Philly health department issues COVID warning amid increase in hospitalizations

Metro file

Philadelphia health officials on Thursday advised residents to “take sensible precautions” in light of a modest uptick in coronavirus-related hospitalizations.

Sixty people are currently being treated for COVID-19 symptoms at local hospitals – the highest total since the spring, according to the city’s Department of Public Health.

The number is less than at this same time over the past three years, officials added, and far lower than pandemic peaks. And, based on federal guidelines, Philadelphia’s risk level remains low.

“In 2023, living with COVID-19 is a bit like living with the potential for severe storms,” Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said Thursday in a statement. “Fortunately, we no longer need to put our lives on hold or miss out on important events. But we do need to stay aware of the virus and to be a bit more careful when we see signs of an increase in spread.”

Bettigole’s team recommended that people stay home if they are sick; check their stockpiles of COVID tests, hand sanitizer and masks; get tested if they have symptoms; and consider masking up in crowded indoor spaces.

Those diagnosed with COVID who have a heightened risk of severe illness should contact their doctor about getting Paxlovid or other antiviral drugs, according to the health department.

The city’s advisory comes amid a nationwide rise in virus-related hospitalizations and deaths.

COVID hospitalizations have increased about 19% over the past week across the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even so, a vast majority of U.S. counties are still listed at a low risk level.

New vaccines are expected to be approved soon to combat emerging variants and may be offered in the coming weeks, city officials said. The health department “strongly recommends” that residents seek out the new shot, especially older adults and people at higher risk.

Tests and other virus supplies are provided through the department’s resource hubs, located at Bethany Baptist Church, Mi Salud Wellness Center, Mt. Enon Baptist Church, Shoppes at La Salle, and Whitman Plaza.

For more information about virus resources, go to