The City of Philadelphia will again impose an indoor mask mandate, the first major city to make the move amid a rise in BA.2 Omicron subvariant cases.
The Department of Public Health announced Monday afternoon that the new mandate will begin on April 18, giving Philly residents time to adjust. Masks will be required in all indoor public settings, including churches, schools, child care facilities, businesses, restaurants, and government buildings. Once the mandate is in effect, residents will be asked to report any establishment not complying to 311, WPVI reported.
This comes one day after Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview that people are going to have decide for themselves how much personal risk they are willing to subject themselves to as COVID-19 becomes endemic.
“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 dinner is going to functions even within the realm of a green zone,” Fauci said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “It’s going to be a person’s decision about the individual risk they’re going to take.”
Although it’s clear the previous mask mandates did little to impede the spread of COVID, city officials in Philly remain hopeful that the questionable policy will this time prevent a surge in hospitalizations and deaths.
“I had hoped we wouldn’t be meeting like this again, but here we are,” said Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said during a briefing Monday afternoon. “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,” Bettigole added.
Bettigole cited a rise in COVID cases as the reason that the city is reinstating the mask requirements for indoor public spaces. Confirmed COVID-19 cases have risen more than 50% in 10 days.
Bettigole said that 750 Philadelphians died during the winter Omicron wave.
“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 said. “I suspect that this wave will be smaller than the one we saw in January.”
She said hospitalization rates will be the key in determining how long the masks will stay on.
“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.”
Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole was asked at Monday's briefing why Philly was reinstating the indoor mask mandate despite CDC guidance. 🎧Here's what she said: https://t.co/VObUxZYeNp
— KYW Newsradio – NOW ON 103.9 FM! (@KYWNewsradio) April 11, 2022
The original Omicron variant has already mutated multiple times, the New York Post reported on Monday.
The second mutation of the Omicron strain, known as BA.2, now represents nearly 94% of all global cases and is more contagious than other sub-strains.
The organization is monitoring a few dozen BA.4 cases in South Africa, Denmark, Botswana, Scotland and England. The cases have been reported from Jan. 10 to March 30.
BA.5 cases, meanwhile, have been reported in both South Africa and Botswana.
Botswana’s health minister said that it has identified four cases of BA.4 and BA.5, and all four of the infected individuals were fully vaccinated. According to Our World in Data, 55 percent of the people of Botswana are fully vaccinated.