Officials in Philadelphia announced that a city-wide mask mandate will be reinstated starting on Monday (April 18). Masks will be required in all indoor public spaces, including schools, businesses, restaurants, and government buildings.
The decision was made following a 50% increase in new COVID-19 cases over the past ten days. The city is averaging about 140 new cases every day, though only 46 people are currently hospitalized with the virus.
"If we fail to act now, knowing that every previous wave of infections has been followed by a wave of hospitalizations and then a wave of deaths, it will be too late for many of our residents," said Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. "This is our chance to get ahead of the pandemic, to put our masks on until we have more information about the severity of this new variant."
The move has upset some business owners, who are concerned that their workers will have to deal with angry and unruly customers who are upset they will have to wear a mask again.
"This announcement is a major blow to thousands of small businesses and other operators in the city who were hoping this spring would be the start of recovery," said Ben Fileccia, senior director of operations at the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association.
While the restaurant industry pushed back against the mandate, Bettigole said that it would allow restaurants to remain open as the city deals with the increase in COVID cases.
"I sincerely wish we didn't have to do this again," Bettigole said. "But I am very worried about our vulnerable neighbors and loved ones."