RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia’s new health commissioner says he doesn’t see indoor mask mandates returning anytime soon as COVID-19 cases slightly rise and other areas reinstate their rules.
Concern over the spread of BA.2, an omicron subvariant that data shows is more contagious than the original, has led some areas to make changes. This week, Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to announce the return of its public indoor mask mandate due to an uptick in cases.
BA.2 has become the dominant strain in the United States and now makes up roughly 68% of new cases in Virginia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of April 13, Virginia is reporting a seven-day average of virus cases of 1,115. The average was under 700 new cases a day at the start of the month.
“Right now we don’t have a protocol for going back to the mask mandate and don’t foresee that,” Dr. Colin M. Greene, Virginia’s Health Commissioner, said during a Tuesday meeting for the Virginia Department of Health’s Advisory Council on Health Disparity and Health Equity.
The University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute, which has conducted modeling of COVID-19, shared in its latest weekly update on April 8 that “models suggest that BA.2 may cause a minor surge in Virginia.” But the institute stressed that there is no sign of any rapid growth.
While Dr. Greene didn’t reject the potential for reinstating COVID-19 rules imposed during the height of the pandemic, saying Tuesday that health officials can’t predict what will come next.
“But as of right now, we’re moving forward to a plan where we’ll deal with covid in a way that’s consistent with more traditional disease prevention measures,” Greene said.
Dr. Greene was not available for an interview Wednesday, according to a VDH spokesperson.