Philly to require masks indoors, unless businesses check vaccine cards

A poster at Jardel Recreation Center in Northeast Philadelphia urges residents to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

An indoor mask mandate is taking effect Thursday in Philadelphia, except for businesses that require all staff and customers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, city leaders said.

Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration also announced Wednesday that all city employees must be vaccinated by Sept. 1 or wear a cloth and surgical mask while working alongside others. Shots will be required for new hires.

In addition, people at unseated, outdoor events with more than 1,000 in attendance will be mandated to mask up.

Officials cited a rise in COVID-19 infections, likely caused by the spread of the Delta variant, for the reimposed restrictions.

Cases have doubled three times over the past month, and the positive test rate has ballooned, from 1% to 5%, said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole. Virus-related hospitalizations, now at 118, have more than doubled since July 19.

“To stop the spread of the dangerous Delta variant and to protect those too young to be vaccinated, we are instituting new policies that have been proven to prevent the spread of COVID,” Bettigole said in a statement. “Masks and vaccines make a real difference in the spread and severity of this infection.”

Kenney expressed frustration at the situation Wednesday during a virtual news conference, saying a small group of unvaccinated people are creating an inconvenience for everyone.

To date, about 63% of Philadelphia’s population over the age of 18 is fully vaccinated, according to the health department.

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