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Recent positivity rates in Philadelphia are higher among young adults. Credit: Max Mester

The average number of new daily COVID-19 cases has doubled in Philadelphia over the past month. 

City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley announced that Philadelphia had an average of 507 new cases per day and an 8.7% positivity rate for COVID-19 tests. Positivity rates are higher among young adults, and cases and hospitalizations have risen across Pennsylvania, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Experts attribute the rise to relaxing COVID-19 precautions and more infectious strains of the virus.

Pennsylvania's positivity rate increased from 5.7% on March 11 to 9.4% on April 1. Approximately 4,200 new cases per day were reported over the past week, the Inquirer reported. 

The citywide increase in cases and hospitalizations comes as Philadelphia plans to expand vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older on April 19, in line with President Joe Biden’s push for all states to open eligibility by that date. 

In Philadelphia, vaccines are currently available for people in Phases 1a and 1b, as well as for some categories of workers in 1c.

According to experts, the rise is driven by the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions and the B.1.1.7 variant of the virus, which was first detected in the United Kingdom and is more contagious than the originally detected strand. On Tuesday, Pennsylvania had 655 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, up from 168 cases two weeks ago.

Penn’s positivity rate last week was 0.55% after peaking at 4.47% in early February. In February, Campus Health contact tracers determined that at least two Penn students tested positive for the B.1.1.7 variant. Both cases resulted from recent travel to the United Kingdom.

Pennsylvania reported a 42% increase in patients hospitalized with the virus on Tuesday. 2,247 patients in Pennsylvania were hospitalized because of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, up from 1,577 patients two weeks ago.

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