Philadelphia bans indoor gatherings & broadens virus rules; Kenney won’t rule out full shutdown

(Image via The Philadelphia Tribune)

By Michael D’Onofrio

PHILADELPHIA — The Kenney administration will put in place stricter novel coronavirus restrictions as a new wave of COVID-19 cases hits Philadelphia.

The restrictions will ban all indoor gatherings, place new limits on outdoor gatherings, and prohibit fans at Eagles home games. The partial shutdown will go into effect on Friday.

The pandemic was entering its worst phase and the future was “a little grim,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley on Monday during a Kenney administration virtual news conference.

“The bottom line is this: If we don’t do something to change the trajectory of this epidemic, the hospitals will become full, they’ll have difficulty treating people, and we’ll have between several hundred and more than a thousands deaths just by the end of this year,” Farley said.

Mayor Jim Kenney did not rule out putting in place a second full shutdown on all nonessential businesses as he did in the spring.

“Anything is possible if the numbers keep going bad,” Kenney said.

The restrictions come in response to surging COVID-19 cases, which are on track to hit 3,000 per day by the end of the year.

The city reported 654 new COVID-19 cases since Sunday. The positivity rate in the city is 13.4%.

Eight additional individuals have died from the virus since Friday. Farley expected between 700 and 1,700 virus-related deaths by Dec. 31, leading to approximately as many deaths as spring wave.

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The city was averaging 657 new COVID-19 cases per day through last week, the highest since the pandemic arrived in Philadelphia in March. Yet Farley expected that figure to rise to more than 700 due to delays in reporting.

The ban on private and public indoor gatherings involving people from more than one household include prohibitions on weddings, birthdays and baby showers, among other things.

Indoor dining at restaurants is banned, although outdoor dining and takeout services can continue. Theaters, bowling alleys, museums, libraries, casinos, gyms, and senior day services also are banned.

Retail stores and indoor malls can operate with a maximum density of 5 people per 1,000 square feet. Parks, trails, playgrounds, and athletic fields will remain open for individual use only.

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High schools and colleges must move to virtual instruction only for most students. High school sports also are banned.

The restrictions will reduce the capacity at religious institutions to 5% per 1,000 square feet or 5% of maximum occupancy.

Outdoor gatherings and events are limited to 10 people per 1,000 square feet or 10% of maximum capacity, with a cap at 2,000 people. The sale of food and beverages also is banned in order to reinforce mask use.

Outdoor dining is permitted to continue, but table capacity must be limited to four people and groups should include only members from the same household.

The following businesses and activities can continue to function under the new restrictions:

  • Grocery stores and farmers markets
  • Pharmacies
  • Banks
  • Construction
  • Landscaping
  • Home-based construction, renovation, repair, and maintenance
  • Manufacturing and warehousing
  • Real estate operations
  • Healthcare services
  • Home-based support services
  • Taxis and ride share services
  • Transit services
  • Outdoor food carts and trucks.
  • Hotels
  • Drive-in events in which people remain in their vehicles
  • Child day care and early learning centers
  • Elementary and middle schools
  • Access Centers for children in elementary and middle school

Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.