Philly’s coronavirus response

What can and can’t you do under Philly’s ‘stay at home’ order?

Grocery shopping, yes. Pickup basketball, no.

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Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

In a bid to get more people to practice social distancing and slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced a “stay at home” order.

The order, which went into effect at 8 a.m. on Monday, Mar. 23, doesn’t change very much about business operations in the city, which were already restricted to those deemed “essential” by the city and “live-saving” by the state.

For the most part, the stay-at-home order is a more stringent guideline for what residents should and shouldn’t do.

“There were too many people on the street, there were still too many people not taking it seriously,” Kenney said at a press briefing, noting he’d been told about various basketball games at playgrounds, group picnics in parks and other gatherings around the city. “We wanted to ramp up the level of concern.”

At the top level, the order bans all outdoor gatherings unless they’re for an activity on the essential/live-saving list. It doesn’t matter if it’s four or 10 or 50 people — any outside congregation is now prohibited in Philadelphia.

There are exemptions. You can still go on a walk in the park with your significant other, for example, but generally that’s the rule.

Here’s a breakdown of what you can and can’t do under the new order, which will remain in effect until further notice.

When can I go outside?

Philadelphians are allowed to leave the house in order to:

  • Shop for groceries and supplies
  • Pick up pre-ordered restaurant food
  • Get medicine for yourself or family/loved ones
  • Care for family/friends/loved ones/pets, or drop off food, medicine or supplies
  • Seek medical attention or emergency law enforcement
  • Report to your job if it’s deemed essential
  • Exercise

So you can go out to walk, run, bicycle, etc., and you can even do this with family, roommates, romantic partners, as long as you maintain 6 feet of space between yourselves and any other people out and about. The city has closed MLK Drive along the Schuylkill River to cars in order to give folks more space for outdoor activity.

Kenney’s order also makes clear that if a police officer tells you to leave your house, you can leave. Same as if something happens that makes you fear for your safety (a fire, for example).

People experiencing homelessness are exempt from the restrictions — it’s impossible to tell someone to stay home if they don’t have a home — but are strongly urged to find shelter if they can.

What changes for businesses?

The stay-at-home order doesn’t change much about which kinds of businesses are allowed to operate in the city. (Find a detailed list here.) But it does change some operational procedures for certain entities.

  • Restaurants, which have turned to takeout as dine-in service is banned, are no longer allowed to accept walk-up orders for food or booze to go. All food must be ordered in advance online or via phone — unless it’s at a drive-thru, which are allowed to continue operating. Although you must order in advance, you don’t necessarily have to pay in advance.
  • Food trucks and ice cream trucks must cease operation entirely under the order.
  • Supermarkets must “discourage leisure or idle conduct” among customers — i.e. no chatting with your neighbor about how quarantining is going after you’ve paid for your groceries. Stores are also supposed to “manage” store occupancy to allow for proper social distancing; for example, only allowing a certain number of people inside at any given time and/or marking on the floor how far apart people should stand when waiting in line to check out.
  • Any other essential businesses must limit on-site personnel to those people who are needed to maintain critical functions that can’t be done remotely. For example, security, payroll or mail-handling staff in office buildings.

Want some more? Explore other Philly’s coronavirus response stories.

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