PHILADELPHIA - Despite public frustration and a pending lawsuit, Philadelphia is reinforcing its indoor mask mandate Monday.
One week ago, Philadelphia's Department of Public Health announced the reinstatement of the city's indoor mask mandate after a rise in COVID-19 cases.
The department said coronavirus cases increased by more than 50% in a ten-day span in the city where there's now an average of 142 new cases per day, according to Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole.
"This looks like we may be at the start of a new COVID wave like Europe just saw," she said.
While hospitalizations remain low, Bettigole says Philadelphia no longer meets the threshold for the All Clear tier.
"Our city remains open. By wearing masks consistently we can continue to go about our daily lives and continue to take part in the life of our city without contributing to increasing transmission of COVID-19," Bettigole said.
Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said most Americans can safely take a break from wearing masks and now Philadelphia is the only U.S. city that has returned to a mask requirement.
The decision was not well received by citizens and businesses in the city.
The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association expressed disappointment in the mandate, saying, "Philadelphia restaurants have done all they can to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19—from hosting vaccine clinics to sponsoring coronavirus test giveaways—while working to keep business in the city. It's deflating to hear that the city plans to bring back the mask mandate, especially without having conversations with anyone from the industry about timing and approach."
On Saturday, several Philadelphia businesses and residents filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania state court to overturn the mask mandate.
The lawsuit says Philadelphia lacks the authority to impose such a mandate.
It also accuses city health officials of having "usurped the power and authority" of state lawmakers.
"They are no longer following CDC guidelines. They’ve created their own standards and they’ve made it up, they’ve invented it," attorney Thomas King stated. "You won’t find this anywhere and that’s why Philadelphia is being criticized by other big cities."
Bettigole joined FOX 29 after the announcement about the reinstatement of the mask mandate and she said she understands "masks are annoying," but notes they can help save lives.
She also said if hospitalizations do not increase with the anticipated rise in cases after spring break then her department would revisit its decision on the mandate.
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