Masks recommended in Philadelphia indoors as coronavirus cases soar
It is also highly contagious delta variable Philadelphia health officials said Thursday that they “strongly recommend” everyone — including those who have been fully vaccinated — wear masks inside public places.
James Garrow, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Public Health, said officials are concerned about a slight increase in hospitalizations among children too young to be vaccinated. Vaccines It is only approved for people 12 years of age or older. National statistics also point to problems ahead.
“It is time for all of us to do what we need to do to protect our city’s children,” Acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Petigol said in a written statement. “That means you get fully vaccinated if you haven’t done so yet, and that means we all go back to wearing masks in public.”
Overall, COVID-19 case rates are rising again in Philadelphia and the surrounding area but are still well below peak levels. For two weeks in late June and early July, the city had only about 24 cases a day. As of Thursday, the two-week average was 64. There has been an average of less than one death per day in the past month.
The number of cases in the country is now averaging nearly 38,000 per day, up from just over 11,000 in mid-June, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitalizations and deaths are also beginning to rise, especially in states with low vaccination rates.
“Now is the time to take action,” Garrow said. “Doing this now will help us avoid it before it gets to a point where it gets really bad.”
In response to a question this week about how close New Jersey is to reimposing mask guidelines or other restrictions, Governor Phil Murphy said at his regular coronavirus conference, “We’re not there yet. We still feel comfortable where we are, but we’re watching this like a hawk.” Our strong, strong, strong preference is to not return.”
Philadelphia’s new recommendations call for everyone to wear masks indoors when they don’t know if others are vaccinated. Garrow said people who are not immunized should consider wearing a double mask when they are indoors with others. Socializing outside is still the safest bet.
Masks are still required in health care settings, public transportation, schools, child care, indoor campgrounds, and congregate living facilities in Philadelphia.
This recommendation does not prevent people from eating – you have to take off your mask to do so – inside restaurants. Garrow said officials do not yet believe it is “unsafe” to eat vaccinators in restaurants.
Since there is currently no way to know if unmasked people shopping with you have been vaccinated, the Department of Health believes it is best to “normalize” mask wearing for everyone. The city considers it too stressful to require companies to check vaccine status when customers enter. Plus, Jarrow said, it’s not difficult for people to wear a mask. “We’ve all been wearing masks for months and months,” he said.
Doctors said that with the mutation of the COVID and . virus More infectious variants appearIt is reasonable for health officials to reconsider their safety guidelines.
“People need to be a little bit open about the fact that what is appropriate today may not be appropriate tomorrow,” said Jennifer Khalil, chief medical officer of Virtua Health System. “Not whether it is right or wrong to wear a mask, but what data tells us and what we can put in place to protect the greatest number of people at risk. Wearing a mask does no harm to anyone. Not wearing a mask may expose people.”
The CDC now says fully vaccinated people don’t need masks in most places, but the Washington Post I mentioned this week Federal officials are debating whether to recommend stronger public health measures. The World Health Organization still encourages mask disguise.
Eight California counties, including Los Angeles County, recently recommended people either wear masks in indoor public spaces or required them to do so regardless of their vaccination status. Case numbers in Los Angeles are much higher than in Philadelphia.
A Chester County spokesperson said its “Department of Health does not provide general guidance on mask disguise (although summer camp guidance was provided earlier in June),” but they continue to encourage vaccinations.
Montgomery, Delaware and Bucks counties have no plans to change mask directive at this time.
A Delaware County Council spokesperson said the Delaware County COVID-19 Task Force continues to monitor national trends showing an alarming increase in positivity and hospitalizations among those without measles.
“I think it’s wrong,” Bucks County Health Commissioner David Damsker, M.D., said of Philadelphia’s decision to encourage indoor wearing of masks. “It completely undermines the message that the vaccine is safe and effective.”
Some people were only vaccinated because they were told they would no longer have to wear a mask, while those who remained unvaccinated might dig their heels more. Health officials note that the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths now occur in the unvaccinated.
Damsker said he does not believe it is feasible to go back to wearing masks and social isolation. Instead, he thinks, people should “change the way they think” about how they think about COVID to see it as a chronic infectious disease, like the flu — there’s always a risk, but with a vaccine and effective treatment, people feel safe with their lives. .
“I don’t want to be on the COVID treadmill,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we don’t take it seriously or it’s not real or it can’t kill people – it can – that’s why we tell people to get vaccinated.”
While more than half of Americans are still not immune, the number of people seeking injections has slowed dramatically in recent weeks. Polls show that there is still fire resistance among Republicans and some ethnic groups.
Experts say vaccines offer very good protection against the virus, including the delta type, which now causes more than 80% of cases. Some cases of “breakthrough” among vaccine recipients are to be expected because the vaccines are not 100% effective. Philadelphia has been following breakouts since January and has found that vaccines hold up well. Fully vaccinated people account for only 1.3% of new cases, 1.5% of hospital admissions, and 1.4% of deaths.
At this point, about 61% of Philadelphia are vaccinated. Providers have been delivering 18,000 to 20,000 vaccine doses per week since June. The city’s lowest vaccination rates are in North and West Philadelphia, but there are pockets of low vaccination in the Lower Northeast and Far Northeast. By race, vaccination rates are 48% for African Americans, 61% for Hispanics, 62% for whites and 88% for Asians. Jarrow said the vaccination rate among the Hispanic population has improved dramatically in recent weeks and the vaccination rate may soon exceed whites.
Governor Murphy noted that New Jersey was “among the most vaccinated states in the country, which is very positive.” He also said that thousands of shots are still being given daily. “Our strong hope is that we stay as we are,” he said.
Health Commissioner Judith Persicelli said health officials have been closely monitoring case numbers, especially in children, and although the number of hospitalizations has increased somewhat, it is still low, as is the number of patients in the intensive care unit. “Severe illness appears to be under control,” she said.
Writers Alison Steele and Erin McCarthy contributed to this story.