Amid confusion, Philadelphia health officials hope indoor mask mandate won't last too long

Bettigole said she also believes many positive cases may be going unreported due to at-home testing.

Thursday, April 21, 2022
Amid confusion, Philly health officials hope masks won't last long
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There are currently 82 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia residents are continuing to sort through the confusion after a federal judge struck down a national mask mandate covering airlines and other public transportation.

The judge's ruling came on the same day Philadelphia reinstated its indoor mask mandate.

"Based on an increase in cases that we're seeing right now, we hope to not keep the masks for a terribly long time," Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said Wednesday.

Bettigole said she also believes many positive cases may be going unreported due to at-home testing.

"...Very few people report a positive home test to us. Most of the positives we're getting are being run at a doctor's office, testing site, pharmacy," she said.

There are currently 82 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Philadelphia.

This week's ruling appeared to free operators to make their own decisions about mask requirements, with the several major airlines - American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United - all announcing they would drop mandates.

But when you step into Philadelphia International Airport, masks are still required while inside all terminals.

As far as enforcing the mask policy at PHL -- that was the job of the TSA. But the TSA says it is no longer enforcing mask policies.

SEE ALSO: How Philadelphia-area mass transit, airlines are responding to latest mask ruling

So Philadelphia airport officials say they're using signage, overhead announcements and asking their employees to remind people to put them on.

But they also say if employees need assistance, airport police are on duty in all terminals.

To make matters even more confusing -- masks are not required on SEPTA vehicles and in stations and concourses. But all SEPTA employees working inside SEPTA offices, districts and shops within Philadelphia must continue to wear masks until further notice, said the transit agency.

Philadelphia officials released a statement following the federal judge's mask ruling:

"We are evaluating the implications of this latest ruling and will provide further clarity around masking on transit in Philadelphia when available. This ruling does not impact the City's mask mandate for certain indoor places."

Tourists and residents have shared mixed opinions on whether masks should still be required.

"If they want to wear one, wear one. But if you don't, it's over," said Dan Duckworth of Wisconsin.

"I think people should make decisions on their own. I wear a mask because that's my own decision," said Susan Kaye of Texas who was wearing a mask.

"I'm not ready to take the mask off even though it's not on. I don't feel safe," said Herm Thomas of West Oak Lane.

SEE ALSO: Justice Department to appeal mask ruling for public transportation only if mandate still needed

On Wednesday, the CDC asked the Department of Justice to move forward with an appeal to a federal judge's ruling to end the nation's mask mandate on public transit.

"To protect CDC's public health authority beyond the ongoing assessment announced last week, CDC has asked DOJ to proceed with an appeal in Health Freedom Defense Fund, Inc., et al., v. Biden, et al," the CDC said in a statement. "It is CDC's continuing assessment that at this time an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health."