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Although most of the United States has been mask-free for some time now and workers outside of health care have been doing their jobs without them, this isn’t the case everywhere.

Starting today, masks are required in public buildings in Philadelphia, CNN reports. The requirement is in response to an increase in COVID-19 cases in the last few weeks. The city is the first major metropolitan area to reinstate mask mandates after cities and states began dropping restrictions in January. Philadelphia’s mandate will require people to wear masks in all indoor public places including schools, businesses, restaurants, and government buildings.

“I’m asking all businesses and institutions in Philadelphia to dig up those old masks-required signs and start hanging them in your windows,” said the city’s Public Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole.

Nationally, cases are trending upward in more than half of states, even though case numbers are still relatively low. According to statistics compiled by Reuters, COVID-19 cases in the United States are increasing with 35,139 new infections reported on average each day. These figures represent 4% of the peak—the highest daily average reported on January 14.

“I suspect that this wave will be smaller than the one we saw in January,” Bettigole said. “But if we wait to find out and to put our masks back on, we’ll have lost our chance to stop the wave.”

Despite the end of spring break season, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has decided to extend the federal transportation mask mandate, which was set to expire today, through May 3.

The federal mandate requires masks on public transportation including planes, trains, buses, and in transportation hubs such as airports and bus terminals.

The CDC will continue to monitor the spread of the Omicron variant, especially the BA.2 subvariant that now makes up more than 85% of U.S. COVID-19 cases.





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