Philadelphia’s remaining mask requirements will end Friday, with a few exceptions.
The indoor mask mandate is expected to expire at 12:01 a.m. Friday, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health said in a news release Wednesday night. Also ending is the 11 p.m. last call for restaurants.
“For nearly 15 months, the City of Philadelphia has had restrictions in place to protect each other, and I have no doubt that these restrictions saved countless lives,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “But Friday will be a day that we’ve all been looking forward to: getting back to doing the things that we love.”
The city said fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks indoors or outdoors. Unvaccinated people are still “strongly recommended” to continue wearing masks inside and outdoors, but the city said they are no longer required to do so.
However, the state of Pennsylvania is still under a mask order that requires unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors. It was not immediately clear whether that would apply to Philadelphia, though Public Health Department spokesperson James Garrow noted the city is not enforcing the state’s order.
The city’s acting health commissioner, Cheryl Bettigole, said in May that the indoor mask restrictions could end June 11 if the city met certain benchmarks, including goals for case counts, positivity rates, hospitalizations, and vaccination rates. As of Wednesday, Philadelphia was averaging 53 new COVID-19 cases a day in June, the lowest count since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations have similarly plummeted close to levels not seen since September 2020.
About 67% of the city’s more than 1.5 million residents have received one vaccine dose, and 52% are fully vaccinated.
“Lifting the requirement for vaccinated people to wear masks indoors doesn’t mean that we are totally past COVID-19,” Bettigole said in a statement. “Dozens of Philadelphians are still being diagnosed with COVID-19 every day, which means that more of us still need to get vaccinated.”
Philadelphia has lagged behind the state in lifting COVID-19-related restrictions. Pennsylvania lifted its indoor and outdoor mask mandate for vaccinated people on May 13, when the CDC deemed it safe to do so. The city maintained its outdoor mask requirement for the vaccinated until May 21. The statewide mask mandate, which still applies to unvaccinated Pennsylvanians, will be lifted by June 28, state health officials have said.
Masks are still going to be required of the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike in hospitals and other health-care settings, on public transportation, in prisons, shelters, and other congregate settings, and in indoor schools, camps, and early childhood care centers.
Courts will also continue to require masks, the health department reported.
The city still faces the long task of vaccinating more of its residents. Rates of vaccination have nearly plateaued in recent weeks, with just 11,559 more people receiving a first shot during the week ending June 6 compared with the week before. Just a month earlier, 26,130 more people got a first shot compared with the previous week.
And the people who remain unvaccinated continue to be among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Black and brown people have been particularly susceptible to COVID-19′s worst effects over the course of the pandemic, in part due to a long history of disconnection from and distrust toward the health-care system, and the lowest rates of vaccination are among those populations. About a third of both Black and Hispanic Philadelphians have received at least one shot, compared with half of white residents and 66% of Asians.
Less than half of people ages 20 to 44 have received at least one dose, compared with well over half of older Philadelphians.
The era of large vaccination sites is over, city health officials have said. The mass clinic at the Convention Center closed at the end of May. Now the focus is on “smaller, community-oriented” vaccination efforts, Garrow said.
“Our clinics are almost all smaller now,” he said, “and more spread out.”
Staff writer Justine McDaniel contributed to this article.