Philadelphia sued over new mask mandate

A group of Philadelphia businesses and residents is suing the city’s top officials over its resumed indoor mask mandate, which took effect on Monday.

In a lawsuit filed Saturday, the plaintiffs argued Philadelphia does not have authority to enforce the indoor mask mandate. They also say the order breaches the state constitution and defies recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The lawsuit, which was filed in commonwealth court, names Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney (D), Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole, acting Pennsylvania Health Department Secretary Keara Klinepeter and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health as defendants.

The plaintiffs are pushing for the mandate to be overturned.

“The previously mentioned actions of the Respondents have usurped the role of the Acting Secretary and State Health Advisory Board in the adoption of standards applicable to disease control in Pennsylvania,” an amended petition filed Monday reads.

“As further evidence of the arbitrary and capricious nature of the adoption of the Emergency Order it is clear that Philadelphia has rejected the guidance and/or direction of the Center for Disease Control the leading agency in the United States responsible for the promulgation of health regulations, despite the fact that Philadelphia for most of the pandemic, touted its compliance with CDC directives,” it adds.

The Philadelphia Health Department announced on April 11 that it would require masks to be worn in indoor public spaces as part of the city’s move back to Level 2: Mask Precautions.

The city said the order was necessary because it was seeing an uptick in cases and would end the mandate when two of three metrics in the All Clear Level are met.

Philadelphia is the only city that has resumed its mask mandate in response to rising cases of the COVID-19 omicron subvariant BA.2.

Kevin Lessard, communications director for Kenney, told The Hill that the office is “unable to comment on this particular case,” but he noted that “the City was successful in litigation related to the mask mandate just this past Thursday.”

“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 added.

Lessard was referring to a decision issued on Thursday by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, which denied an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction brought by a separate plaintiff.

Updated at 1:02 p.m.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.