Philadelphia Sued After Becoming First Major City to Reinstate Mask Mandate

Philadelphia is facing a new lawsuit challenging the return of its indoor mask mandate that was announced last week.

The city announced on Monday that the mandate would be reinstated due to rising coronavirus cases, becoming the first major U.S. city to do so. However, the announcement quickly drew some criticism.

A lawsuit filed in state court on Saturday is now seeking to overturn the renewed mask mandate.

Attorney Thomas W. King III argued that the city's rules go against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommendations and "imposed a renegade standard unfound anywhere else in the world," the Associated Press reported.

Philadelphia sued over mask mandate
Philadelphia is facing a lawsuit challenging its reinstated mask mandate. Above, a sign asking people to wear masks is seen in Philadelphia on April 15. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The lawsuit accused the city of having "usurped the power and authority" of state lawmakers, department of health and advisory health board, the AP reported.

In a statement to Newsweek, Kevin Lessard, communications director of the Philadelphia mayor's office, said the city is unable to comment on the specific case, but pointed to a separate challenge on Thursday, where "the City was successful in litigation related to the mask mandate."

"On Thursday, upon challenge to the order mandating the return of masks in certain indoor spaces, the courts once again confirmed that City has both the legal authority and requisite flexibility to enact the precautionary measures necessary to control the spread of COVID-19," he wrote.

The lawsuit comes just days before the mask mandate is set to go into effect on Monday, April 18. The mandate previously ended on March 2, meaning the city had just more than a month with no mask rules.

Philadelphia rules dictate that an indoor mask mandate is triggered when the city enters the "level two" response, which occurs when the daily average of new cases reaches 100, hospitalizations reach 50 or when cases increase by at least 50 percent in the last 10 days.

Last Monday, the city had an average of 142 cases per day, according to the city's health department.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole warned that "this looks like we may be at the start of a new COVID wave like Europe just saw" when announcing the mandate's return, adding: "Our city remains open. By wearing masks consistently we can continue to go about our daily lives and continue to take part in the life of our city without contributing to increasing transmission of COVID-19."

However, the announcement was met with skepticism from many in the community.

"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 the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association in a Twitter statement.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is running for governor, called the decision "counterproductive," according to local news outlet Billy Penn.

Other major cities that have also recently rescinded mask mandates have not reinstated them.

Update 4/17/22, 11:51 a.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and background.