Philly seeing drop in COVID-19 cases, but mask mandate remains in place

Dr. Bettigole said eventually the city will lift the mask mandate, but "not at this time."
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia health commissioner is optimistic as the city continues to battle coronavirus and the latest wave of the omicron variant, but says the pandemic restrictions will remain in place for now.

Dr. Chery Bettigole spoke to reporters Wednesday morning during the city's weekly COVID-19 response briefing. She said the Department of Public Health is not looking to drop the city's mask mandate despite a drop in cases.

"If you think about where we are with this particular wave and case rates right now, we're probably several months away from a place where we will have the kind of safety to drop all the current restrictions," Bettigole said.

She said eventually they will lift the mask mandate, but "not at this time."

The health commissioner said the city is seeing an average of 554 new COVID-19 cases per day compared to just about 1,000 cases per day last week.

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The Philadelphia health commissioner is optimistic as the city continues to battle coronavirus and the latest wave of the omicron variant, but says the pandemic restrictions will remain in place for now.



"The last week six weeks have been extremely difficult, but now we've seen our case rates fall about 50% each of the last two weeks," Bettigole said.

Action News stopped by The Fin Surf and Turf Restaurant in Fishtown for reaction.

"I think it's complicated, but I think it's a good thing," said General Manager Philip Search

He says while he recognizes some people's frustration with the mandates, they want to stay safe.

"We've just really seen the decimation that COVID-19 has done to our industry. So, keeping people safe is paramount to what we're doing," said Search.

The percentage of tests coming back positive stands at 7.3% which is the lowest since Dec. 21, 2021.

Bettigole said 686 people who have tested positive are in Philadelphia hospitals, which is less than half the number seen during the peak of the wave two weeks ago.

RELATED: Pfizer asks FDA to allow COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 5

In regards to the FDA beginning to review data on a COVID-19 vaccine for children between six months and 5-years-old, Bettigole said the rollout would look different than previous ones.

"It could actually end up looking how our children get their routine vaccinations against measles, varicella and polio now," Bettigole said. "We're already working on how that will work so we'll be ready for when the FDA says it's ready to go."

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In regards to the FDA beginning to review data on a COVID-19 vaccine for children between six months and 5-years-old, Bettigole said the rollout would look different than previous ones.



Bettigole says the city is looking to sign up primary care practitioners to administer the vaccine. They are also looking at additional clinics for young children.

More than 95% of adults, 89% of those 12 and up, and 46.7% of children 5-11 have had one dose of the vaccine. Data shows 78.9% of adults, 73.1% of those 12 and up are fully vaccinated and nearly 30% of adults in the city have received a booster dose.

"If things continue the way they are, we could start to see things getting back to some semblance of normal," Bettigole said.

However, she added that "things are still bad out there." She reminded residents that the city is still classified in the CDC's high level of community transmission category.

She said everyone should continue to do what works: double mask or wear an N95 or KN95 mask when indoors around others, stay home if you're sick or have been exposed to someone with COVID, try to avoid crowded indoor areas and get vaccinated.

"There's lots of good news on the horizon," Bettigole said. She said with the help of vaccines and boosters, the city will find its way back to normalcy.
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