Philadelphia Health Commissioner: Masks are 'annoying,' but can help save lives

Philadelphia reinstated its indoor mask mandate on Monday, making it the only city in the U.S. to take the step back with restrictions. 

RELATED: Philadelphia mask mandate to be reinstated April 18 amid rising COVID-19 case counts

In the announcement, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said the city is now averaging 142 new cases per day. 

Betigole joined FOX 29's Alex Holley and Karen Hepp on Good Day Philadelphia to discuss why Philadelphia has moved back to the Mask Precautions response tier. 

She said the omicron variant of the virus caused more than 700 deaths in a three-month span in the city and the new BA.2 variant is causing what she thinks is a new wave. 

Bettigole is hoping the latest increase in COVID-19 cases will not lead to an additional increase in hospitalizations, but data has proven otherwise. 

"We're hopeful that this BA.2 wave, which is what we think we're seeing now, that this will be smaller, that this will be milder, that we won't see a big increase in hospitalizations," she said. "But, we have yet to see any wave of COVID that didn't lead to a wave of hospitalizations." 

Citing COVID-19 data from the United Kingdom, Bettigole said the health department is using it to be cautious. 

She also emphasized her understanding of how people feel about masks. 

"Masks are annoying. There is no doubt that they are annoying. I don't like wearing them either, but they are a relatively mild intervention that could help to save lives and I think throughout this pandemic Philadelphians have shown that they are willing to do things that are annoying to take care of each other," she said. 

Bettigole also said that Philadelphia's Department of Health is trying to be reasonable in how they work with businesses, which is why the mandate is not going into effect until April 18. 

The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association said, "We are extremely disappointed to hear that the city plans to mandate that masks be required when dining indoors without any input from the mitigated community." 

Forty-six people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Philadelphia, but Bettigole says hospitalizations lag and that we will know soon whether hospitalizations will increase with the rising number of cases. 

She said if hospitalizations do not increase with the anticipated increase in cases after spring break, then the Department of Health will revisit its decision to mandate masks. 





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