Seventeen plaintiffs including local businesses and residents filed a lawsuit on April 16 in Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court, seeking to overturn Philadelphia’s renewed indoor mask mandate.

The city’s health officials reinstated indoor masking on April 18, after previously ending the policy on March 2.

Attorney Thomas W. King III, who represents the plaintiffs, told The Epoch Times that he believes health officials don’t have the authority to impose such a mandate.

“They met in a room in the board of healthcare, and they came up with their own standards. So they’ve invented some standards. And they’ve gotten rid of the CDC. And when they did that, in our opinion, they didn’t follow the law,” King said. “Philadelphia is going in the wrong direction with the rest of the world.”

Philadelphia health officials say they want to renew the indoor mask mandate to halt a surge in COVID-19 infections. According to their plans, the mask mandate will only be lifted when two of three conditions are met: “The average daily case count of reported COVID-19 cases for the prior 7 days is less than 100, hospitalizations related to COVID-19 cases are under 50, the average daily case count for reported COVID-19 cases has not risen by more than 50 percent in the prior 10 days.”

Last week, Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate, with the city’s top health official saying she wanted to forestall a potential new wave driven by an Omicron subvariant. Philadelphia is the only city in the state and the region with an indoor mask mandate.

“Philadelphia has developed this mask mandate on their own. It’s contrary to everything that’s being said, across the country, about reopening the country and keeping it open, and allowing businesses to thrive, and getting back to normal,” King said, adding that the law requires Philadelphia officials to work cooperatively with the rest of the state of Pennsylvania.

Attorney Thomas W. King III (courtesy of Thomas W. King III)

“They’re going backward while everyone else is going forwards,” he said.

On Monday, a federal judge in Florida threw out the mask mandate with respect to the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) which overseas transport across the country. The SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) buses are no longer subject to the federal mandate to wear masks. But at the same time, Philadelphia has decided to impose this mask mandate.

The restaurant industry in Philadelphia says it’s opposed to the new mandate.

“The businesses are buckling under it. The people in the small business in Philadelphia have had a terrible time during the pandemic,” King said. “I was on the news this morning with a gentleman who owns a restaurant in Philadelphia, who said that his income gets cut by 50 percent. Every time they have a mask mandate, that affects all the people who work for him. It affects the food purveyors who sell the food, it affects the whole city.”

King said that business people have told him while “they can establish that there are substantial and irreplaceable losses to these businesses, there’s nobody to sue over this to recover the money when your business is going down the tank.”

“I’ve had calls from lots of people telling me lots of stories from people who suffer extreme anxiety on airplanes; we were involved with several public school districts, kids who physically can’t wear a mask; I’ve had teachers tell me that the socialization of their kids with them and with other students is greatly inhibited by the wearing of masks; I’ve had teachers telling me that it’s very difficult to teach children to pronounce words correctly, or to speak correctly when they’re wearing masks,” he said.

“This is big brother saying that they know what’s best for people in Philadelphia and saying that the people of Philadelphia can’t make their own decisions as to whether to wear masks or not,” King said. “This is socialist agenda at its worst, and it’s really something that we hope to put an end to.”

King added that he worries that the mask mandate sets a dangerous precedent, as the next step could be a vaccine mandate or a lockdown.

King emphasizes that he is not opposed to anyone wearing a mask if they want to. “But the rest of the world has to go on, and so that’s what this case is about,” he said.

The plaintiffs in this case are also asking the mayor to intercede to end the mask mandate.

King said Philadelphia’s mask mandate makes no sense whatsoever because none of the other counties around Philadelphia have anything similar to this mandate. “COVID doesn’t stop at a city’s boundaries. So you have people coming and going in and out of Philadelphia, they live outside of Philadelphia.”

Businesses in Philadelphia can suffer as a result of that as people can go outside of Philadelphia and go to places where they don’t have to wear masks.

King concluded: “I hope Philadelphia comes to its senses, its City Council and its Mayor come to their senses and get rid of this. If they get rid of it, this case will go away. But if they don’t, this case is not going to go away.”

King’s law firm has already fought a number of these kinds of cases, including Corman vs. Wolf. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last December ruled to end the Wolf administration’s school mask mandate. In another case, County of Butler et al. v. Wolf et al., King’s firm won the case, forcing the governor to lift the shutdown orders and business closure orders.

The Epoch Times contacted Philadelphia’s health commissioner for comment on the case, and the mayor’s office of communications replied: “We are unable to comment on this particular case.”

Philadelphians’ Views on Mask Mandate

Some Philadelphian residents shared their opinions on the city’s mask mandate with The Epoch Times.

Local small business owner Ravinder Bedi said masks can protect the individual as well as those around them.

Middle and high school teacher Ari Nestlebaum said he thought the wider city-wide mask mandate should end, except for some people who have medical needs. “It’s been going on long enough,” he said. “And the cases have been declining and they’re manageable when they do catch [COVID], and I think at this point, we need to start working towards unmasking.”

St. Joseph’s University students Julie Kleinot and Annie Winkler feel that while wearing a mask is “a little bit annoying,” it can keep other people safe.

Temple University student Naoual said she thinks people should be allowed to make their own health decisions: “They should leave it to the people’s choices.”

Lily Sun


William Huang


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