Philly’s indoor mask mandate is no more.

Vaccination rates are relatively high. COVID-19 infection rates are down from last winter’s brutal peak. The Broad Street Run is back in person for the first time in two years. Companies are luring employees back. Center City is bustling again. The coronavirus pandemic might not be over, but life as we once knew it has returned in many ways.

So why hasn’t City Council returned to work as usual?

Instead of gathering in their chambers during these all-important budget hearings and for their regular Thursday sessions, members continue to meet virtually over Microsoft Teams, just as they did during the darkest, scariest days of the pandemic. According to recent Inquirer reporting, of the 10 largest U.S. cities, all but Philadelphia have returned to in-person or hybrid council meetings.

It’s not a good look for the city’s governing body, who are paid with taxpayer dollars. Especially since you see councilmembers living their best lives elsewhere around the city, attending events and presenting citations. Now that the pandemic is more controlled, Council needs to go back to conducting business in person.

I can’t think of a better way to signal that Philadelphia itself is back in business. Patrick Christmas, a policy director with the Committee of Seventy, the local nonpartisan good-government group, agrees.

“I do think it’s important for them to get there in person again because you can just hash out and talk about difficult issues in a much more substantive, nuanced way when you’re face-to-face with somebody,” he told me. “There’s also something to be said for getting back to business and getting back downtown and setting a good example.”

Council meetings and hearings aren’t the only city public gatherings still quarantining like it’s 2020. Take the city’s biweekly gun violence press briefings that take place on Zoom.

The way it is currently organized, Mayor Jim Kenney, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, and others make formal presentations before taking a limited number of questions from the media. That often doesn’t leave enough time for journalists to get all of their questions answered. The collective frustration of some members of the local press corps about this spilled over during Wednesday’s update, when KYW reporter Kristen Johanson asked Kenney: “Can we please get off of Zoom?”

I couldn’t see the faces of other journalists at the briefing (because I watched via Facebook), but I’ll bet heads nodded.

» READ MORE: Philadelphia is the only top-10 U.S. city where lawmakers are still meeting virtually

Kenney defended the current setup. “You obviously don’t like virtual,” he said. “But there are some reporters that do like virtual because they have the opportunity to ask a full question and they have the floor the entire time of the question. Secondly, we have a large number of people who are very busy who come onto these press conferences that take an hour out of their day to answer questions, and they don’t have to trudge down to City Hall and take the transportation time away from their office.”

(The emphasis is mine, but he used the word trudge as if it’s such a horrible thing for them to have to leave their offices to meet with members of the press.)

I like remote work as much as the next person. But sitting through these Zoom calls makes me wistful for the days when reporters could linger after news conferences and get one-on-one interviews with sources.

Back then, you could freely pursue lines of questioning without every other reporter in town eavesdropping on what you were asking about. And you didn’t feel forced to stick to the subject of the day. It led to better accountability on the part of elected officials, whose job it is to answer the Philadelphians who pay their salaries, even if it means having to trudge to City Hall once in a while.

By sticking to virtual public meetings, City Hall is “trying to control the environment to make sure that they’re not being put on the spot,” pointed out Jamal Johnson, an anti-gun violence activist. “It’s definitely time to get back to normal.”

The decision about whether to return to in-person meetings rests with Council President Darrell L. Clarke. Joe Grace, a spokesman for Clarke, said via email that Council still meets virtually out of “an abundance of caution for the public’s health, as well as the health of Council members and staff.”

Grace added: “There is work underway, involving our IT professionals, to install wireless technology, to allow Councilmembers and the public to be better spaced apart for social distancing. Given the significant impact in terms of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths in Philadelphia, we will proceed with caution.”

Council should follow District Attorney Larry Krasner’s hybrid model. Each Monday, he meets in person with the press but also posts videos of the gatherings on Facebook.

As someone who works remotely, I’m grateful that virtual options exist. But expecting taxpayers to go about their normal lives again while elected officials hide away from the public in their offices sends, at best, a muddled message about what’s safe.

At worst, it’s hypocritical, ivory tower behavior. Philadelphians deserve better.