MASKS ON: Facial coverings now mandatory in Philadelphia

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- On Sunday, the soothing sounds of a socially distant saxophone sailed over Rittenhouse Square. This is not the only serenading space in the park.

Performers were about the only ones you'd find without some type of face covering -- visuals that should come as little surprise now that masks are mandatory in the city.

"This order is a requirement but we will not be enforcing this with the police. The purpose of this order is really to send a message to everyone. To enable them to encourage others to wear masks," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.

READ MORE: Mandatory mask order for Philadelphia; green phase could be delayed due to COVID-19 increase

Philadelphia's top health official said there is a worrying trend in the number of coronavirus cases in the city, and that could mean a delay in further steps to reopen.

City officials announced the requirement on Friday, as cases of COVID-19 have started to rise again locally and nationally.

Officials say this could also delay the city's "green phase" reopening plans, which include indoor dining.

"In the end, it's up to us as Philadelphia residents to self-enforce this order," Farley added.

The mask order itself requires that coverings be worn in any indoor public space and outdoors if there is less than six feet between people that don't already live together.

Health officials are also discouraging social gatherings, especially those involving younger people, that as of late, seem to be falling ill more rapidly.

Some say it's all in the wording.

"Well, I think it's sad that it has to be a requirement," said Old City resident Alex Fink.

"Once they make it a requirement, then people are like, 'I don't want to do what the government tells me to do.'"

Others, like Blair Ballin, says she's seen some people take liberties with mask coverings, but overall has seen many Philadelphians heed the warnings.

"When walking around, that's where I feel people are doing a little bit better of a job," Ballin said.

And to some degree, the city agrees.

In June, officials say they found 55% of people were wearing masks at SEPTA stations and 78% of residents were seen covered up as they exited retail stores.

It's good, but not enough if things are to return to any sense of normalcy soon, according to health officials.

City officials said in the coming days, they will be working on media campaigns to get the word out about the mask requirement.