Philadelphia public school students and staff will be required to return to wearing masks for the first 10 days after Christmas break aiming to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.
The School District of Philadelphia issued its COVID-19 Protocols for the 2022-2023 school year requiring the use of masks in learning centers after vacations and extended breaks:
In an effort to be proactive in supporting healthy environments and maintaining in-person learning following students and staff returning from winter break, the District will implement mandatory masking from January 3 through January 13, 2023 ... 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
Increase in respiratory illnesses
This fall, some states across the country reported an increase in infections of respiratory viruses such as influenza, COVID and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). For this reason, in early December, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested that people start wearing tight-fitting masks in crowded indoor spaces again.
Kendra McDow, medical officer for the School District of Philadelphia, told Action News that they have maintained measures to curb the increase of infections:
We’re keeping in our testing measures, masking as needed, of course our cleaning and disinfection measures, and the promotion of vaccination. Internally, we are really focused on making sure parents are aware of resources so they can keep their families safe and themselves safe.
- Mandatory use of masks for students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 upon return to school.
- Students and staff who are exposed should also wear masks.
- If students and staff are feeling ill, it is recommended that they stay home.
- Everyone is encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and influenza.
Before Christmas, the district began offering free COVID-19 testing kits while supplies last to reduce transmission. McDown concluded that it is vital "to make sure that we are reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the schools and we are able to keep kids in the classrooms so they can receive that very important in-person learning."