Feb 3, 2022 - COVID

Philly COVID cases decline, but end to restrictions "months away"

Illustration of a pattern of masks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Philadelphia is tracking a steep decline in COVID-19 cases, signaling that the city may have a more secure spot on the other side of Omicron's peak.

  • The city's message for residents hopeful that restrictions might be eased soon? Hang tight.

Driving the news: Philly Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said Wednesday that new COVID cases and deaths remain too high for the city to end its mask mandate for businesses and institutions.

  • "We're probably several months away from a place where we'll have the kind of safety to drop all the current restrictions," she said.

By the numbers: Philadelphia is averaging roughly 550 new COVID cases per day, as of Wednesday — a drop of approximately 50% compared to the previous week.

  • The positivity rate is 7.3%, a level not seen since Dec. 21, 2021.

Yes, but: The city's count does not include individuals who test positive using at-home tests.

  • And even with the drop, Philadelphia is still within the CDC's criteria for a high level of community transmission, Bettigole said.

Zoom out: San Francisco dropped its indoor mask requirements this week for fully vaccinated people in offices, restaurants, bars, gyms and religious settings.

  • Officials ended the mandate due to San Francisco's high vaccination rate — roughly 82% of all eligible residents.

Of note: Philadelphia's vaccination rate for adults is nearly 79%, and almost 30% have received a booster.

What they're saying: Discussions are ongoing about "what an off-ramp looks like" for nixing the mandate, Bettigole said.

  • And while a timeline remains unclear, Bettigole noted that the city doesn't expect to make the mask mandate for restaurants and bars permanent.

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