On Monday, April 11, the city of Philadelphia made national news as city officials announced the indoor mask mandate in public spaces would be returning on April 18, only a month and a half after officials removed the indoors mask requirement. Philadelphia is the first among major U.S. cities to return to indoor masking after the practice became optional in the beginning of March in nearby cities like New York and Washington, D.C.
The decision follows the Philly health department’s formal COVID-19 response levels, elevating the city from a previous “All Clear” status — where masks and proof of vaccination were not required at indoor public spaces — to the second level “Mask Precautions.” Cases in the city have increased by more than 50 percent in the past 10 days, health commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said in a news conference on Monday. The mandate will be lifted again once the average number of new cases per day is fewer than 100 and hospitalizations are fewer than 50.
Restaurants, bars, sports stadiums — any venue where food is served — will be required to ask patrons to mask up before entering the establishment, with the option to ask for a proof of vaccination instead of enforcing masks. The same mask rules will apply to offices, shops, and public indoor spaces, and masks will continue to be required on public transportation and in healthcare settings. Many bars and restaurants kept their mask or proof of vaccination mandate in March, even during the All Clear stage. As case levels fluctuate, diners will have to get used to changing mask rules, and remember to carry their masks around again.