Philadelphia residents no longer need to wear masks in most indoor settings, effective immediately, city health commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole announced Wednesday.
With Philadelphia reporting an average of 295 new coronavirus cases a day, up from nearly 4,000 during Omicron’s peak, city officials say it’s prudent to stop enforcing the mandate.
The policy change came as other US cities and counties quickly relaxed their mask mandates, including Chicago, Washington, DC, Los Angeles County, New York and Boston.
Philadelphia last month announced a new tiered Covid response system, which ties restrictions to specific benchmarks for daily new cases, hospitalizations, test positivity rates and the rate at which cases are growing. Measures have improved enough that Philadelphia can move to the “all clear” level, where vaccines and masks are no longer required in most indoor spaces, the Health Department said.
The mask mandate remains in place in health care facilities and on public transportation, and businesses and other institutions are allowed to require masks or proof of vaccination if they choose to do so.
Masks will no longer be required in Philadelphia schools starting March 9, if the situation continues to improve.
“Philadelphia is unique in that we are the poorest major city in the country, which makes us more vulnerable to Covid-19 than many other places,” Dr Bettigole said. She added that Philadelphians have shown a commitment to each other during the pandemic, “perhaps best demonstrated by our willingness to wear masks over the past six months to help reduce transmission to those who remain at risk. “.
Nearly 70% of Philadelphians are fully immunized, according to a New York Times database, but the number of people receiving their first doses has stalled, as it is nationally.
Other places in the US that announced changes to mask policies this week:
The Maine state government said Wednesday it will lift its statewide mask requirement for schools on March 9, after which school districts will be responsible for setting mask policies.
Education officials in Chicago, one of America’s largest public school systems, say they may soon end the city’s mandate in schools.
Los Angeles County is set to lift its indoor mask requirement for unvaccinated residents on March 4.