Because this is just a pause, the health department may begin to enforce the restrictions if cases spike again. Restaurants still may enforce vaccine mandates and masks are still required in all indoor spaces – not just restaurants – in Philadelphia.
To accurately measure and appropriately respond to case spikes, the health department has created a new benchmark system using case numbers and positive test rates. The system was also implemented so business owners and employers will have some guidance and advance notice on when restrictions may change. Every Monday, the health department will announce the response level on its social media pages. The levels from most to least restrictive are: extreme caution, caution, mask precautions, and all clear. The current level is mask precautions, which means there is no vaccine requirement in restaurants, but masks are required indoors. This is the response level if three or more of the following are true: average new cases per day is less than 225, hospitalizations are under 100, positivity rate is under 5%, and cases have not risen by more than 50% in the prior 10 days.
Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said she hopes the city will reach “all clear” – which would mean masks need not be worn indoors – in a matter of weeks.
Author Lee Moylan is chair of the labor & employment practice at Klehr Harrison.