Philadelphia public schools will require masks for ten days after students return from winter break on January 3, making Philly the latest big city or region to weigh masking up again to combat a “tripledemic” of Covid, the flu and the respiratory illness RSV with the approach of worsening winter weather.
In New York City, for example, the health department reported a 76% increase in Covid cases among kids age 5 through 12, and children have made up two-thirds of emergency visits for flu-like symptoms since Thanksgiving. However, that city has only adopted a mask advisory so far—that “everyone should wear a mask” when in an indoor public setting—since Mayor Eric Adams lifted its mask mandate in June.
In Los Angeles County, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday that masks were recommended but not required indoors—yet. They may be required indoors again if the county reaches the CDC’s high transmission and hospitalization categories. And the moment, the county’s community transmission level stands at “medium.”
In Virginia, students with disabilities this week won the legal right to request masks in class.
The parents of 12 immunocompromised students with disabilities filed suit in February over an executive order issued by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) and a subsequent state law, both of which forbade school districts from requiring mask-wearing as Covid mitigation measure. The ACLU of Virginia argued in court on behalf of the parents that the governor’s order violated national disability law by making it impossible for those children to attend school safely.
On Monday, Virginia state officials agreed to settle the case with the plaintiffs, whose children attend school in 10 different districts, and the state Education Department agreed to issue guidance to all of Virginia’s more than 130 districts that students with disabilities can be granted universal masking in their classrooms on request.
Beyond schools masking, the Biden Administration is also preparing for a Covid winter surge. On Thursday it announced the public could order free at-home Covid tests by mail at COVIDtests.gov, and that it would be putting personnel and PPE on standby, should hospitals and nursing staffs become overwhelmed as they had in earlier waves of the Covid pandemic.