In a fight to reduce a recent rise in Covid-19 cases in the city, Philadelphia health officials yesterday announced the city would reinstate an indoor mask mandate next Monday, after dropping the previous mandate less than six weeks ago.
When the city dropped the mandate on March 2, it also established a benchmark to determine a threshold at which the city would re-require masks. The benchmark considered number of cases, the increase trajectory and daily hospitalizations. A seven-day daily average of 142 cases as of April 8, a 60 percent rise in case counts in the previous 10 days and 44 hospitalizations surpassed the threshold, according to officials.
The meeting and event industry will be immediately affected. The Pennsylvania Convention Center, located downtown, revised its mask guidance, invoking "Level 2" requirements—with masking required, but meeting and event participants not required to be vaccinated to enter the facility. Upcoming events like the Philadelphia 2022 Black Beauty Expo, a health and wellness expo and a volleyball qualifying tournament are likely to be affected.
The Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, which represents the local hospitality industry, spoke out immediately on Twitter. "This announcement is a major blow to the thousands of small businesses and other operators in this city who were hoping this spring would be the start of recovery," said PRLA senior director of operations Ben Fileccia, citing hotels, restaurants and meeting and events centers as among the businesses impacted by the regulation.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney adamantly defended the decision on social media and countered skeptics, saying, "Our city remains open; we can still go about our daily lives and visit the people and places we love while masking in indoor public spaces."
For the hospitality and event industries, facilities that choose to require vaccination are exempt from requiring indoor masks.