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Philadelphia lifted its mask mandate on March 2, but with a rising number of COVID-19 cases, the city is encouraging the use of masks indoors.

Credit: Max Mester

As COVID-19 cases rise in Philadelphia, city health officials are encouraging residents to wear masks indoors and in public spaces.

As of Monday, Philadelphia saw a 36% increase in cases over the last 10 days, averaging 94 new cases per day, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The positivity rate also increased up to 3.1% from 2% at the beginning of March. As of Tuesday, 51 patients were being treated in Philadelphia hospitals, and seven of them are on ventilators.

“The Health Department has been warning that, based on what we’ve seen in Europe, we could see another COVID-19 wave sooner rather than later,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said. “It’s not required yet, but Philadelphians should strongly consider wearing a mask while in public indoor spaces.”

COVID-19 cases on Penn's campus have also been increasing, nearly doubling to reach an eight-week high of 273 cases during the week from March 27 to April 4.

Case counts remain far below what they were at the start of the height of the Omicron variant wave in January, when Philadelphia was averaging more than 4,000 new cases per day.

The current uptick comes as Europe is seeing a wave of new infections brought on by a subvariant of the Omicron variant, known as BA.2, which currently accounts for 75% of new COVID cases globally.

On March 2, Philadelphia lifted the indoor mask mandate for most settings and moved to “All Clear” COVID-19 precautions. This meant there were no vaccine requirements indoors with exceptions for higher risk settings such as schools, healthcare institutions, congregate settings, and public transportation.

Philadelphia’s response level remains “All Clear.” The city previously released guidance for a return to masking indoors should the number of cases rise. Masks continue to be required in health care settings, in congregate living settings, and on mass transit.

Penn dropped its indoor mask mandate for non-classroom spaces on March 15, but it has kept the policy in place in classrooms