(WHTM) — The new omicron sub-variant is causing an increase in new COVID-19 cases in parts of the U.S. and Pennsylvania. Philadelphia recently announced the return of its indoor mask mandate in response to rising case numbers, but what does the situation look like in the Midstate?

Pennsylvania health experts say there are two metrics to watch in this phase of the pandemic: case counts and hospitalizations. Case counts will show how much disease is circulating, while hospitalizations can indicate how severe infection from the circulating strains of the virus is.

The CDC provides a map showing COVID-19 Community Levels around the country, which combines information about new cases, hospital admissions, and available hospital beds to estimate the risk posed by COVID-19 in different areas.

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As of the CDC’s last update on April 7, all Midstate counties had a low COVID-19 Community Level. Only three counties in Pennsylvania had a medium level, and none had a high level as of that date.

While COVID-19 hospitalizations declined for several weeks in the commonwealth, they bumped back up again between Friday, April 8 (410 individuals hospitalized), and Tuesday, April 12 (432 individuals hospitalized). And cases, which had been sticking below 1,000 new cases per day, recently began increasing again, as well.

In the Midstate, COVID-19 positivity rates increased in nine out of ten counties over the past two weeks:

CountyMarch 25-31 positivity rateApril 1-7 positivity rate
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

New daily cases in Pennsylvania are still far below the January 2022 spike, though, when the number of new daily cases peaked at around 30,000, according to Pennsylvania Department of Health data.

Dr. Nancy Mimm, professor of population health at Harrisburg University, says Pennsylvanians have the knowledge and information to make the right decisions to keep themselves and others safe — something Pennsylvania health leaders have encouraged since COVID cases started declining earlier this year.

“We spike, and we put measures in place, and we reduce, and we try to keep things mitigated down, and we just are in another cyclical up with a new variant,” Mimm said.

“They are following the science and they’re following the way that we need to reduce spread,” Mimm said of Philadelphia’s reinstated mask mandate.

Although Philadelphia has a much larger population, Mimm says Midstate residents can also take steps to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“Now we are in the nice season where we can open our windows, but if you are going to be in closed spaces that are not well ventilated, wear a mask, most important. If you’re sick, please say home,” Mimm said.

Mimm says to think about COVID-19 testing as a litmus test, since not everyone will get tested when they have symptoms — or they may be asymptomatic and not notice a need to test at all. “Not everybody’s being tested, but we’re periodically testing a pool of people,” she said.

Testing can still tell officials something, though: “The number of people that are testing positive, if it’s above an acceptable level, that will increase the number of people with COVID, then that is why we choose to put in an intervention,” Mimm said.

Mimm says that she understands the frustration many are feeling about new variants, but they should try to be patient because eventually, COVID-19 will become endemic.