The gist: Philadelphia reversed its decision to bring back indoor masking, dropping the mandate and causing confusion and frustration around the city, giving experts concern that the move could undermine public confidence. Meanwhile, the city’s long-delayed vaccine mandate for city workers, which was announced in November, will take effect May 31 — for now, at least. And despite moves back to in-person or hybrid meetings around the nation, Philly is now the lone top-10 U.S. city where lawmakers are still meeting virtually.
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After just three days, Philadelphia reversed its decision to bring back indoor masking, and also did away with a public health department response system that caused the mandate to return in the first place. The reason depends on whom you ask, with Mayor Jim Kenney citing politics and logistics, and health commissioner Cheryl Bettigole pointing to data and science. But a few things are for sure:
SEPTA’s decision to go maskless influenced the decision to end the city mandate, Kenney said.
Philadelphia’s mandates and guidance on masks have shifted several times throughout 2022.
Business owners and managers around the city are finding the inconsistency on masking requirements “a little frustrating.”
Experts warn that the city’s reversal of a new mandate just days after imposing it may undermine public confidence.
What you need to know
🏥 Patients who are being hospitalized with the BA.2 variant are less frequently requiring intensive care, despite an uptick in cases, some hospitals have said.
💉 Philly’s long-delayed vaccine mandate for city workers is set to take effect May 31 — for now.
🚆 Reports of aggravated assault and robbery on SEPTA jumped by more than 80% during the pandemic as ridership fell.
💻 Philadelphia is the only top-10 U.S. city where lawmakers are still meeting virtually, with all others having returned to an in-person or hybrid format.
🏠 Foreclosure starts and bank repossessions across the country were at their highest levels in two years in March, thanks to the expiration of pandemic homeowner protections.
❤️ A Philly woman who lost portions of all four limbs during a severe bout with COVID-19 is defying expectations — first by surviving the virus, and then by pushing hard to learn how to live independently.
🤦 Former President Donald Trump’s ex-COVID adviser Deborah Birx claimed she became “paralyzed” when he famously floated the idea of injecting disinfectant to treat the coronavirus.
📖 Citing the virus’ impact on business, Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in Rittenhouse Square is closing.
Local coronavirus numbers
📈 Coronavirus cases are increasing in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Track the latest data here.
Pfizer’s COVID antiviral pill, Paxlovid, is becoming more widely available. Here’s what to know.
Three Philly health experts share what you can do to stay safe as mask mandates end.
Here’s where you need to wear a mask in Philly.
What you're saying
Last week, we asked how the city should resolve confusion over its now-rescinded mask mandate. Here’s what you told us:
😷 “Masks should be worn when you are enclosed with other people - buses, trains, buildings, BE SMART.”
🚫 “I’ve FULLY supported masks when NECESSARY. Not this time. Philly needs to stop thinking they’re smarter than everyone else. Stay in sync with the CDC and experts.”
😮💨 “Why is it so hard for people to understand that the virus is not over and people are still getting infected? Wearing a mask, while inconvenient, is not the end of the world.”
🤷 “No one is stopping anyone from wearing a mask. It should be an individual choice. Wear a mask if you want, don’t if you do not. Period.”
😷 “I will wear a mask anywhere quarters are close like public transit and grocery stores where it’s impossible to know who has been vaccinated, no matter what the rules are. The mask rule needs to be consistent!”
A dose of diversion: At 85, he’s running his sixth Penn Relays
There was a 61-year gap between when Josh Much last ran the 100-meter dash as a boy growing up in Israel, and when he signed up to run it in the Penn Relays in 2015 — when he was 78. Now, at 85, the longtime La Salle University finance professor is set to run in his sixth Penn Relays, which he considers “one of the most profound things” he’s ever done. We’re inclined to agree.
🍽️ A Queen Village restaurateur calls in a favor for a fund-raiser, a Main Line chef sells soup, and a Center City deli offers a huge sandwich — all to support Ukraine.
🎥 Hollywood is once again paying a visit to the Philly area thanks to Lower Merion’s own M. Night Shyamalan, whose 15th movie, Knock at the Cabin, is filming in the city and South Jersey.
🌿 Recreational marijuana sales started in New Jersey last week. Here’s how to find your closest pot shop.
A good thing: Philadanco celebrates its 50th anniversary — two years late
In 2020, Philadanco was gearing up to celebrate its 50th anniversary season — and then the pandemic hit. But last week, the dance company returned for its 52nd year and its 20th as the resident dance company of the Kimmel Cultural Campus by revisiting some of its highlights in a belated celebration of its decades-long run. Better late than never.