Philly COVID cases creep closer to levels that would trigger a return to mask requirements

People wearing face masks walk through Philadelphia

People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus walk in Philadelphia, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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It’s familiar territory for city health officials.

Barely a month after declaring the “all clear” and lifting indoor mask requirements, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health is once again issuing a warning.

“The Health Department has been warning that, based on what we’ve seen in Europe, we could see another COVID-19 wave sooner rather than later,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. “As we see more cases of COVID-19 in the city, everyone’s risk goes up. That means that now is the time to start taking precautions.”

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Over the past ten days, cases in Philadelphia have increased more than 50%, Bettigole said.

The city is now averaging 94 new cases every day with 48 people currently hospitalized in the city.

“It’s not required yet, but Philadelphians should strongly consider wearing a mask while in public indoor spaces,” she said. “Make sure you have a supply of masks and home tests ready in case you need them.”

She also encouraged residents to get vaccinated.

The city is still at the “all clear” level, the lowest of four response levels the city unveiled earlier this year. Under this level, no masks are required and there are no vaccine or testing requirements for restaurants or other indoor locations.

To reach the next level, known as Level 2: Mask Precautions, two of three criteria must be met. Those criteria include an average of new cases per day of more than 100, hospitalizations over 50, and an increase in cases of more than 50% over the past 10 days. The city is very close to reaching all three of those metrics.

Last week, Philadelphia recorded its 5,000th death since the start of the pandemic more than two years ago. “I am deeply saddened by the loss of 5,000 Philadelphians — our friends, coworkers, neighbors, and loved ones — to COVID-19,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “This loss is unfathomable and will be felt in countless ways across our city for years to come.”

He joined Bettigole in encouraging city residents to get vaccinated and take other precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

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