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The Philadelphia School District will require students and staff to wear face masks after returning from the winter break.
District officials said earlier this year that mandatory masking might be required for brief periods if COVID-19 cases spike, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Masks were required the first 10 days of the school years but were made optional afterward. Masks will again be mandatory from Jan. 3 to 13, officials said.
“This is a proactive measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses in school, reduce absenteeism and prioritize in-person learning after the winter break,” Christina Clark, a spokesperson for the School District of Philadelphia, said in a statement, according to the Inquirer.
The school district also announced that free COVID tests will be available at five schools across the city.
Other school districts, colleges, and local governments are considering putting mask mandates back in place as a “tripledemic” of COVID, flu, and RSV puts a strain on hospitals across the country. The threat will probably increase as people gather in groups during the holidays, health officials warn.
Officials in New York City and Los Angeles County said last week that masking was recommended in indoor spaces, and the Los Angeles County Health Department director said masking may be required if case counts grow and hospitals become more strained in coming weeks.
The CDC recommends people wear masks on public transportation and in indoor public settings in areas with “high” COVID community levels.
The Philadelphia Inquirer: “Philadelphia schools will require masking for 10 days after winter break.”
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health: “With LA County in High Community Level for COVID-19, Public Health Asks Residents to Mask, Get Boosted – 3,756 New Positive Cases and 17 New Deaths Due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County.”