Philly not following NYC's vaccination requirements; no mask mandate now, but not being ruled out

The Acting Health Commissioner said she wanted to be completely open about what being fully vaccinated means at this time.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2021
Philly not following NYC's vaccine requirement; no new mask mandate
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Though New York City has issued a vaccine mandate for certain indoor spaces, Philadelphia is not - at least for now.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Despite a rise in COVID-19 cases, Philadelphia does not have plans to follow New York City in requiring proof of vaccination in order to dine indoors at restaurants, workout a gym, or see a movie.

"That's not something we've been actively discussing. We're certainly very supportive of vaccination. But we have not been actively looking or talking about something like that," Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said during a press briefing Tuesday.

Bettigole said it is, however, a fluid situation. Though she said won't take anything off the table, it's "certainly not top of mind as a logical next step" for Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is currently recommending people wear masks while in public indoor spaces, whether vaccinated or not, but a mask mandate has not been issued. Bettigole said she would not rule one out in the future.

"The pandemic in Philadelphia has taken a turn that none of us wanted to see," she said. "We believe the delta variant is now the dominant strain of COVID in Philadelphia and that's what's causing our case counts to rise as they have been."

Bettigole said the number of cases is similar to last summer, and much lower than when things were at their worst.

She said it's not just the number of cases or hospitalizations that most concern her, but how quickly those numbers have risen.

The numbers have doubled from July 12 to July 19 and again from July 19 to August 1, Bettigole said.

"We need to come together as a city once again to fight back against this new surge, but this time we have better weapons. We understand the virus better, how it spreads, how we can protect each other and ourselves," Bettigole said.

RELATED: New York City will soon require proof of COVID-19 vaccine for indoor dining, gyms

The Acting Health Commissioner said she wanted to be completely open about what being fully vaccinated means at this time.

"Being fully vaccinated doesn't mean you can't get COVID. You still can. But your chances of getting COVID are much lower - only about 1/8th the chance of someone who is unvaccinated," Bettigole said.

She continued, "And being fully vaccinated means you are much, much less likely - by 25 times less likely - to get seriously sick or end up in the hospital if you did get COVID."

Almost everyone in the hospital these days is unvaccinated, Bettigole said.

In addition to the vaccine, Bettigole said people in Philadelphia should wear a mask inside public spaces, repeating the city's recommendation.

"We know for a fact that wearing a mask when you're around other people in public, especially indoors, reduces your risk," she said.

RELATED:Philadelphia again recommends masks for indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status

The CDC had issued a similar recommendation based on a study showing the delta COVID-19 variant produced similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they get infected.

For other ways to fight the rise in COVID cases, Bettigole said people should avoid crowded indoor public spaces, get tested if you start to feel sick and, if you test positive, isolate from others for 10 days after you start to feel symptoms.

"If we do all of these things, we can stop this rise in cases before it gets worse," Bettigole said. "Vaccines, mask use, avoiding crowds, testing, isolation and quarantine have solid science behind them."

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health will be updating the testing and vaccine dashboards on the website every weekday, and posting the daily cases and vaccine administrations on the department's Twitter account every weekday.

They are also restarting their weekly COVID-19 update press conferences, starting with this one.

"We are all tired of this pandemic... but it's important to be here each week so we can all get through this together," Bettigole said.