HealthDay News — Faced with rising COVID-19 case counts, Philadelphia has announced that it will reinstate an indoor mask mandate next week.
City officials announced the change on Monday, as COVID-19 cases have climbed across the country due to the highly transmissible omicron subvariant known as BA.2.
Philadelphia has an automatic indoor mask mandate that kicks in whenever cases in the city rise to a “Level 2.” That happens when daily case counts and hospitalizations are still low, but “cases have increased by more than 50% in the previous 10 days.” That is what happened in the past week and a half, when the average number of cases rose 70%.
“This is our chance to get ahead of the pandemic,” City Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole, MD, said during a media briefing, The New York Times reported. Bettigole acknowledged that the average number of daily cases, now 142, is much lower than when the original omicron variant drove it to a 7-day average of nearly 4,000 earlier this year.
The city had been at a “Level 1,” also known as “all clear” since early March. That meant indoor mask mandates and proof-of-vaccination requirements at restaurants were mostly gone.
“Knowing that every previous wave of infections has been followed by a wave of hospitalizations, and then a wave of deaths, then it will be too late for many of our residents,” if the city does not require masks now, Bettigole said.
“Philadelphia’s COVID-19 response levels allow us to be clear, transparent and predictable in our response to local COVID-19 conditions,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a news release. “Given the recent rise in cases, we are moving to Level 2 in hopes of preventing higher case rates and stricter measures. Our city remains open; we can still go about our daily lives and visit the people and places we love while masking in indoor public spaces. I’m optimistic that this step will help us control the case rate.”