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Philadelphia to reinstate its mask mandate after a rise in COVID cases

A sign requiring masks as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus is taped on a storefront in Philadelphia on Feb. 16.
Matt Rourke
A sign requiring masks as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus is taped on a storefront in Philadelphia on Feb. 16.

Starting April 18, Philadelphia will require people to again wear masks in public places after health officials reported a rise in COVID-19 cases.

COVID-19 cases have increased more than 50% in the previous 10 days, 0fficials with Philadelphia's Department of Public Health announced Monday. On April 11, the department said the city was averaging 142 new cases per day.

"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," Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. "I'm optimistic that this step will help us control the case rate."

Under these rules, there is no vaccine or testing requirement for places that serve food or drink. Masks must be wornin schools, child care settings, restaurants and government buildings. It's unclear when the mandate will be lifted.

The bump in COVID-19 cases may be a sign of a larger outbreak to come, according to the city's health commissioner, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole.

"This looks like we may be at the start of a new COVID wave like Europe just saw," Bettigole told Fox 29 in Philadelphia.

This year, Europe did see a surge in COVID-19 cases thanks to the BA.2 strain — the highly contagious omicron subvariant of the coronavirus.

This subvariant is also being blamed on a recent bump in infections in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Biden, who recently spoke to All Things Considered, said such a surge is to be expected.

"If our pattern follows that of the U.K., which we usually do and are usually about three to four weeks behind them, they are having a significant upsurge in the number of cases," Fauci said. "We are hoping that if that does happen, the degree of background immunity that we have in the country ... [means] we will not see an increase in severity in the sense of a concomitant increase significantly in the number of hospitalizations."

Recently, some high-profile politicians, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Attorney General Merrick Garland, reported testing positive for the coronavirus after attending the elite Gridiron Club Dinner.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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