Philadelphia made a few changes to its new mask mandate Friday to help accommodate parents of younger children, who had voiced concern about their kids being barred from businesses that require proof of vaccination instead of requiring masks.
Grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors offices, and urgent-care centers now must mandate masks and do not have the option of requiring proof of vaccination, instead, Acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said Friday. She said the change was aimed at offering peace of mind to parents of kids under age 12, who are too young to be vaccinated.
“That way, parents do not have to worry that they’ll be unable to stop by the grocery store with their kids,” she said.
The city now requires masks in indoor settings, with an exception for institutions or businesses that verify all staff and patrons are vaccinated.
Businesses that require proof of vaccination aren’t able to allow unvaccinated children to enter.
But Bettigole clarified Friday that at restaurants requiring vaccination for indoor dining, kids eating outdoors could still enter to use the restroom. “Quick, masked bathroom trips” don’t violate the city’s regulations, she said.
Philadelphia’s rules differ from regulations in New York and San Francisco — where proof of vaccination will be required at all restaurants, with an exception for children too young to be vaccinated.
As for events such as weddings, Bettigole said that parents can work with venues to determine the best course of action. That clarification came after a mother wrote an op-ed published in The Inquirer voicing concern that her young son would be unable to attend her wedding if the restaurant where she is holding it chooses to enforce a vaccine mandate.
“The first thing I would do is call up the restaurant where you have your event planned and see what they plan to do,” Bettigole said.
Bettigole suggested that if a restaurant or venue is otherwise closed and only having a wedding inside, a bride and groom could request that the venue have a mask rule in place instead of a vaccination rule to accommodate the participation of children.
“You couldn’t have an indoor wedding in a restaurant with unvaccinated people there and no masks,” she said. “That would be a violation of the mask mandate and it would put a lot of people at risk.”
She also suggested that parents of young children could call the city’s coronavirus hotline at 215-685-5488 to talk through specific scenarios and help them understand the regulations.
“The overall goal is to keep people safe, and of course we want people to have their happy life events,” she said.