Sunday, November 27, 2022

As most places do away with masks mandatory, this city is using them as ‘warning signs’ to stay COVID alert

While many parts of the world are abandoning isolation requirements and mask mandates, public health authorities in Philadelphia appeared to be bucking the trend.

But four days after the city of 1.5 million people became the first in the United States to bring mask-wearing back indoors, it struck a lightning-fast reversal.

“We don’t think the mandate is necessary at this point,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettygole said during a news conference.

“I think what we’ve seen is Philadelphians are paying attention to public health and doing what they need to do.”

In February, following a spike in coronavirus cases, Philadelphia’s health department conducted a simple test to decide when to ease or tighten the rules.

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It was a bid to remove unexpected restrictions, using a formula that balanced the number of daily cases, the speed of spread and hospitalizations.

But, in practice, automatic triggers created a complex set of problems some small business owners experienced with whiplash.

A Young Man Wearing A Face Mask Leans On A Weight Rack Inside A Gym
Personal trainer Justin Taylor is among the many small business owners in Philadelphia who have struggled during the pandemic.,ABC News: Bradley McLennan,

Personal trainer Justin Taylor is among those whose business revenues have plummeted after a prolonged shutdown due to the coronavirus.

By January, he and his business partner rented a boutique gym, but received an eviction notice for being unable to meet the rising bills, including rent.

“Everybody was afraid to come to the gym,” said Mr. Taylor.

He is now back in his element training customers in a lending industrial shop down the block from his old location.

He said the will-not-they-won’t-they COVID rules have made it hard to feel safe.

“I think everyone was relieved when we heard that the mandate has been withdrawn,” he said.

“But it puts us in a position where we are uncomfortable and we are not sure whether we need to change our entire business plan out of the clear blue or if we are going to continue.

“We never know if … our business plan is going to work right now for the next pandemic, or the next time they call [for] Masks.

“It’s like this rollercoaster of being aware and being mindful of the numbers and strains and what the government is saying, and the protocols that we have to follow as businesses.”

Wearing A Head Wrap, Over-Ear Headphones And A Face Mask, A Young Woman Exercises Indoors.  A Man Wearing A Face Mask Also Guides Him
Justin Taylor is concerned about how the relocation rules will affect his customers.,ABC News: Bradley McLennan,

Did Philly Formula Fail?

COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia reached their peak in January, averaging about 4,000 cases per day, as O’Micronon ripped apart the population during the winter.

In response, the Department of Health, with input from the business community, sets up a metrics-based system to help manage future waves of the virus.

It involved three-pronged testing, which caused the indoor mask mandate, which was lifted in March, to kick back in the last week, when daily cases exceeded 100, a disturbing drop of more than 50 percent in 10 days. with growth rate.

A Brightly Colored Sign On A Street In Philadelphia That Says &Quot;Let'S Get Vaxxed&Quot;
More than 76 percent of adults in Philadelphia are fully vaccinated.,ABC News: Bradley McLennan,

Philadelphia moved from level one, “All Clear”, to another level, “Mask Precautions”, after two of the three metrics were exceeded.

“We were trying to make it predictable and understandable for people,” Dr. Bettygole told ABC.

“In Philadelphia it’s less political than in some other places in America.”

According to Dr Bettygole, the goal was to increase the number of hospitalizations and reduce the pressure on overcrowded health services.

She defended the quick turnaround on the masks on Friday, telling reporters that the “warning sign” had worked as intended.

,[When] We started seeing that there was an increase in cases, we implemented the mask mandate to make sure that we can increase hospitalizations if one is going to happen,” she said.

“And we said at the time that if we didn’t see an increase in hospitalizations, we needed to reconsider, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

“So it’s really consistent. We’re doing what we promised to do.”

Woman With Long Brown Hair, Wearing A Winter Coat And Sitting On A Park Bench
Dr Cheryl Bettygole says the new system was meant to ease the anxiety caused by unforeseen restrictions.,ABC News: Bradley McLennan,

The number of daily cases is well below the January peak, but Dr Bettygole said the city was right to remain vigilant.

“I think we had a kind of national decision that the pandemic was over,” she said.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have to decide.”

Many Americans are going mask free

All levels of government in the United States have been grappling with enforcing COVID-19 restrictions, with the rise and fall of cases in cities seen amid tighter and looser rules.

Earlier this week, a video posted on social media showed passengers celebrating on a domestic flight after a Florida judge ruled out of the last remaining national mask mandates covering airplanes and other public transportation. One was cancelled.

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Travelers celebrate the end of the mask mandate in the US on a flight.

US District Judge Katherine Kimball Mizzell – a controversial Trump appointee – ruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had exceeded her authority by setting the rule.

The decision is now being appealed by the Justice Department and may still be reversed before it expires in May.

Meanwhile, the White House has sought to project optimism about the outlook for the disease.

Ashish Jha, a COVID response coordinator for the Biden administration, said, “If infection numbers are relatively low, as they are now, I think it is appropriate to remove the mask mandate.”

Dr. Bettygole said the national picture may be looking rosy, but she remains firmly focused on protecting the Philadelphian people.

Rocky Balboa Statue In Philadelphia
Philadelphia is still trying to win the battle against COVID-19. ,ABC News: Bradley McLennan,

There is no one-size-fits-all solution

Of the 25 largest cities in the United States, Philadelphia has the highest percentage of residents living below the poverty line, which makes them more vulnerable to the ups and downs of the virus.

“We have a more vulnerable population,” said Abby Rudolph, an infectious disease and social epidemiologist at Temple University.

Rudolf had supported the city’s decision to roll back the mask mandate, calling it an “act in the common good”.

A Woman With Long Hair In A Red Turtleneck And Coat Smiles At The Camera As She Leans In Front Of A Park Bench
Dr. Abby Rudolph says a cautious approach is necessary to protect Philadelphia’s vulnerable population.,ABC News: Bradley McLennan,

But determining public well-being is not an exact science.

Patti Brett is the owner of Dobies Bar, a Dewey Bowie-themed dive bar that has been open for decades.

She struggled to stay afloat throughout the pandemic and closed several times in line with city restrictions.

A Middle-Aged Woman With Curly Blonde Hair In A Black Sweater Stands Behind A Bar, Sipping Beer
Patti Brett struggles to keep her bar afloat during the pandemic.,ABC News: Bradley McLennan,

Ms Brett said she was also concerned about her own and the health of others.

“I didn’t feel comfortable letting people in here,” she said.

Ms. Brett sympathizes with the balancing act the city is trying to do and plans to request vaccination records from its patrons, even if it is something different.

Like Mr. Taylor, he is uncertain about the future.

“I still don’t know if I’m going to make it.”

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Relaxation of COVID-19 rules raises questions on testing arrangements and mask mandate

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