Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has shown no signs of lifting its indoor mask requirements, despite several blue states and areas lifting their restrictions in recent days.
Philadelphia currently requires businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and doctors’ offices, to require masks, regardless of vaccination status. Originally, the city’s indoor mask mandate only applied to Philadelphia businesses that did not have a vaccine passport system in place. That changed in August after the Philadelphia Board of Health approved a regulation requiring such businesses to require masks, regardless. According to the update, the change was “intended to support parents of children too young to be vaccinated.”
In December, the city announced a vaccine requirement for establishments that serve food. That began Monday, January 3.
However, even as blue states — such as nearby Delaware — move to lift their indoor mask requirements, the city is not budging. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the city’s mask mandates could remain in place “several more months.”
“Hundreds are getting sick every day and hundreds more in the hospital — you’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” Philadelphia Department of Public Health spokesman James Garrow said.
“We understand that people are frustrated and we know that things are getting better, but we’re still not at the point where we think things are safe,” he added.
Garrow acknowledged fatigue with pandemic mandates but said the health department has to balance the comfort of people at less risk from COVID-19 against the safety of people still at significant risk from the virus. The immunocompromised, for example, can get seriously ill even after receiving vaccines and booster shots, and restrictions like the city’s indoor dining vaccine mandate may give them confidence to resume activities they would otherwise consider too risky.
Notably, Pennsylvania does not have a statewide mask mandate in place, but Philadelphia’s refusal to lift restrictions coincides with several blue state leaders suddenly having “epiphanies” and lifting mandates.
“The science didn’t change. The medical science didn’t change. The political science changed,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who never once imposed statewide mask mandates in the Sunshine State, said last week.
“They feel the heat. They know that voters have been tired of perpetual lockdown policies. They know that they have basically offered no offramp and they know that they’re fixing to be whooped at the polls, so that’s causing the epiphany,” he added — a sentiment also shared by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).