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Philadelphia moves to "All Clear" response level, dropping indoor mask mandate.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Philadelphia Health officials lifted the city’s indoor mask mandate for most indoor settings after a move to the "All Clear" COVID-19 precautions tier on Wednesday. 

Effective immediately, masks are no longer required indoors, with exceptions for the “higher-risk” settings of schools, healthcare institutions, congregate settings, and public transportation. Penn has not yet announced any plans to lift its indoor mask mandate.

The announcement comes after the City of Philadelphia's recent introduction of key metrics used to determine the extent of COVID-19 precautions, and to regulate the move from one response tier to another.

“All Clear” requires that at least three of the four following conditions must be met before masking can end: city-wide average new cases per day is fewer than 100, hospitalizations are under 50, positivity rate has dropped below 2%, and cases have not risen by more than 50% in the past 10 days. 

The drop in the city-wide positivity rate follows the health department’s recalculation of the positivity rate, which now includes data received from rapid and other tests in addition to the previously used PCR tests. The reconfiguration moved the percent positivity rate to 1.7%, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Health officials said if COVID-19 trends remain encouraging, the indoor mask mandate for schools could be dropped on Mar. 9, followed by a one-week mask requirement after spring break to circumvent a potential post-break case surge.

Penn’s COVID-19 case count has remained stable over the past two weeks at a semester-low, with a campus-wide positivity rate of 1.17% during the week from Feb. 20 to Feb. 26, below the 2% threshold the City of Philadelphia uses to move to the "All Clear" response tier. A total of 88 community members tested positive for COVID-19 during the week from Feb. 20 to Feb. 26 — up slightly from semester-low of 75 the week before.

The low COVID-19 positivity rate and case count comes one week after the University lifted the indoor double-masking mandate in a Feb. 22 email, in which top administrators reversed the requirement for all community members to double-mask or wear a KN95, N95, or KF95 mask in campus buildings. Community members are still required to mask indoors.

The mostly stable campus-wide positivity rate and case count mirrors state-wide trends, which have seen the lowest on average daily case count in Pennsylvania since August

A number of universities have recently loosened or dropped indoor mask mandates in recent days. Brown University recently loosened their masking requirement, allowing students both vaccinated and boosted to remove masks during performances, athletic practices, and when exercising in the University's fitness center but still requires students to mask during class.

Penn's peer institution Northwestern University ended its indoor mask requirement on Feb. 28.  Princeton University also announced on March 1 that it is lifting its indoor mask mandate and reducing testing requirements to once per month for fully vaccinated individuals.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted that just because the city has moved to the "All Clear" response tier, it does not mean that health officials will not need to reintroduce a mask mandate in the future.

“This is great news for Philadelphia,” Mayor Kenney wrote, thanking the Philadelphia Health Department, healthcare workers, and the over one million vaccinated Philadelphians. “It’s taken all of us working together to get to this point.”