The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) announced on Dec. 14 that all K-12 students will be required to wear face coverings in classrooms and hallways from Jan. 3 to Jan. 13, 2023 – the first 10 days of school following the winter break. That period actually spans 11 days, but Sunday is not included in the count.
"In an effort to be proactive in supporting healthy environments and maintaining in-person learning following students and staff returning from winter break, the [SDP] will implement mandatory masking," school district officials said in a press release.
Officials in Philadelphia and other parts of the U.S. fear that the first normal Christmas since the pandemic's onset in March 2020 will spread COVID-19, RSV and the flu. These three respiratory pathogens have caused hospitals across the country to be overwhelmed with patients. Incidentally, the City of Brotherly Love was one of the last places in the U.S. to still require face masks in school settings – with mandates in place as recently as May 2022.
Many places in the U.S. eschewed face masks in late spring after the COVID-19 surge caused by the more infectious yet milder B11529 omicron variant was held under control. Studies were also published about face coverings having little to no effect in preventing transmissions. Other studies pointed to growing evidence of masks hindering the social development and education of children.
Philadelphia, home to 1.5 million residents, has seen a decline in COVID-19 cases and deaths as of writing. From the 655 daily infections recorded a year earlier, this has fallen to 220 new cases per day.
RSV cases in the city have also seen a decline following a massive infection surge in early November 2022. During the week that ended Dec. 3, Philadelphia recorded around 240 RSV cases. This was far from the 650 cases recorded during the week that ended Nov. 5.
Los Angeles (LA) and New York City (NYC) have also asked residents to mask up.
Dr. Ashwin Vasan, NYC health commissioner, urged residents of the Big Apple to use high-quality masks when indoors and in crowded outdoor settings. While his guidance was only a suggestion and not a mandate, he stressed that those who are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19, RSV or the flu – such as those age 65 and older and people who are immunocompromised – should take the mask guidance to heart.
"The holiday season is about togetherness and there is a way to gather safely, even as respiratory viruses in our city are unusually high," said Vasan. "It starts with protecting yourself."
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, LA County health director, also announced an indoor mask recommendation for county residents.
"If you're going to an event such as a concert or a large Christmas party, there is now a higher likelihood that one or more persons at the event is infected," she said during a news briefing.
"They could unknowingly infect you – and you, in turn, could unknowingly infect your friends, your co-workers or your family."
Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has again recommended that Americans mask up against RSV and the flu.
"We encourage you to wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of respiratory illness," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a Dec. 5 briefing, in which she discussed prevention measures for the respiratory pathogens. (Related: Merry Christ-MASK America: CDC now recommending face masks to combat RSV, flu.)
Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, a trustee of the American Medical Association, warned that "it's a perfect storm for a terrible holiday season" with COVID-19, RSV and the flu circulating. Rising cases of the latter two could increase even further in the coming weeks as American families gather for the holiday season, she added.
Infections.news has more stories about mask mandates against COVID-19, RSV and the flu.
Watch Martin Brodel discuss Philadelphia's double mask mandate for government workers below.
This video is from the Martin Brodel channel on Brighteon.com.