Did ya hear? Philly’s masking up … again. Seriously.
When I tell this to others who live elsewhere they think I’m joking. But it’s no joke. On Monday, April 11, the Philadelphia Department of Health, with Mayor Jim Kenney’s approval, said it would require masks to be worn inside public places starting April 18. That includes thousands of small retailers and restaurants still reeling from the pandemic recession, high inflation and lack of labor.
It’s no matter that the city averaged 8.7 new cases per day per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, representing 139 total new cases in a city with a population of 1.6 million people. Or that, according to the latest numbers, the daily average hospitalizations are 127, below our city’s health care capacity. And how many actual average deaths were most recently recorded? Two!
So now the city is saying, mask up! Are masks that effective? Even the CDC questions the most commonly used cloth ones. And despite the “crisis,” we can wait a week until the new policy goes into effect. Why?
“We want to give people the time to prepare,” the city’s health commissioner said. As if everyone can’t buy new masks.
As you can imagine, small businesses are concerned.
“Event and catering companies are already getting calls from wedding parties and conferences wanting to reschedule or move to a different county,” a representative from the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association told a local news outlet.
Masks requirements compel employees to act as police, confronting unmasked customers, and it also limits customers. Who wants to eat or shop wearing a mask? Particularly when other cities don’t have these requirements. In Philadelphia, jobs are down more than 10% since 2019.
Not that Mr. Kenney cares.
Mr. Kenney has overseen a mask and vaccine mandate that lasted well past most other cities this winter, destroying shopkeeper hopes to recover from previous lockdowns. Then he continued his “war on restaurants” by backing new regulations on the establishments that expanded their outdoor dining options in desperation to rescue their livelihoods.
He’s further hurt our city by watching helplessly while a giant homeless encampment took over the city’s Art Museum area. He — along with the city’s police commissioner — mishandled the policing of the Black Lives Matters protests which resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to our downtown business district.
He famously flouted his own mandates by eating maskless in a Maryland restaurant at the height of the pandemic. He’s nodded in approval at his district attorney’s failed strategy to show leniency toward known criminals, which has increased the city’s homicide rate to one of the highest.
He’s avoided using surpluses gained from stimulus payments from the federal government to reduce the city’s wage and business profits taxes more aggressively.
He sat in silence as the Philadelphia teachers union bullied their way to school closures and remote learning to the detriment of the city’s poorest communities while the city’s independently run religious and private schools continued operating … and the children whose parents could pay for their education actually learned math and reading (Mr. Kenney’s pro-union relationships with some have also raised eyebrows). And what were his bold moves when his new budget was announced?
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer his “down-the-middle proposal will invite progressives and centrists to face off over taxes and police spending.” Leadership, baby!
And now this … more mask mandates when cases are historically low, and the new omicron variant has been proven to be significantly weaker than the last one with 99% of the actual deaths occurring either in the unvaccinated or the very old who shouldn’t be taking risks as it is, and likely just as vulnerable from other viruses before COVID-19. Whatever happened to “flattening the curve?” There is no curve.
The mayor, like so many of his Democratic colleagues, argues that it’s about “saving lives” and that “he listens to the experts.” But they are ignoring the hardships that arise from mandates. Mental health cases are on the rise, fueled by fear. Workers are spooked to return to their workplace, affecting countless small merchants and vendors.
Even the most recent data proves how wrong this strategy is. According to a new report from University of Chicago, economists Casey Mulligan Stephen Moore and Phil Kerpen Pennsylvania ranked among the bottom 10 of all states where economy, education and mortality were measured.
“The correlation between health and economy scores is essentially zero,” say the authors, “which suggests that states that withdrew the most from economic activity did not significantly improve health by doing so.” Philadelphia of course, contributed to much of this embarrassing result.
In Philadelphia, which is as blue as a blue city gets, there’s grumbling. Many of my clients who abided by the mask rules in the past may now ignore them. A few doctors I know — doctors! — are at loss to explain the rationale. You can see their irritation and hear it in the voices of the morning news team when they interviewed the city’s health commissioner — and these people are paid to be cheery!
And yet the mayor and his party refuse to see what’s happening. Despite this very weak variant, we’ll likely see continued mask mandates on planes. Their media will continue to demand more mandates. They think they are saving lives, but they’re destroying so many others. And they think their actions are what people want. People — even many in their own party — don’t want this. And everything they do only helps Republicans. How do I know this? Just wait until November.
• Gene Marks is a CPA and owner of The Marks Group, a technology and financial management consulting firm specializing in small- and medium-sized companies.
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