Philadelphia Reintroduces Mask Requirements in Response to Delta Variant Concerns

On August 11, 2021, the City of Philadelphia announced that in order to curb the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, it would be reintroducing certain mask requirements throughout the city.

Specifically, the new mask mandate requires:

  • All employees and patrons of any Philadelphia business or institution to wear a mask on the premises at all times, unless that business or institution requires everyone who enters the premises to be vaccinated; provided, however, that certain businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, doctor’s offices and urgent care centers, will not be allowed to utilize the vaccination-only exception and must require masks for all employees and patrons.
  • All patrons of indoor dining establishments to wear a mask at all times while not seated and eating or drinking, and all employees of such establishments to wear a mask at all times, unless that indoor dining establishment requires everyone who enters the premises to be vaccinated.
  • All attendees of nonseated outdoor events with more than 1,000 attendees to wear a mask at all times.

As of now, it appears unlikely that Philadelphia’s exceptions to its previous mask requirements (such as masks not being required when individuals are truly isolated from other workers in an office or a four-wall cubicle with high walls) will apply, given the language used in the City’s announcement. Less clear is whether employers must get proof of vaccination or whether they may accept employees’ and visitors’ vaccine representations, although the City’s announcements to date suggest that restaurants at least need proof.

The City is clearly trying to encourage employers and restaurants to require their on-site employees and visitors to be vaccinated, and so businesses with offices in Philadelphia will want to consider requiring vaccination for entry into their buildings. If this is not feasible, employers will need to require that face coverings be worn in the office at all times for the time being.

Philadelphia’s new mask requirements went into effect at midnight on August 12, 2021. We will update this post as we receive new or more specific guidance.

Update: 9/1/2021—On August 18, the City of Philadelphia released the text of the Delta Variant Mask Order. The text of the order provided new guidance not provided during the initial announcements, such as:

  • Defining “Essential Business” that cannot utilize the vaccination exception as “a grocery store, pharmacy, doctor’s office, emergency or urgent care medical facility, or similar facilities patronage of which is essential for daily living or needed on an emergency basis.”
  • Providing exceptions to the mask mandate, including an exception for individuals who are “alone in an office or a similar location that is completely separated from other individuals by floor to ceiling physical barriers.”
  • Providing that a business must have “instituted a reasonable procedure for confirming vaccination status of staff, customers, and any other individuals present” in order to utilize the mandatory vaccination exception to the mask mandate.

We will continue to monitor developments in Philadelphia and update this post accordingly.

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