Philly recommends masks indoors as COVID-19 cases flare
Philadelphians may soon have to wear masks inside public spaces again as the pandemic resurfaces in the city, where COVID-19 infections have spiked recently.
Philadelphia and other parts of the country, mostly in the Northeast, are seeing an increase in coronavirus cases as the Omicron BA.2 subvariant becomes the dominant strain. Overseas, the U.K. hit a record of nearly 5 million new cases last week.
"Based on what we've seen in Europe, we could see another COVID-19 wave sooner than later," Cheryl Bettigole, the city's health commissioner, said Monday in a statement. "It's not required yet, but Philadelphians should strongly consider wearing a mask while in public indoor spaces," the physician added.
The recommendation comes only a month after Philadelphia dispensed with COVID precautions.
"We don't want to keep masks longer than we have to," Bettigole said on March 2, when the city lifted its indoor mask mandate.
Philadelphia is now averaging 94 new cases a day, a roughly 3% positivity rate over the last two weeks. COVID-19 cases have increased by more than 50% in the last 10 days, according to city health officials. Citywide, 48 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, five them on ventilators, according to health officials. Roughly 5,000 people in Philadelphia have died of the disease.
Philadelphia still requires masks in health care facilities, nursing homes and on public transit, but facial coverings are otherwise optional, including in schools except Head Start programs.
Other parts of the U.S. are also telling residents to consider covering their faces as the BA.2 variant spreads. New York public health officials on Friday recommended masks be worn in all indoor public spaces in five counties in the central part of the state, which ended indoor masks mandates for public places and schools on February 10 and March 2, respectively.
More than 980,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, which is killing between 600 and 700 people in the U.S. each day.