‘Tripledemic’: Philadelphia School District looking at COVID, RSV, flu data to determine if masks will return after holidays

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — The ongoing “triple disease” of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza (flu) and coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread across the United States and the Philadelphia area.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several regions of the country are approaching “seasonal peaks” for RSV. Meanwhile, the CDC also notes that flu activity is “high nationwide” with “at least 13 million cases” so far this season and COVID cases rose in December, taking the total number of cases to over 99 million as of Friday.

The latest CDC data shows COVID hospitalizations have increased in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey over the past week.

Last week, Pennsylvania recorded an average of 177 COVID hospitalizations per day; 183 in New Jersey; and 15 in Delaware.

Action News spoke Monday with Kendra McDow, the Philadelphia school district’s medical officer, about the “triple pandemic” in the area, what the district sees in its schools, and how it plans to combat potential outbreaks.

McDow said that as national trends show increases in RSV, flu and COVID cases, she has not seen high absenteeism counts across the district.

She said a few months ago when RSV was on the rise in Philadelphia, there was an increase in absenteeism at the individual school level, but not at the county level.

McDow said it now looks like RSV levels will peak amid flu and COVID cases statewide and in the city.

As the “triple pandemic” weighs on the minds of parents, students and staff, the Philadelphia School District’s “General COVID-19 Protocol for the 2022-2023 School Year” remains in effect.

The directive, which called for masking in schools for the first 10 days of the school year back in August and September, may result in masks being returned after the holidays.

The guideline says masking “may be required after returning from extended breaks and holidays when increased social gatherings may increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19”.

“One of the features of the COVID policy, due to the increased risk of COVID spreading at school after returning from winter break, the seasonality that we are beginning to see around COVID is one of those actions that we may be considering to require a mask for a period of time after returning from prolonged breaks,” McDow said.

She said the district is still reviewing the data to make that decision. She noted that they have seen an increase in self-reported COVID-19 cases among students and staff, which follows national trends.

“We will ensure that we are proactive to protect our students and staff,” McDow said. “Most importantly, making sure we can reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools and keep kids in the classroom so they can receive this very important in-person learning.”

She said the district continues to maintain its mitigation measures, including:

  • Masking for students and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to school for days 6-10 of illness
  • Students and employees who are exposed must also mask themselves
  • Encourage hand washing and cover your mouth and nose when coughing/sneezing
  • Hand sanitizer is provided in all buildings
  • If students and staff feel ill, they are advised to stay at home
  • Everyone is urged to get vaccinated against COVID and flu
  • Regarding COVID testing, tests are available at school for students who have consent.

    Testing is also available at these school-based locations Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m

  • South Philadelphia High School 2101 S. Broad St.
  • Samuel Rock High School 5500 Langdon Street
  • Overbrook High School 5898 Lancaster Ave
  • MLK High School 6100 Stenton Ave.
  • Thomas Edison High School 151 West Lucerne Street
  • Beginning Monday (December 12), students, staff and their families can pick up free at-home over-the-counter testing kits at the above locations.

    “We are maintaining our testing measures, masking as needed, of course our cleaning and disinfecting measures and promoting vaccination,” McDow said. “Internally, we’re really focused on making sure parents are aware of the resources they have to keep their families and themselves safe.”

    There will be a Town Hall for Parents and Guardians this week to address these respiratory issues and school policies. Clinicians from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia will attend the meeting.


    ABC News contributed to this report

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    https://6abc.com/philadelphia-schools-masks-tripledemic-philly-covid-19-cases-flu/12565693/ ‘Tripledemic’: Philadelphia School District looking at COVID, RSV, flu data to determine if masks will return after holidays

    Alley Einstein

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