Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware are entering a “new stage” of the pandemic as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations drop, Pennsylvania Acting Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter said at a news conference on Friday.
This past week, Pennsylvania’s new daily case count was the lowest on average since August, and its hospitalization rate the lowest since September, according to data from The New York Times.
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware have all recently relaxed their vaccination or masking requirements after cases and hospitalizations fell to pre-Omicron levels.
Philadelphia’s COVID-19 rates have dropped to the lowest level since October. The city’s suburban areas have also experienced a similar decline, reported the Inquirer.
Klinepeter’s remarks came the same day that the CDC announced that those living in areas with low hospitalization rates no longer need to wear masks indoors. At least 70% of Americans are expected to be "low" or "medium" risk under the new metrics, according to NPR.
The CDC’s guidelines allow local jurisdictions to determine whether to alter or maintain masking rules. In recent weeks, Penn has responded to a decline in campus COVID-19 cases by lifting its double-masking requirement and restrictions on indoor social gatherings. Philadelphia will continue to keep its masking for indoor public gatherings in place, but lifted its vaccine mandate for indoor dining earlier this month.
"Though we are encouraged by current COVID-19 trends, the Health Department has developed its Response Levels based on local conditions and months of data specific to Philadelphia," a spokesman for the city Department of Public Health said, according to NBC10 reporting. "At this time we plan to continue the implementation of these current Response Levels as the pandemic unfolds. We are not making any changes to mask guidance at this time."
Other local officials, including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, have signaled that the region is turning a corner in the pandemic. Murphy announced that he would be ending his weekly COVID-19 press conferences as the pandemic shifts to an endemic stage, reported the Inquirer.
“I really do think that there is a lot to celebrate right now,” Klinepeter said.