Mask mandates have relaxed in the past month as COVID-19 cases declined, signaling the end of the Omicron reign. Despite the new variant, BA.2, introducing itself, it didn’t pose a threat to our transition back to normal — until recently.
Cases have been rising across the United States, with the new Omicron subvariant accounting for the majority of new infections. Although health authorities are confident that BA.2 will not cause a surge as bad as its predecessor, they are beginning to put up our defenses by reinforcing mask mandates.
Recent Uptick in U.S. COVID-19 Cases
In more than 24 U.S. states, new COVID-19 cases are beginning to flare up once again. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker, the U.S.’ 7-day average of new cases increased by 35.3% in the last week.
The good news is that hospitalizations and deaths have not increased alongside new infections. However, according to Philadelphia health commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, hospitalizations may remain low, but a new surge linked to the BA.2 subvariant should be expected.
Mask Mandates Returning in U.S. Schools
U.S. schools were among the first to respond to BA.2’s possible threat, requiring their students and faculty, once again, to wear masks in classrooms. Among the educational institutions that brought back mask mandates include:
- Columbia University in New York City,
- Barnard College in New York City,
- Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and
- Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, among others.
The revival of mask mandates is a response to a recent influx in COVID-19 positive cases in these universities. Requiring masks is in the schools’ effort to curb the further spread of the virus and foster a safer learning environment for students. This is supported by recent data showing that schools with mask mandates are able to reduce COVID-19 transmission by 72%.
U.S. States Reinstating Mask Mandates
On a much bigger scale, several U.S. states are also preparing their citizens to dig up their masks once again in anticipation of a BA.2 surge, although no formal announcement has been made by state officials.
As of writing, only the State of Philadephia has confirmed the revival of its mask mandates, which began on April 18, 2022. Philadelphia is the first major U.S. state to bring back mask mandates amid the Omicron BA.2 variant.
In support of the reinstated mask mandate, Philadelphia’s health commissioner says they have to act now to get ahead of the pandemic by requiring masks, at least until more information is found about the severity of the new strain.