How’s it feel to be showing your face in public again?
Masks in Philadelphia are mostly optional these days, as the citywide mandate meant to help curb the spread of COVID-19 was lifted on March 2. At the time of this “all clear” message from city officials, the city’s positivity rate was 1.7% — that’s down dramatically from 14% in December, when 1462 new infections were being reported every day. Lately, that number is more like 59. Unless a new wave hits us, in which case all bets are off.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, it looks like cases have started increasing again — infections are up 89% in the last two weeks. Last Tuesday, the city’s Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole urged Philadelphians to consider wearing masks indoors in public spaces again. “Now is the time to start taking precautions,” she said, to hopefully allow our “all clear” status to remain. (The City has since announced they’ll be reinstating mask mandates April 18.)
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: The mask mandates ended April 22nd. For those of us keeping score, that was four days. Soon after, Dr. Fauci announced on PBS that the US is “out of the pandemic phase” but then clarified, “By no means does that mean the pandemic is over.” (We can’t make this stuff up!)
Unsurprisingly, reactions to the city’s decisions regarding coronavirus remain mixed. Many people celebrate the lifting of mandates as an important milestone in putting the pandemic behind us. Others, however, worry the city moves too fast (and at the direction of Big Business), putting residents at risk for the sake of the economy. So I hit the streets of Philadelphia to talk to folks about their feelings when it comes to the end of mask mandates. Are they Mad or Nah?
Neighbors sound off! NOTE: Some speakers provide their names & neighborhoods, some don’t. Check out their voices in the original recorded interviews (above), transcribed here:
- Yes, I think is not beneficial to our health. I think they’re putting the finances and business community first. And they really don’t care about us in general. And that goes for corporate America as well. Most definitely, I think the city is moving too fast and not just with the mandate. But if you look at the fact that we have so much crowding, and on top of that, you want to drop the mass mandate. And then, you’re forcing our children back to school and not all of them are vaccinated and we just had outbreak. It doesn’t make sense. – Resident, suburbs
- I’m not mad at all. No, I think it’s about time. I’m full vaccinated and boostered. I’ve been in and out of places, and really haven’t had a problem. It’s time! – Resident, Broad Street
- Well, the thing is, I think businesses here are still enforcing it. Most of the places that I’ve gone to, they are still requiring masks and so I think the businesses still have the choice. I’m not sure about how it’s working with the spread of variants in places that aren’t enforcing it, but so far, most of the places I’m going are still privately opting to enforce it. I haven’t looked at the numbers recently, so I wouldn’t know the implications. But maybe we’re going a little too fast. I think you can’t be too safe about this stuff. Particularly in areas where the concentrations of deaths have been higher in the state, they’ve all been in areas that refused to enforce the mass mandates or where people didn’t get vaccinated. So you can never be too cautious. — Resident, Center City “I was in Fishtown for years – FISHTOWN IN THE HOUSE! – but they priced me out.”
- No I’m not mad. I think they should have dropped mask mandates six months ago. I think masks do more damage than good. They should open everything back to normal right now. It’s all hype. They forgot the Coronavirus. Really this is a disgrace what they did with this Coronavirus. They hit the little guy, the little businessman, the working people. Open everything up! And open the pipelines, too. – Resident, Upper Darby (retired SEPTA worker)
- A mask doesn’t really stop the virus, its particles are smaller than the holes in the mask. So it really doesn’t stop at the spread anyway. So I’m not mad they dropped the mandate, because it wasn’t really doing anything to stop COVID. The cases are going down so the city moves at pace with the rest of the country, and other countries too, Europe is dropping its mandates in many places. So not just in the here in America, it’s happening across the world. – Resident, Philadelphia
How ‘Bout You?
Mad or Nah is an original woman-on-the-street interview series from REVIVE Radio that asks Philadelphians about issues impacting their everyday life. This edition originally aired March 9, 2022 on WHYY.com and on 90.9FM.
Tamara Russell aka Proof of Consciousness aka P.O.C. hosts and produces a variety of award-winning shows featured on Uptown Radio 98.5FM and Philly’s WHYY/NPR/PBS outlets. Read more in our feature on this multi-talented motivator — and The Local’s new publisher! — here: New Attitude (March 2022).