PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia Department of Health is now strongly recommending that people wear a mask indoors regardless of their vaccination status to help quell the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
The new guidance was announced Thursday in the city's update on COVID-19 in Philadelphia. The health department says people should avoid crowded indoor spaces and wear a mask around people whose vaccination status is unknown.
The updated guidance comes as cases of COVID-19 have risen across the county, propelled by the more contagious delta variant. In Philadelphia, the health department says 2% of tests have come back positive over the last two weeks and 55 people are currently hospitalized.
Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said the "small, but disturbing increase" in hospitalizations and doubling of cases is partly due to COVID-19 in children who are ineligible for the vaccine.
"It's time for all of us to do what we need to do to protect our city's kids," Dr. Bettigole said. "That means getting fully vaccinated if you haven't yet, and it means all of us going back to wearing masks in public."
According to the health department, 61% of Philadelphia adults are fully vaccinated, and 73.9% of Philadelphia adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Data recently collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that adults ages 18 to 49 years old make up more than 40% of COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the United States.
Data collected from May to June 2021 shows that as more adults ages 65 and older are getting COVID-19 vaccines, the older demographic now account for fewer than 1 in 3 hospitalizations in the U.S.
Currently, CDC data shows nearly 80% of adults ages 65 and older have been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus while 57.1% of people ages 12 and older have been fully vaccinated and 59.6% of adults 18 and older.
Across the U.S., the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases rose to more than 37,000 earlier this week, up from less than 13,700 on July 6, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Amid reports that the White House and CDC were discussing changing that guidance in response to the recent surge in cases, a CDC spokesperson told FOX Television Stations, "At this time, we have no intention of changing our masking guidance."