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Philadelphia will end indoor mask mandate again, days after it was reinstated

The mask policy will be lifted days after it went back into effect.

Claudette Kellam of Philadelphia is traveling to North Carolina through 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, on Tuesday morning.
Claudette Kellam of Philadelphia is traveling to North Carolina through 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, on Tuesday morning.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

Just days after re-imposing the indoor mask mandate in Philadelphia, city officials confirmed Thursday night that they will end the requirement, citing improving numbers for COVID-19 hospitalizations and confirmed infections.

A city spokesperson said officials will release more details Friday morning.

“Due to decreasing hospitalizations and a leveling of case counts, the City will move to strongly recommending masks in indoor public spaces as opposed to a mask mandate. Given the latest data, the Board of Health voted tonight to rescind the mandate,” Kevin Lessard, spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney, said in an email Thursday night.

» READ MORE: Philly lifts mask mandate, hours after Mayor Jim Kenney defended it

Earlier on Thursday, Kenney defended the controversial mandate that has made his city an outlier in the national COVID-19 response.

”I have committed through this whole dilemma, this whole pandemic, to follow the guidance of health professionals,” Kenney said Thursday in a video interview with the Washington Post, indicating, “and that’s what we’re doing here.”

Kenney expressed hope that slightly declining hospitalization rates could be a sign the requirement is already showing positive results.

The number of people with COVID in city hospitals dropped to 65 Thursday, the lowest figure reported in a week.

The recent peak of 82 was reached Sunday, the day before the mask mandate took effect.

The return of the Philadelphia mandate on Monday collided with a federal judge’s ruling that lifted the federal mask requirement on flights and mass transportation.

The conflicting rules led to confusion and frustration exacerbated when SEPTA said they would follow the judge’s order and end masking on trains, trolleys, and buses, as well as in stations and concourses. Philadelphia International Airport said masks would be required in terminals because of the city restriction, although coverings could be removed on planes, because airlines lifted their requirements.

On Wednesday, a group of Philadelphia business owners and residents filed a motion seeking an emergency injunction with Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court to immediately suspend the mandate, arguing that the restriction was causing them “irreparable harm.”

The federal government also filed a notice of appeal Wednesday for the ruling on masking on transportation.