this soon, but it’s wonderful news.” “So I’m extremely delighted to tell that it looks that we don’t need to require masks in Philadelphia and can instead proceed to a strong suggestion.”

Philadelphia had became the first large U.S. city to reintroduce its indoor mask law, but it was met with a barrage of criticism and a court challenge. Despite the fact that masks were required by city laws, only a few were donned during the Philadelphia 76ers’ home playoff game on Monday.

The mandate would be rescinded on Friday morning, according to city authorities.

When the city declared required masking will be reinstated on April 11, Bettigole explained that it was vital to avoid a potential fresh wave caused by an omicron subvariant. She said that Philadelphia had reached a tipping point where the city’s standards required individuals to wear masks indoors.

“It will be too late for many of our citizens if we fail to act now, knowing that every prior wave of infections has been followed by a wave of hospitalizations, and ultimately a wave of fatalities,” Bettigole stated at the time.

Cases and hospitalizations continued to grow at least until Monday, when the health authorities recorded 82 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, up over 80% from a week earlier, and confirmed cases up 58 percent to 224 per day. Those figures were still a drop in the bucket compared to the omicron surge that hit the city in the winter.

Bettigole reported to the Board of Health on Thursday night that the number of hospitalizations had dropped to 65.

The restaurant business has fought the city’s reimposed mask law, claiming that employees would suffer the brunt of client dissatisfaction with the new restrictions.

Several companies and citizens in Pennsylvania have launched a lawsuit in state court to invalidate the renewed mandate. After meeting in secret to examine the case, the Board of Health voted to withdraw the mandate.

“We were extremely glad to see Philadelphia make the proper choice to revoke the mask mandate,” said Thomas W King III, a plaintiffs’ lawyer who was involved in the successful legal challenge to the statewide mask rule in schools last year.

The subject came up during Thursday night’s discussion between the three main Democratic contenders seeking the party’s nomination for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat, just before word of the mandate’s expiration emerged. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta of Philadelphia, in particular, have spoken out against the mandate.

“We have to go past COVID,” Fetterman said, adding, “and I don’t feel going backwards with a mask requirement or closures is acceptable.”

Conor Lamb, a Republican from suburban Pittsburgh, said he disliked wearing masks but believed Philadelphia officials were “trying to do what’s best for everyone.”

Following revised instructions from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that focused less on case counts and more on hospital capacity and said that most Americans may safely remove their masks, most states and localities withdrew their masking mandates in February and early March.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has said that it would appeal a judge’s decision to overturn the federal mask rule on flights, trains, and transit hubs. The CDC has requested the Justice Department to appeal a federal judge’s judgment in Florida earlier this week.

Brian Cooper
Brian Cooper
Brian Cooper is a global reporter for TheOptic, focusing on bringing insights and developments for global breaking news daily. With almost seven years of experience covering topics from all over the world, Brian strives to make sure you stay up-to-date with what's going on in the world.
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