Philadelphia's acting health secretary said in her first public update in weeks that the city is not yet ready to impose new restrictions to public life or mandates like mask-wearing requirements despite rising COVID-19 cases.
Acting Health Secretary Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said she will begin giving weekly updates once again as the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to cause increases in positive cases and hospitalizations.
"It’s a very fluid situation right now," Bettigole said. "Numbers were low, but they’ve started increasing so we’re looking at everything."
Other states and cities where the delta variant of the coronavirus is causing an increase in hospitalizations and deaths have announced new restrictions on public life.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday morning announced that starting Sept. 13, only vaccinated people could dine indoors, use health gyms and attend indoor entertainment venues and performances.
Philadelphia health officials recently also enacted a stronger policy as cases rise, but have not included any enforcement yet of social distancing or mask-wearing.
On July 22, we instituted a strong recommendation for everyone over age 2 in Philadelphia to mask while indoors in public places. The CDC has now seconded that recommendation," city Public Health spokesman James Garrow said. "All Philadelphians should pay attention to this warning to prevent the kind of surge that’s being seen in other parts of the country, which are seeing increases in hospitalizations of both adults and children. The Delta variant spreads more easily than previous forms of COVID-19, but that spread can be prevented by vaccination, masking, avoiding crowded indoor places, and keeping distance from others. None of these measures are fully effective alone, so we recommend layering protections: get vaccinated and wear a mask indoors in public places."
Bettigole said the plan moving forward into the late summer and fall is to closely watch case counts and protect Philadelphians as best as possible without being overly restrictive.
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"Our commitment is to keep Philadelphians safe, but also to keep the restrictions to a minimum that’s necessary for that safety," she said. "We’ll try to do what’s necessary, but to minimize restrictions where possible."