Philadelphia public school students, staff must wear masks for 10 days after returning from winter break

The School District of Philadelphia also imposed a mask mandate for the first 10 days of the school year

Students and staff in Philadelphia public schools will be required to wear masks for two weeks after the winter break, officials said Wednesday. 

The mask mandate will run from Jan. 3 through Jan. 13, 2023. Tony Watlington Sr., superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia, confirmed the temporary return of masking on Wednesday, Fox Philadelphia reported.

"Many of us will be involved in quite a few social gatherings over the next few weeks," Watlington explained at a news conference.

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Students return to school as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are lifted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., March 8, 2021. Students and staff in Philadelphia schools will have to wear masks for 10 days after coming back from the winter break. 

Students return to school as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are lifted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., March 8, 2021. Students and staff in Philadelphia schools will have to wear masks for 10 days after coming back from the winter break.  (Reuters/Hannah Beier)

The district previously imposed a temporary mask policy at the beginning of the school year. In August, all students and staff were required to wear masks for 10 days.

The mandate was put forward to reduce the risk following increased end-of-summer social gatherings that may have heightened the risk of exposure to COVID-19, the district said at the time. 

As of Thursday, Philadelphia had a medium COVID community level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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The rating means those at high-risk for getting sick should wear a mask or respirator. 

On Thursday, the school district said employees, students and families can pick up free at-home COVID-19 test kits from five locations