Philadelphia is bringing back its indoor mask mandate only a month after lifting it as Covid cases once again begin to rise.
The eastern Pennsylvania city will reimpose its mask mandate starting on Monday, April 18, Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole announced during a briefing.
Officials also revealed that Covid cases had increased to 149 per day, and 86 percent jump over the past two weeks, though nowhere near the peaks reached during the winter Omicron surge.
The city also reports 46 current hospitalizations related to the virus.
The move comes as Covid figures begin to creep upwards nationwide after nearly three straight months of declines coming off of the mid-January virus peak, and as the BA.2 ‘stealth’ variant begins to settle into the U.S.
Many officials, including the usually-cautious Dr Anthony Fauci, have assured Americans that this recent case increase are unlikely to develop into a full scale surge, though.
Philadelphia will reinstate an indoor public mask mandate on April 18. Pictured: NBA fans wear masks while watching a game at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center
Officials point to benchmarks set being the reason for masks coming back, as the recent uptick in cases has caused the city to once again reach thresholds that require indoor masking.
Philadelphia Public Health said on Twitter Monday that the city will now enter ‘Level 2: Mask Precautions’, as triggered by the recent increase in cases.
After a week to adjust, all indoor public places like schools, businesses, restaurants and government buildings will be required to use masking indoors.
‘Philadelphia’s COVID-19 response levels allow us to be clear, transparent and predictable in our response to local conditions,’ Jim Kenney, mayor of Philadelphia, said in a tweet.
Dr Cheryl Bettigole, Philadelphia Health Commissioner, announced the move on Monday
‘Given the rise in cases, we’re moving to Level 2 on April 18 to prevent higher case rates.’
‘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.’
Philadelphia dropped its indoor mask mandate amid cratering cases at the start of March, and has now brought it back only a month in a half later.
Case figures are not considered to be a reliable metric when judging the state of the pandemic by many federal level officials.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its metrics earlier this year, now valuing hospitalizations over all else when recommending mask orders on certain populations.
According to the CDC, Philadelphia County, which includes the city, is one of the 95% of counties considered to have ‘low’ Covid risk and not recommended to wear masks indoors.
Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said this week that Americans should decide for themselves how they want to deal with the pandemic going forward based on the amount of risk they are willing to accept.
‘There will be – and we’ve said this many times even in our own discussions between you and I, that there will be a level of infection,’ Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Disease, told ABC’s This Week on Sunday.
‘This is not going to be eradicated and it’s not going to be eliminated. And what’s going to happen is that we’re going to see that each individual is going to have to make their calculation of the amount of risk that they want to take in going to indoor dinners and in going to functions.’
The mask mandate returns to Philadelphia just over a month of it being lifted in early March. Pictured: Philadelphians mask up while standing in life for a Covid test on December 20
Others have also noted that, despite the recent increases in cases, Americans do not have to be particularly worried just yet.
‘I don’t think this is a moment where we have to be excessively concerned,’ Dr Ashish Jha, White House Covid Response Coordinator, told NBC’s TODAY on Monday.
‘…We should not let this infection run wild, we should watch it carefully and keep it under control. At the same time we don’t have to let it dictate our lives anymore.’
Cases are increasing in 26 U.S. states, with these recent rises being fueled by the BA.2 ‘stealth’ variant, which now makes up 72 percent of active cases, per the CDC.
‘It is incredibly contagious, even more contagious than the original subvariant of Omicron, and it caused a substantial spike in cases in Europe,’ Jha told MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday.
The sub-variant is just as mild as the original BA.1 strain of the variant that dominated the world last winter.