PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Masks will once again be required in all Philadelphia public schools beginning Monday, district officials announced.
"To help protect everyone's health and well-being as COVID-19 case counts continue to rise in the Philadelphia area, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health has recommended that we resume universal mask wearing," said Superintendent Dr. William Hite in a statement on Friday.
Starting Monday, and until further notice, all students and staff will be required to wear their masks during the school and work day and while riding on school buses and vans.
On Thursday night, Lower Merion School District officials informed students and parents that masks were required beginning Friday due to the latest COVID-19 data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has moved Montgomery County into the "high" community level on its COVID-19 data tracker.
But on Friday afternoon, officials changed course, saying they are just strongly recommended indoors.
"Today, we received clarification that the CDC and MCOPH guidance strongly recommends, but does not require, indoor masking when the community is in the high level. In alignment with that update, our District is now strongly recommending indoor masking while Montgomery County remains in 'high,'" officials said.
Students at Cheltenham School District are also masking once again.
Guidance from the CDC, as well as the Montgomery County Department of Public Health and Human Services, say when community level is "high":
- Wear a mask indoors in public
- Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines
- Get tested if you have symptoms
- Additional precautions may be needed for people at high risk for severe illness
In a letter to the community Thursday night, Superintendent Dr. Brian Scriven of the Cheltenham School District said per the recommendation of the Montgomery County Office of Public Health, "masks are required indoors and on public transportation. As such, the Cheltenham School District will return to requiring a mask in all of its buildings beginning tomorrow, Friday, May 20, 2022."
"Please remember to send your child to school with a mask. If your child doesn't have a mask, they are available in the nurse's suite," Scriven said. "Once the county has returned to 'medium' on the data tracker, the district will pivot back to 'mask recommended.' We are still offering Test to Stay and Mask to Stay for eligible students and staff."
The Norristown Area School District said masks will be required starting Monday, May 23.
"I am announcing that Norristown Area School District will require masks to be worn indoors by students, staff, and visitors effective Monday, May 23, 2022. This notice will afford everyone time to prepare for the requirement to take effect on Monday," Superintendent of Schools Christopher T. Dormer said.
According to the latest CDC data, most of the Delaware Valley, including Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties, are also in the "high" community level, though no other districts are requiring masks at this time.
Philadelphia and Berks County in Pennsylvania and Mercer County in New Jersey are the only local areas still at the "medium" level.
Health officials say the number of Philadelphians testing positive for COVID-19 is now as high as it was during the first week of February and has more than doubled in the last three weeks.
Hospitalizations in the city have also doubled.
Just one community in our region is at the "low" level - that's Cumberland County, New Jersey.