Philadelphia is reinstating a mask mandate for indoor public spaces over concerns about a wave of the BA.2 omicron subvariant of COVID-19.
The city dropped the original mask mandate less than a month ago.
Starting April 18, masks will be required in all indoor public spaces, including schools and childcare settings, businesses, restaurants, and government buildings. At that time, residents will be asked to report any business not complying with the mandate to @philly311. (2/4)
— Philadelphia Public Health (@PHLPublicHealth) April 11, 2022
“The mask mandate is tied to the COVID Response Levels, and as COVID cases rise in Philly, we want to protect our most vulnerable residents. Wearing a mask around others is an easy way to do that. The sooner that we can stop this wave, the sooner we can get back to Level 1,” Philadelphia Public Health tweeted with their announcement.
The mandate will go into effect on April 18 so that businesses have time to prepare. The city is asking residents to report businesses that are not complying.
“If we fail to act now, knowing that every previous wave of infections has been followed by a wave of hospitalizations and a wave of deaths, it’ll be too late for many of our residents,” Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said while speaking at a briefing on Monday.
Bettigole said that 750 people died in Philadelphia during a three month time frame over the winter.
“We don’t know if the BA.2 variant in Philadelphia will have the kind of impact on hospitalizations and deaths that we saw with the original omicron variant this winter,” Bettigole continued. “I suspect that this wave will be smaller than the one we saw in January.”
The health commissioner added that, “this is our chance to get ahead of the pandemic, to put our masks on until we have more information on the severity of this variant.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the mandate was triggered based on a system designed in February that takes a number of factors into account.
“The Philadelphia Department of Public Health established a benchmark system in February that uses case counts, hospitalizations, and the increase in case rates to determine which safety strategies are needed. The seven-day daily average of cases, 142 as of April 8, and a 60% increase in case counts over the past 10 days met the standards to reintroduce the indoor mask mandate,” the report explained.
As of Monday, there were 44 people hospitalized with COVID in the city, a slight decrease from last week.