Philadelphia’s Mask Wearing Mandate Searches For Scientific Support
In response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, the city of Philadelphia and its Department of Public Health announced changes to restrictions on businesses, events, gatherings, and other activities to help flatten the COVID-19 epidemic curve.
Philadelphia’s new “Safer at Home” program identifies several outdoor activities that are not allowed and all individuals at outdoor gatherings must wear masks at all times.
Announced on November 16, 2020, and is scheduled to continue through January 1, 2021, the “Safer at Home” new restrictions in Philadelphia include outdoor gatherings and events that are limited to 10 percent of the maximum capacity of the space, or 10 people per 1,000 sq. ft. for venues with an undefined maximum capacity, but not to exceed 2,000 people in any outdoor space.
Additionally, “Safer at Home” requires restaurants offering outdoor dining to reduce table sizes to four people. And the guidance states that groups dining outdoors should be household members only because mixing different households promotes community-wide spread, states the ‘Safer at Home’ announcement.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised guidelines updated on November 12, 2020, indicates ‘everyone 2-years of age and older should wear a mask in public settings and when they are around people who do not live in their household.'
And the CDC says 'masks may 'not' be necessary when you are outside by yourself, away from others, or with other people who live in your household.' They say that some localities may require wearing masks in public outdoors, and these requirements should be followed.
However, the risk of outdoor transmission increases when the natural social distancing of everyday life is breached, and gathering density and circulation increases, particularly for an extended duration.
After a worldwide search for qualitative research studies of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 in everyday life, a non-peer-reviewed study of 7,324 Chinese COVID-19 case reports published on September 10, 2020, was found.
The researchers, Mike Weed and Abby Foad at the Canterbury Christ Church University, stated the ‘majority of the sources considered for inclusion in the review stated that transmission of COVID-19 outdoors is a lower risk than indoors.’
This study of a database of more than 20,000 cases (including the 7,324 Chinese cases) reported only 461 (6%) that were associated with coronavirus transmissions during completely outdoor environments.
‘Other studies suggest atmospheric conditions, such as air pollution, temperature, and humidity (Contini & Constable, 2020: Sanchez-Lorenzo et al, 2020; Zoran et al, 2020), have a potential biological impact on COVID-19 transmission.’
‘But, these studies did not consider any explanation other than biological mechanisms related to lower COVID-19 transmission in temperatures when outdoor activity increases,’ concluded Weed and Foad.
From a subjective perspective, during the U.S. FDA Grand Rounds: Facial Coverings During the COVID-19 Pandemic: How well do they flatten the curve, digital presentation on November 12, 2020, the FDA team did not respond to multiple requests for scientific studies that support mask-wearing mandates when a person is outside in the fresh air.
Philadelphia is not alone in pursuing extensive face-mask wearing mandates when outside. North Dakota became the 35th U.S. state to require face coverings to be worn in public when outdoors, reported Reuters on November 14, 2020.
But, from a population relevancy point of view, new data from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association as of November 12, 2020, reports ‘At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children since children were just 0.00% - 0.21% of all COVID-19 deaths during 2020.
Moreover, 16 US states reported zero child deaths this year.
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