Most states and cities dropped their COVID19 masking requirements in February and early March following new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that put less focus on case counts and more on hospital capacity. The CDC said at that time that with the virus in retreat, most Americans could safely take off their masks.
But now American scientists and healthcare experts are keeping a close eye on Japan, which has just reported its first case of Omicron XE, a new Covid-19 strain first detected in the U.K., just as British cases of the subvariant are seeing a significant rise. And it’s only a matter of time before the mutation hits the United States.
Health officials believe the recent spike is being driven by the highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant of omicron, which has spread rapidly throughout Europe and Asia and has become dominant in the U.S. in recent weeks, where confirmed COVID-19 cases have risen more than 50% in 10 days.
A new COVID-19 variant has been identified in the United Kingdom, but experts say there is no cause for alarm yet. Here's what we know about the XE variant. https://t.co/5A9K2vFjoL pic.twitter.com/DR7EVp26DC
— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) April 5, 2022
That was enough for the top health official in Philadelphia, which became the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate on Monday after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections. Health commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole she wanted to hopefully prevent the XE variant from setting off a new wave of infections. “If we fail to act now, knowing that every previous wave of infections has been followed by a wave of hospitalizations, and then a wave of deaths, it will be too late for many of our residents,” said Dr. Bettigole, noting about 750 Philadelphia residents died in the wintertime Omicron outbreak. “This is our chance to get ahead of the pandemic, to put our masks on until we have more information about the severity of this new variant.”
WILL AMERICANS REJECT REINSTATED MASK MANDATES? As Philadelphia just became the first major U.S. city to reinstate an indoor mask mandate and Vice Pres. Harris was criticized for being maskless at the celebration for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, #TheView panel weighs in. pic.twitter.com/CjjpHBzSAi
— The View (@TheView) April 12, 2022
Health inspectors in Philadelphia will begin enforcing the mask mandate at city businesses on April 18th.