Philadelphia casinos once again require face masks for both workers and patrons after city officials reinstated the COVID-19 protocol as new cases rise.
Pennsylvania’s largest city is the first in the US to restore indoor mask mandates. The city did so after its top public health official expressed dire concern regarding a new wave of infections spurred by an omicron subvariant.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases spiked 50% over the past 10 days, which is the city’s threshold to reimplement mandatory face coverings in most indoor public settings. The protocol applies to the city’s two commercial casinos — Live! Casino Hotel Philadelphia in the city’s Stadium District and Rivers Casino Philadelphia in Fishtown.
If we fail to act now, knowing that every previous wave of infections has been followed by a wave of hospitalizations, and then a wave of deaths, it will be too late for many of our residents,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. “This is our chance to get ahead of the pandemic, to put our masks on until we have more information about the severity of this new variant.”
The city masking order does not apply to casinos in the Philly suburbs. Harrah’s Philadelphia, Parx Casino, and Valley Forge Casino Resort are all a short drive away from the Philadelphia city limits.
For much of the country, COVID-19 has seemingly become an afterthought, as the news headlines have been dominated by the Russia-Ukraine war. No state governor currently has mandatory face masking orders in place, and life has returned to as close to normal as it has since the pandemic’s onset.
Philadelphia again requiring people to cover their faces is a stark reminder that the coronavirus lingers. But not everyone believes the order is sensible.
“This announcement is a major blow to thousands of small businesses and other operators in the city who were hoping this spring would be the start of recovery,” said Ben Fileccia, senior director of operations at the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association. Rivers Casino is a member of Fileccia’s organization.
Others took a more critical tone to the city’s re-masking decision. On Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s (D) Twitter, where he goes by “Jim #VaxUpPhilly Kenney,” many followers sounded off with their opinions.
I’m more likely to get shot than catch COVID right now. Stop playing politics and pick your head up to see the real problems,” tweeted user Michael Miele.
“Why don’t we follow the guidance from the CDC or from CHOP [Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia]? Why do you go to such extremes to fight COVID but do so little about gun violence?” asked Christine.
Philly is amid a surge in violent crime. 2021 was a record year for fatal criminal shootings (498) and non-fatal criminal shootings (1,834).
Until February 16, Philadelphia casinos were forced to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry for both guests and employees. The mask mandate was lifted only on March 2.
But effective immediately, masks are needed for all entries. Vax proof, however, is not. Health inspectors plan to be on patrol beginning next Monday, April 18, to assure that businesses are in compliance with the city mask mandate.
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