Philadelphia mandates: What you need to know about COVID-19 response levels, metrics

Philadelphia health officials on Wednesday announced new COVID-19 response levels that will now tie the city’s mask and vaccine mandates to specific metrics

Under the new multi-tiered systems, city and health officials say they will stop enforcing certain mandates as COVID-19 metrics improve. 

Should the numbers worsen, officials say they will use the same system to determine when those mandates should be enforced again. 

Based on current metrics, officials announced on Wednesday that Philadelphia had reached a Masks Precautions Only level - meaning that the requirement to show proof of vaccination at indoor dining establishments that serve food for onsite consumption was dropped, effective immediately. 

What COVID-19 metrics are Philadelphia officials focusing on? 

Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health will focus on four key metrics to guide decisions on mandates and restrictions. 

The metrics include average new cases per day, number of hospitalizations, percent of tests reported as positive, and the rate of change of new cases. 

City officials say tying their response to these metrics will help the public understand why the city is enforcing specific mandates, as well as what needs to happen in order the enforcement to stop. 

Philadelphia’s COVID-19 website will be updated to included detailed breakdowns of the four key metrics.

On Wednesday, Philadelphia health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said that average cases per day having fallen below 200, and positivity rates have fallen below 3% 

What are Philadelphia’s COVID-19 Response Levels? 

The city says that response tiers have been labeled Extreme Caution, Caution, Mask Precautions Only, and All Clear. 

Each tier is defined by the city as follows: 

  • 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)

Each response level will be triggered by meeting certain thresholds in multiple key metrics.

An Extreme Caution response will be in effect when the city has done two or more of the following: Averaged 500 new cases per day or more, hospitalizations reach or surpass 500, percent positivity reaches or passes 10%, or cases have risen by more than 50% in the previous 10 days. 

Philadelphia drops indoor dining vaccine mandate, sets benchmark to drop mask rules

Philadelphia dropped its vaccine mandate for indoor dining on Wednesday and set the benchmark for when further restrictions, like mask requirements, could also go away as case counts and positivity rates improve.

The Caution response level will be applied when three or more of the following occur: Average new cases per day are less than 500, hospitalizations are under 500, positivity rates are under 10%, and cases have not risen by more than 50% in the previous 10 days. 

The Mask Precautions response level will also require three or more benchmarks to hit in regards to the key metrics. Those include average new cases falling below an average of 225 new cases per day, hospitalizations fall under 100, percent positivity dips below 5%, and/or cases have not risen by more than 50% in the previous 10 days.

In order to achieve an All Clear, city officials say average new cases per day must fall below 100, hospitalizations need to be under 50, percent positivity falls below 2%, and or cases have not risen by more than 50% in the previous 10 days. 

Response levels will be announced by the city on their COVID-19 website every Monday.  

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