The city of Philadelphia is set to reimpose its indoor mask mandate on April 18, becoming the first major U.S. city to do so, according to an announcement from the city health commissioner on Monday.
Philadelphia has seen rising COVID-19 case numbers, which have been linked to the highly contagious omicron variant. The city hopes to prevent a surge in cases that could lead to overcrowded hospitals.
”If we fail to act now, knowing that every previous wave of infections has been followed by a wave of hospitalizations and a wave of deaths, it’ll be too late for many of our residents,” Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said in a press conference, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
”We don’t know if the BA.2 variant in Philadelphia will have the kind of impact on hospitalizations and deaths that we saw with the original omicron variant this winter,” she added. ”I suspect that this wave will be smaller than the one we saw in January.”
Bettigole noted that hospitalizations will likely decide how long the mandate stays in effect.
”This is our chance to get ahead of the pandemic, to put our masks on until we have more information on the severity of this variant,” she said.