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August 11, 2021

Philly expected to implement new COVID-19 rules regarding vaccinations, masks

The updated guidelines come as coronavirus infections and transmission rates continue to surge across the city

Health News COVID-19
Philly COVID-19 restrictions Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Philadelphia is currently experiencing substantial levels of COVID-19 transmission, according to CDC data. COVID-19 restrictions are expected to be formally rolled out during a news conference Wednesday with Mayor Jim Kenney.

Philadelphia is expected to unveil a new set of coronavirus restrictions Wednesday that will seek to spur an increase in vaccinations and require masks be worn in public settings.

UPDATE: Philly's indoor face mask requirement returns at midnight

Starting Wednesday, businesses across the city will either have to reimplement an indoor mask mandate for all staff and customers — regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status — or verify that everyone on the premises is fully vaccinated.

Indoor dining will be permitted to continue, the Inquirer reported, with the restrictions.

City employees will need to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 1 or double-masked at all times, NBC10 reported. Any outdoor, non-seated event with more than 1,000 attendees will need to mandate masks.

The new COVID-19 restrictions are expected to be formally rolled out during a news conference Wednesday with Mayor Jim Kenney and Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. 

The updated rules regarding vaccinations and masks come as the highly-contagious delta variant continues to spread across Philadelphia, leading to a surge in COVID-19 infections and transmission rates. Philly is averaging 180 new COVID-19 cases per day over the last two weeks, city health officials said Monday.

Philadelphia is currently experiencing substantial levels of COVID-19 transmission, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's data

The city dropped the last of its COVID-19 restrictions in June ahead of the summer season. Philly also lifted its indoor mask mandate two months ago after the CDC issued updated guidance that said vaccinated Americans didn't have to wear masks in most indoor and outdoor public settings.

Masks have remained required in some settings across the city, including all forms of public transportation and health care facilities. Partially vaccinated and unvaccinated Philadelphians had been strongly encouraged to continue wearing masks while around others in all public settings.

But as COVID-19 cases began to rise again across the city late last month, especially among children under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, the city issued a strong recommendation for all residents — regardless of their vaccination status — to wear masks while indoors in public spaces.

City health officials warned at the time that "a more strict mandate" would be considered if conditions did not improve.

A COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees had been under consideration, according to the Inquirer. The largest union representing municipal workers, District Council 33, threw its support behind a vaccine requirement Tuesday.

But not everyone is on board with the initiative. The Philadelphia Firefighters and Paramedics Union has said that it would not support a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for its members if one was instituted by the city, CBS3 reported.

A number of educational institutions and health care systems across Philadelphia, as well as City Council, are requiring their employees and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Several restaurants in the city are now mandating diners be fully vaccinated in order to eat indoors.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said earlier this year that employers could mandate workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to return to the office. 

But any COVID-19 vaccine mandate must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act, the agency said, citing that the ADA requires businesses to keep some health information confidential.

More than 63% of Philadelphia adults are fully vaccinated and more than 77% of Philly adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the city.

This is a developing story. Please check back for more updates.

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