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11:47 AM / Saturday November 26, 2022

18 Feb 2022

Philadelphia establishes COVID Response Levels to guide mandate enforcement

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February 18, 2022 Category: Coronavirus, Coronavirus Posted by:

  The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has announced new COVID Response Levels which tie the City’s public COVID mandates to specific pandemic metrics. As the metrics get better, the City will stop enforcing certain mandates. Should the metrics get worse, the City will start enforcing those mandates again. Given the improving situation following the omicron wave, the Health Department has announced that they will not be enforcing the restaurant vaccine mandate until such a time when the disease situation worsens. “I’m so proud of everyone who has heeded the guidance of our public health experts as we continue to navigate COVID-19,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. 

“We fully recognize that this virus will be with us for the foreseeable future, and we must learn to move forward together in ways that promote public health and reflect the realities of life and society. While we are not done with COVID, I am glad that we have reached a point where we know much, much more about this virus and which strategies will help us manage its spread.”

“I am happy to announce our new COVID Response Levels today,” Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said. “We know that local rules to fit the local conditions are the best way to protect the communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the pandemic. I am glad to say that because of the work Philadelphians have done to keep each other safe, we are safer today than we were two months ago when the vaccine mandate for indoor dining was announced.”

The Health Department is using the following metrics to identify which Response Level Philadelphia is currently at: average new cases per day, number of hospitalizations, percent of tests reported as positive, and the rate of change of new cases. Depending on the levels of these metrics, the city will be subject to the following Levels:

Extreme Caution: Proof of vaccination required for places that serve food or drink; masks required in indoor public places

Caution: Proof of vaccination or negative test within 24 hours for places that serve food or drink; masks required in indoor public places

Mask Precautions: No vaccine requirement for places that serve food or drink; masks required in indoor public places

All Clear: No vaccine requirement for places that serve food or drink; No mask requirement (except in schools, healthcare institutions, congregate settings, and on public transportation)

The Response Levels are triggered by meeting the following thresholds (the lowest level for which the city meets metrics will apply):

Extreme Caution

Two or more of the following are true:

Average new cases per day is 500 or more

Hospitalizations are 500 or more

Percent positivity is 10% or more

Cases have risen by more than 50% in the previous 10 days

Caution

Three or more of the following are true:

Average new cases per day is less than 500

Hospitalizations are under 500

Percent positivity is under 10%

Cases have not risen by more than 50% in the previous 10 days

Mask Precautions

Three or more of the following are true:

Average new cases per day is less than 225 (This is approximately the cut-off between CDC’s “high” and “substantial” levels of transmission)

Hospitalizations are under 100

Percent positivity is under 5%

Cases have not risen by more than 50% in the previous 10 days

All Clear

Three or more of the following are true:

Average new cases per day is less than 100 (This is approximately the cut-off between CDC’s “substantial” and “moderate” levels of transmission)

Hospitalizations are under 50

Percent positivity is under 2%

Cases have not risen by more than 50% in the previous 10 days

By tying the City’s response to public metrics, the public will understand why the City is enforcing specific mandates, and what needs to happen before those mandates stop being enforced. During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has been at each of the Response Levels before. In the early summer of 2020, before the delta variant raised cases, the Health Department would have dropped the mask mandate if today’s COVID Response Levels plan was in effect.

Philadelphia’s announcement today is in contrast to many states that have recently announced a planned date to drop their mask mandates. The Health Department felt that a blanket rollback would ignore the local situation and put too many people who are not yet vaccinated, or who are immuno-compromised, at an unnecessary risk given the current case counts in the city. 

The COVID Response Levels also allow the City to be flexible to become more strict should a new, more dangerous variant begin infecting people. As before, and as written into the mandates, businesses in Philadelphia can be more strict than the contemporaneous mandate. If a restaurant wants to continue requiring proof of vaccination when the mandate is not being enforced, they can do so. If a mandate begins being enforced, no business can choose not to enforce that mandate.

The City’s COVID-19 website is being updated to include detailed breakdowns of the metrics, Levels, and mandates, and what each Level means for Philadelphia residents. The Health Department will announce the COVID Response Level for the week on the front page of the COVID website every Monday and will share that information out on social media, in the Monday press releases and via the Commerce Department’s commercial corridor managers. PDPH will then enforce the applicable City mandates as appropriate.

Large outdoor events, like concerts and races, with more than 1,000 people will require and check vaccine status during Extreme Caution, will require and check either vaccine status or have a negative test during Caution, and will have no restrictions during Mask Precautions or All Clear.

The Health Department reminds Philadelphians that being up-to-date on their COVID vaccinations will help keep them from getting COVID, spreading it, and having a severe case. By ensuring you and your loved ones are up-to-date, we can keep working toward a safer and healthier Philadelphia and  fewer COVID mandates.

For the latest information on the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit: www.phila.gov/covid. To find a location to get a COVID-19 vaccine, visit www.phila.gov/vaccine. To find a testing location, visit: www.phila.gov/testing.

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