Philadelphia to keep mask mandate in place for now

"We're all looking forward to a day when we don't have to wear masks everywhere we go," Dr. Bettigole said.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia's top health official says there are no plans as of now to lift the mask mandate the city has been under since August.

"There's not one number that we'll look at. It's a combination," Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole told reports during a briefing over Zoom on Wednesday. "Case rates, hospitalization rates, as well as what's happening around us."

The city's latest mask mandate went into effect on August 12 due to the rise of the delta variant. Under the mandate, masks must be worn in businesses that do not require everyone who enters to be vaccinated.

Certain essential businesses like grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors' offices and urgent cares cannot utilize the vaccinated only exception to the mask mandate.

Bettigole said hospitalizations stand at around three-times higher than they were in the heart of the summer. The case rates are about four-times as high.

She said surrounding counties have very high vaccination rates, but higher case rates and positivity rates than Philadelphia.

"It's just a little bit concerning because it doesn't entirely make sense," Bettigole said. "The only real difference there is the mask mandate."

Pennsylvania lifted its universal mask mandate on June 28.

In September, the state issued a mask mandate for K-12 schools and day cares.

"I think if you're looking at if Philadelphia goes into that low transmission zone and hospitalizations are way down, and things look good around us, that would be a good time to get rid of it," Bettigole said.

"So we will be keeping that in place for now, but of course constantly looking at those numbers to see what's feasible."

Bettigole says she credits both vaccines and masks for the lower case counts in Philadelphia.

"We're all looking forward to a day when we don't have to wear masks everywhere we go," Bettigole said.
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