A court has already rejected another plaintiff’s request for an emergency injunction against the city’s latest mask mandate, of which enforcement began on Monday.
A group of Philadelphia business owners and residents have filed a lawsuit against the city, which plans to reinstate its mask mandate among a sudden upsurge in novel coronavirus cases.
According to CNN, Philadelphia is the first major U.S. city to reinstate an indoor mask mandate.
The mandate, says CNN, took effect last week, with enforcement beginning on Monday.
The revised mandate comes as part of the city’s “Level 2” coronavirus restrictions. Level 2 precautions dictate that masks should be worn in all public indoor spaces, including schools, businesses, and restaurants.
However, Philadelphia businesses have the option to remain mask-less if they ensure everyone inside has provided proof of vaccination.
Despite the return in COVID-19 cases, the Philadelphia residents behind the lawsuit say that the city’s decision is a baseless, knee-jerk reaction with the potential to adversely affect businesses and individuals alike.
“The regulations imposed by Philadelphia are arbitrary and capricious,” attorney Thomas W. King III told CNN in an interview. “Philadelphia jettisoned the C.D.C. regulations and is inventing its own.”
“Philadelphia,” King added, “violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. Things that apply in Philadelphia must apply statewide, but that’s not what’s happening.”
King further told CBS-Philadelphia that the city seems to be making up its own rules as it goes along.
“They’re making this stuff up,” he said. “I want to see the state commonwealth court strike down this mandate as a violation of Pennsylvania law.”
King, adds The Associated Press, was among those involved in an earlier, successful challenge to Pennsylvania’s statewide mask mandate in schools.
King claims that Philadelphia has now “imposed a renegade standard unfound anywhere else in the world.”
According to King, the city’s health officials have “usurped the power and authority” of state lawmakers, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and its advisory health board.
However, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole has defended the mask mandate, saying that COVID-19 cases have risen by 50% in the past 10 days.
“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,” Bettigole said, adding that Philadelphia health inspectors will have already started enforcing the rule.
Kevin Lessard, the communications director for the city mayor’s office, told The Associated Press the mayor has no comment.
However, Lessard did draw notice to a court’s denial of an emergency motion by another plaintiff seeking to challenge the mask mandate, saying that the “courts have once again confirmed that [the] city has both the legal authority and requisite flexibility to enact the precautionary measures necessary to control the spread of COVID-19.”