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On Wednesday February 2, 2022, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigoleis said that the city is months away from lifting the current COVID-19 restrictions. Credit: Jesse Zhang

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said in a briefing last Wednesday that the city is months away from lifting the current COVID-19 restrictions.

Despite a decrease in the number of positive cases since the December 2021 surge of the Omicron variant, the COVID-19 transmission levels in the city have continued to raise caution among health officials, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Philadelphia's positivity rate was 6.5% as of Feb. 3, averaging 497 new cases per day — down from a positivity rate of 15.9% and 1,462 new cases per day on Dec. 27 amid the Omicron surge. However, the city doesn’t include individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 using at-home testing kits.

Bettigole said that the city plans to lift the vaccine mandate for indoor dining — which went into full effect on Jan. 17 — when the surge relents. Additionally, the city currently mandates Philadelphians to wear masks and/or prove their vaccination in indoor public spaces. 

In December 2021, the Philly Voice reported Bettigole’s recommendation that vaccinated Philadelphians should still exercise caution during the holiday season. The Omicron variant, which caused the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, is about 2.7 to 3.7 times more infectious than the Delta variant. 

According to Bettigole, most Philadelphians have not yet received the booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine which is necessary to combat the Omicron variant. Penn's booster vaccine mandate went into effect on Jan. 31 — which requires all eligible community members to receive and document their booster shots.

The CDC and FDA authorized a pediatric dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 in November 2021. As of Feb. 6, less than half of all children in Philadelphia are still not received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health COVID-19 Dashboard.

“If you think about where we are with this particular wave and case rates right now,” Bettigole said. “We’re probably several months away from a place where we will have the kind of safety to"drop all the current restrictions.”