PHILADELPHIA - Several businesses and residents have filed a lawsuit in state court in Pennsylvania in order to overturn Philadelphia's renewed indoor mask mandate, which was scheduled to be enforced beginning Monday in an effort to stop a surge in COVID 19 infections.
The lawsuit, filed in Commonwealth Court on Saturday, said Philadelphia doesn't have the authority to impose a mandate.
Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate after reporting a sharp increase in coronaviruses, with the city s top health official saying she wanted to forestall a potential new wave caused by an omicron subvariant.
Attorney Thomas W. King III, who was involved in the successful challenge to the statewide mask mandate in schools last year, said the city's emergency order went against the recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and imposed a renegade standard that was unheard of anywhere else in the world. The suit accuses city health officials of having usurped the power and authority of state lawmakers, the state department of health and the state advisory health board.
Kevin Lessard, communications director of the Philadelphia mayor's office, said officials were unable to comment on this particular case, but cited a court denying an emergency motion by another plaintiff for a preliminary injunction against the mandate. Lessard said that the courts have the legal authority and the flexibility to enact the precautionary measures necessary to control the spread of COVID - 19. Most states and cities have dropped masking requirements in February and early March due to new guidelines from the CDC that put less focus on case counts and more on hospital capacity, and said most Americans could take off their masks.
Philadelphia had ended its indoor mask mandate on March 2. The health commissioner, Cheryl Bettigole, said on Monday a more than 50% rise in confirmed COVID 19 cases in 10 days, a threshold that the city s guidelines call for people to wear masks indoors.
If we don't act now, knowing that every previous wave of infections has been followed by a wave of hospitalizations, it will be too late for many of our residents, Bettigole said. On Monday, health inspectors will be in charge of enforcing the mask mandate at city businesses.
The restaurant industry pushed back against the renewed mandate, saying workers will bear the brunt of customer anger over the new rules.
The state Supreme Court ruled in December that the administration had no legal authority to require masks in Pennsylvania s schools and child care centers, citing state lawmakers' elimination of an emergency disaster declaration. The 6 - 0 ruling said that state law gives health officials broad authority to protect public health, but it doesn't allow the department to act by whim or fiat in all matters relating to disease.