Businesses react to return of Philadelphia’s mask mandate

The reinstated mandate comes as COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia, in the region, and in other large cities have continued to rise rapidly

By: - April 19, 2022 4:09 pm

Joycelyn Parks is the owner of Dé Village in Reading Terminal. —TRIBUNE PHOTO/ABDUL R. SULAYMAN

By Ayana Jones

PHILADELPHIA — Joycelyn Parks isn’t too concerned about Philadelphia’s mask mandate being renewed on Monday to help stop a surge in COVID-19 infections.

Masks are now required in all public indoor spaces in Philadelphia, including schools, businesses and restaurants, indoor sporting venues and museums. Businesses can stay mask-free if they require everyone to provide proof of vaccination.

“I’m not really concerned much about the mask,” said Parks, who owns Dé Village in Reading Terminal Market. “I’m concerned that next thing you know (the cases) are so high, that start shutting down places. Easter weekend has gone by, we don’t know by next week there might be a big spike.”

When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, her business was forced to close due to government mandates put in place to mitigate the pandemic.

“I hope that it doesn’t reach to a point where we have to close again,” said Parks, whose business specializes in African jewelry, clothing and accessories.

Matthew Stephens, an employee with Really Real Ginger in the Reading Terminal, thinks that the mask mandate being reinstituted is a good thing.

“A lot of people that I knew got sick with COVID so it’s very important that we try to do whatever we can to try to slow this down so people can go about their normal lives,” Stephens said.

He said Really Real Ginger wasn’t really impacted when the mandate was previously in effect.

“We were blessed that the mask thing really didn’t bother us but a lot of businesses have been hurt by it,” Stephens said.

Lamarr Ingram, owner of Vegan-ish, is supportive of the mask mandate.

“I feel like we’re learning from the pandemic as we go along so we’re preventing things from getting worse,” he said. “I’m in full support of it. It’s not good for business of course but as long as it’s good for us to get out of this as quickly as possible.”

“At this point I’m just so used to making adjustments,” said Ingram, whose vegan and pescatarian restaurants are based in Spring Garden and West Philadelphia. “There’s no complaints, it’s just like ‘what can we do to make this work?’ That is where my mind is. ‘What adjustments can I make to continue to survive this thing?’”

Ingram said he had an uptick in business after the mask mandate ended March 2.

“We’ve seen an increase in revenue,” he continued. “People were coming out more, so things definitely got better.”

While shopping at the Reading Terminal, Tanya Kiett said she was surprised that the mask mandate was back in effect.

“I don’t know how I feel about that,” said Kiett, who is a certified nursing assistant. “I was getting comfortable with going in some places without a mask.”

On April 11, city Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole cited a more than 50% rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases in 10 days, the threshold at which Philadelphia’s guidelines call for people to wear masks indoors.

But while some are supportive, several businesses and residents have filed suit in state court in Pennsylvania seeking to overturn Philadelphia’s renewed indoor mask mandate.

The lawsuit, filed in Commonwealth Court on Saturday, said Philadelphia lacks the authority to impose such a mandate

The suit accuses city health officials of having “usurped the power and authority” of state lawmakers, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the state Advisory Health Board.

The reinstated mandate comes as COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia, in the region, and in other large cities have continued to rise rapidly.

“We have been watching this wave of the pandemic sweep over Europe and it looks like it’s coming to Philadelphia now,” Bettigole said in a news release. “We know that most Philadelphians are vaccinated, but too many of us have not yet gotten our booster shots. And there are Philadelphians who are still at risk because of age, immunocompromising conditions, or other factors that put them at higher risk.

“We can protect them. We need to do whatever we can to make sure that our most vulnerable neighbors and loved ones stay safe,” she continued. “Each and every one of us has the ability to save lives today by putting our masks on and helping to stop the increase in cases.”

The city is averaging 224 new cases of COVID-19 per day over the last two weeks according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. The department reports 82 patients with COVID-19 are currently being treated in Philadelphia hospitals, with a total of eight on ventilators.

Ayana Jones is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared. 

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