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Philly Officials Now ‘Strongly Recommend’ Even Fully Vaccinated People Wear Masks Indoors

The city health department stopped short of mandating masks indoors — but emphasized the importance of masking up to forestall another spike in COVID-19 cases

scoreboard at phils stadium that says mask up masks must cover nose & mouth Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Thursday, July 22, Philadelphia officials announced that they now “strongly recommend” everyone — both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people — wear masks indoors, a little over a month since all COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in the city. Health department spokesperson James Garrow told the Inquirer, “Now is the time to take action. Doing it now will help us head it off before it gets to a point where it really gets bad.”

Since the COVID-19 delta variant began spreading across the U.S., and with children under 12 not currently eligible for the vaccine, city officials are concerned that case numbers and hospitalizations could spike again in Philly. The city has seen a rise in cases recently, registering 64 new cases per day in the past two weeks, compared to an average of 24 cases per day at the end of June. “We are seeing a small but disturbing increase in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 among children in Philadelphia, along with more than a doubling of cases in the city,” Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said in a statement on Thursday. Currently, about 61 percent of eligible Philadelphians have been fully vaccinated.

Here are the new COVID-19 recommendations from the city Health Department:

The Health Department strongly recommends that everyone, including fully vaccinated people, wear masks in all public indoor places, choose outdoor rather than indoor spaces, avoid crowded indoor spaces, mask while indoors around people you don’t know are vaccinated. For unvaccinated people, consider double masking while in indoor public spaces.

As it pertains to restaurants, city officials seemed to hedge when speaking with the Inquirer about how the new guidance might impact restaurant dining. Garrow said that city officials don’t yet think it’s unsafe for vaccinated people to eat in restaurants, though this new indoor masking recommendation indicates diners should consider masking up in all circumstances except for when eating or drinking.