School Mask Mandates Return In This Major City

One major city became the first to do so, as the Philadelphia mask mandate was reinstated against CDC recommendations.

By Erika Hanson | Published

Pediatricians Say Children With Head Lice Should Remain In School

Philadelphia mask mandate

It seemed like a dream come true. Over the past two school years and accompanying summer breaks, masks were a mandatory fashion accessory inside schools, and even at the park. But this year, things were looking up. Sure, most schools around America started the school year early this fall with mask mandates, but as COVID numbers waned at the beginning of 2022, most mandates, even in liberal states, vanished. But students shouldn’t get too excited about sending their children to school showing off those pearly whites, as many districts, like in Philadelphia, are reinstating mask mandates.

Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to reinstate an indoor mask mandate amid the new highly transmissible COVID variant, BA.2. breakout in America. The Philadelphia mask mandate will also apply to all schools, regardless of vaccination status. School districts in the city were already prepared to return from spring break and mask up. Out of precaution, the district announced last month that they would require everyone to mask up in schools for a week after the return from spring break, but now it looks like students and teachers will have to wear them indefinitely. 

The city’s Department of Public Health announced the return of the Philadelphia mask mandate on Monday, April 11th, citing the new variant and a rise in new cases as their basis. The City of Brotherly Love is back to seeing an average of 142 new cases per day over the last two weeks, which is more than double the average daily cases reported last month. The decision also comes with the Mayor, Jim Kenney, announcing the city’s heightened COVID level up two, which is titled “Mask Precautions.” 

Philadelphia mask mandate

The decision was met with both opposition and approval. Regardless, it was a big move, as it marks the return of the Philadelphia mask mandate as the first major city to reimpose the rules. And the pushback from parents is no surprise. Philadelphia is one of the largest school districts in the entire nation, ranked 20th in America. 

Many parents that are outraged with the Philadelphia mask mandate reinstatement point to the CDC for their reasons. In recent months, the CDC has heavily amended COVID safety protocols and practices as studies on the virus continue. In new guidance, the CDC now emphasizes hospitalization numbers over case counts when setting parameters for preventative measures, such as masks. But either way, Philadelphia seems to be going against the CDC’s recommendations. The city even set its own benchmarks for COVID alert levels,  which the city would use to measure the need for mask mandates. But even as of Monday, hospitalizations in the city were reported just a little lower than that threshold to raise the level up to 2. 

Philadelphia mask mandate

Not everyone is upset with the return of the Philadelphia mask mandate, especially inside schools. Monica Lewis, a district spokesperson understands the frustration but said it was a matter of deciding between two bad choices. Assuming that going maskless means a plethora of outbreaks in schools, it is seen as a positive measure to keep schools open. Other people, like high school student Ellie Zdancewic, are also happy with the measure. Zdancewic was upset that her fellow classmates that are disabled and immunocompromised were put at risk when the city lifted the mandate a few months ago. 

As the Philadelphia mask mandate stands, there is no end day in sight as of now. And as the new variant continues to wreak havoc, and cause an uptick in cases in major cities across America, more mask mandates for other cities might be just around the corner. At this point, students might just end the year wearing masks.