Philadelphia imposes new mask mandate to combat rise in COVID cases

As of Wednesday, 63.2% of adults 18+ in the city are fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

6abc Digital Staff Image
Friday, August 13, 2021
Updated mask mandate in effect in Philadelphia
The new mask mandate effects businesses as well as some outdoor gatherings.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia officials announced a new mask mandate on Wednesday morning in an effort to combat a rise in COVID-19 cases.

According to health officials, the city will require masks be worn inside businesses unless the business requires proof of vaccination.

The mask mandate went into effect at 12 a.m. Thursday.

"That means everyone in Philadelphia must wear a mask when going into any business or institution, with an exception for those that require vaccinations. Restaurants and bars will need to require masks for all staff and customers, except when people are seated and actively eating and drinking," Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said.

To prove vaccination status, people will need to carry their vaccination card or a photo of the card.

Philadelphia Acting Health Commissioner Bettigole announces new mask mandate.

"I'm upset that people just can't act in the way they are supposed to act ... and do what's good for everybody," said a visibly irritated Mayor Jim Kenney. He pleaded for people to "please just get vaccinated."

Following the announcement, the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association issued a statement saying the changes put "an unfair responsibility of enforcing these new requirements on operators and their employees."

"The PRLA supports the goal of a vaccinated and safe work environment for all. However, mitigation efforts should not put business owners and operators in a position to choose between a fully vaccinated staff and customer base, or masks for all. This puts an unfair burden of verification on employees with no time to train or implement protocols. Over this past year, restaurant workers have suffered severe backlash when enforcing those rules," the statement said.

Zio's Brick Oven Pizza on 13th Street in Center City put up signs instructing customers about the new mandate.

Many businesses will opt to forgo the hassle of asking customers their vaccination status and just put signs out front telling patrons must mask up.

Duross & Langel, a business that sells handmade bath, spa and skincare products on 13th Street, already reinstated a mask mandate two weeks ago after watching cases rise.

"It feels like they keep changing the rules in increments, forward and backwards," said Steve Duross, "(It's) like they just keep changing the line so what we decided to do is leave the line where it was."

Officials also announced that unseated outdoor gatherings of more than 1,000 people are required to have everyone masked. People sitting outside at a Phillies game, for example, would not need to be masked while in their seats.

Shortly after the announcement, the Eagles issued a statement saying everyone must wear a mask when visiting the indoor spaces at Lincoln Financial Field. Fans are not required to wear a mask outdoors.

If you're headed to the "Made In America" festival in Philadelphia next month, you're going to need to bring more than a mask.

According to Roc Nation who produces the two-day festival, in addition to wearing masks, all attendees will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result or printed proof of full COVID-19 vaccination upon entry.

"The negative COVID-19 test result must be obtained within 48 hours of attending the Made In America festival," said Roc Nation in a statement to Action News.

City buildings will also require that everyone in public areas be masked.

Starting September 1, all new employees hired by the city will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Current employees will be required to be either fully vaccinated, or double mask whenever they're in an indoor space with others.

A day earlier, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that some 25,000 employees of Pennsylvania's prisons and state health care and congregate care facilities have about a month to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or take weekly tests for the virus.

On July 5, Philadelphia reported the lowest number of average new cases of COVID of the pandemic, when the city averaged 23 new cases per day. Only August 9, the average new cases of COVID reported by the City was 180. The average number of new cases per day in Philadelphia has doubled three times in a month.

As of Wednesday, 63.2% of adults 18+ in the city are fully vaccinated. Currently, 118 people are hospitalized in the city with COVID-19.

The City of Philadelphia's Health Department recommending calling 215-685-5488 if you lost your vaccine card, or need to have a new one issued.


The Associated Press contributed to this story.