Starting Friday, there will be virtually no coronavirus-related restrictions in effect in Philadelphia, for the first time in 15 months.
The city’s two final regulations — an indoor mask mandate and an 11 p.m. restaurant and bar curfew — will be lifted at 12:01 a.m., Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration said.
“I have no doubt that these restrictions saved countless lives,” Kenney said in a statement. “But Friday will be a day that we’ve all been looking forward to: getting back to doing the things that we love.”
Masks will still be “strongly recommended,” though not required, for people who are not fully vaccinated, officials said Wednesday evening.
However, in a statement Thursday, the city said people are still bound by a state mandate requiring masks indoors for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals.
That rule will be lifted June 28 or whenever 70% of the state’s adult population is fully inoculated, whichever comes first, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has said.
As of Thursday, 72.6% of Pennsylvanians over the age of 17 had received at least one dose, state officials said.
Under the state’s guidance, fully vaccinated residents need not mask up in most situations, in accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after either their second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna or their first dose of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In some settings, masks will still be required in Philadelphia, including for people at health institutions, vaccine clinics, blood drives, prisons, homeless shelters, schools and indoor camps and daycares, according to the Mayor’s Office.
Travelers will still need to wear face coverings when riding planes, trains, buses, taxis and ride-share vehicles, and masks remain mandatory at court facilities.
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said low case counts — the lowest since the virus arrived in the city — allowed the administration to drop the mask mandate.
Since the start of June, the city has averaged 53 cases a day, and, for the week of May 30, 285 total new infections were reported with a 1.4% positive test rate, according to the health department.
“Lifting the requirement for vaccinated people to wear masks indoors doesn’t mean that we are totally past COVID-19,” Bettigole cautioned. “Dozens of Philadelphians are still being diagnosed with COVID-19 every day, which means that more of us still need to get vaccinated.”
More than 844,000 Philadelphians, or 68% of the city’s adult population, are at least partially vaccinated, and about 53% are fully inoculated.
Philadelphia’s first COVID-19 restrictions took effect March 12, 2020, when the city began limiting large gatherings, and all non-essential businesses were forced to close a week later.
Officials initially said order shuttering restaurants and shops would last at least 11 days, though it was soon announced that it would be in place “until further notice.” The regulations were loosened and tightened in line with the rise and fall in case numbers over the course of the pandemic.
Reopening accelerated as vaccine availability increased, and, last Wednesday, Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration lifted all capacity and distancing requirements.
The city’s tourism agency on Thursday unveiled an advertising campaign that will seek to attract conventions, business meetings and sporting events to Philadelphia over the next 18 months.
“Meetings mean business; and citywide events lead to more people working in our Center City hotels, and higher hotel occupancy, which generates more state and local taxes that support services and infrastructure,” said Gregg Caren, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, in a statement.
Caren went on to say that such gatherings bolster the finances of restaurants, shops, museums and other attractions.
A third of the city’s tourism jobs lost during the pandemic have not yet returned, according to the agency.