Visitors urged to wear masks, but mixed messaging leads to confusion at Philadelphia's Liberty Bell, Independence Hall

PHILADELPHIA -- Visitors come far and wide to see Philadelphia's Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, but there is some mixed messaging about whether or not they have to wear a mask.

Signs around Independence National Historic Park say visitors must wear masks per city and state ordinance. However, National Park Service rangers cannot and will not enforce the mask requirement due to federal guidance.

According to National Historic Park Spokesperson Leslie Obleschuk, "While we strongly encourage social distancing and the use of face coverings when social distancing cannot be maintained. The NPS will not take actions against individuals who do not wear cloth face coverings or adhere to the guidance. We have posted signs and continue to emphasize the need for individuals to follow the guidance. Notably, a majority of visitors have been responsive and responsible in following the guidance."

"I think everyone should be wearing a mask because coronavirus is a very serious virus," said Tina Jackman of Southwest Philadelphia. "And anyone can catch it at any time because you never know who has it."

Action News spoke with a woman named Danielle, who was visiting from Florida with her family. She said the point of their visit was to remind her children about the freedoms they have as Americans.

"To be able to choose you know how we want to live our lives and whether we want to wear masks or not wear masks," said Danielle. "I don't think we should have to wear masks."

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley acknowledged that federal workers are told they can't enforce masks wearing because of the federal ruling but said Philadelphia law still stands.

"The mask order that the mayor signed holds for anybody in any facility, including a federal facility, people are required to wear masks," said Farley.

Keith Gunther of Lviv, Ukraine said when deciding to mask or not mask, one has to look at the bigger picture.

"As an American, it's hard to say you should be required to do anything but my personal belief is that, like, I want to do it for the safety of other people," said Gunther. "I'm not so much concerned for myself but like I have a mother who has battled with cancer and we really wanted to protect her so we wear masks everywhere we go."

Each of the park buildings has a different limit for the number of visitors at one time, following the City's guidelines for reopening museums:

Independence Visitor Center (6th and Market Streets)
- Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a 150-person capacity

Independence Hall (Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th Streets)
- Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors (up to 9 at a time) will be admitted every 15 minutes.
- No tickets necessary

Liberty Bell Center (6th and Market Streets)
- Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a 20-person capacity

Old City Hall (5th and Chestnut Streets)
- Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a nine-person capacity

Second Bank Portrait Gallery (Chestnut Street between 4th and 5th Streets)
- Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a 20-person capacity

Friends Quaker Meeting House (Fifth and Arch Streets)
- Open as staffing permits, please check with NPS staff at the Independence Visitor Center.
- Nine-person capacity when open

Merchant's Exchange Building (143 S. Third Street)
- Open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a five-person capacity

When asked if park rangers have their own health and safety concerns due to visitors choosing not to wear masks, Obleschuk said NPS gives staff protective equipment to employees performing critical functions.