Philadelphia health officials watch new COVID-19 variant, suggest masking indoors

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Philadelphia health officials are warning people that there could be a new wave of COVID-19 infections.

Even though COVID cases remain low in Philadelphia, health officials are now encouraging people to wear masks indoors as they see an increase in cases.

Epidemiologists have always kept an eye on Europe, often an indicator of what will happen in the United States when it comes to COVID.

What they are seeing now is a spike in the BA.2 variant.

“Just when we thought we were all clear, the BA.2 variant is starting to increase especially in Europe,” said Dr. Angela Nicholas, chief medical officer of Einstein Medical Center Montgomery. “It’s about 50% now of all of the cases in the United States.”

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It’s thought to be similar to the omicron or BA.1 wave we saw in late 2021, or early 2022. That may offer a bright spot for those who were more recently infected.

“Because so many people had BA.1 it is likely that you already have some immunity to BA.2,” said Nicholas.

Philadelphia cases have increased more than 50% in the last 10 days with an average of 94 new cases per day.

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Health officials in Philadelphia are keeping the “All Clear” status, but are suggesting masking indoors again.

Ruoyu Yng of South Philadelphia says he thinks it’s safer to mask up, especially in a large group setting.

“We are always trying to wear masks as often as possible,” said Yng.

“When mandates disappear, it is now up to each and every individual to do what is the most appropriate thing to keep you yourself, your family and community safe,” said Dr. Delana Wardlaw, a family medicine physician and healthcare advocate for Twin Sister Docs.

In Center City, major companies are navigating the return to in-person work at the office.

“The property managers are saying 25-30% of the people who typically have an office are there every day. I expect that in the next six months, that will ramp up to 50-75%,” said Todd Monahan, of Wolf Commercial Real Estate.

Monahan handles office leasing in Center City, he predicts a fully in-office workforce will be rare.

“I think it’s safe to say the five-day workweek in the office is over,” said Monahan.

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