The strongest remaining COVID-19 mandates on masking and proof of vaccinations in the region could be eased soon after the City of Philadelphia announces an update to local restrictions Wednesday, according to Mayor Jim Kenney.
The mayor, speaking at an event Tuesday, said "adjustments" to the city's coronavirus mandates will be announced at the city health commissioner's weekly news conference.
"We'll be announcing some numbers, some data points tomorrow," Kenney said when asked about thresholds for easing restrictions on indoor dining without a vaccination card and masking in public. "They'll be some adjustments tomorrow."
He didn't elaborate on whether the adjustments to the current mandates will be eased immediately, or whether local COVID case counts and test positivity rates need to decline more before restrictions are lifted.
In Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia, masking mandates were lifted weeks ago. In all three states, however, businesses and school districts are allowed to exercise their own rights to require masks.
A spokesman for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health said in an email that city health officials "are actively discussing how and when to update COVID-19 policies as case counts and other factors improve, but those decisions are not yet final."
In Philadelphia, masks are required in all public indoor settings, including in schools. Proof of vaccination is required at bars and restaurants to eat indoors. Those major mandates are among those on the table to be adjusted.
Kenney said Tuesday he understands "the political pressure on everyone to deal with this" issue, but said he would never understand how masking and vaccinations became such toxic issues for many Americans.
"I'll tell you the truth, this is not that big of an imposition," he said, pointing to his mask as he spoke to reporters. "To be honest with you, it's kept people safe. ...And it only happened because of this discipline. I just don't understand why this is such an imposition, to wear a mask and to take precaution and to get vaccinated."
The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, a lobbying organization, said in a statement that "the PRLA will work with Philadelphia Health Officials to provide guidance and feedback from local businesses so we can continue to operate in a manner that keeps employees and guests safe" once mandates are lifted in the city.
"We have witnessed successful operations without restrictions in neighboring counties, and feel confident that we can follow this path safely (in Philadelphia)," the organization said.