Philly’s coronavirus response

What Philly’s yellow phase means for businesses, CliffsNotes edition

A quick reference guide to Mayor Kenney’s “Safer at Home” plan.

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

City officials moved forward with Gov. Tom Wolf’s plans to move Philadelphia into the “yellow” phase of his Pennsylvania reopening plan on June 5, the prior week of heavily attended protests over police violence notwithstanding.

Philly Health Commissioner Tom Farley said the city made the decision after data continued to show a downward trend in coronavirus cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

What’s different for the city in the yellow phase? According to Mayor Jim Kenney’s “Safer at Home” plan, many of the public safety measures look the same across industries, from restaurants to offices to consumer banking to car sales. They include:

  • Installation of barriers between workers and between staff and the public
  • Requiring face coverings for staff and customers
  • More regular cleaning, such as the disinfecting of high-touch surfaces every four hours
  • Only five people per 1,000 square feet in enclosed spaces like retail stores and office buildings
  • Staggered work shifts for staff

Philly will be monitoring signs of a resurgence as the city blinks open after a nearly three-month shutdown.

Health officials say they’ll be revving up a contact tracing unit, keeping track of ER reports of COVID-19-related symptoms, and watching the public’s adherence to social distancing and mask wearing. We’ll be closely following the data and mitigation plans around a potential second surge.

Last week we put together a large guide with detailed info about what the city and state have been saying about how various industries should move forward. Since then, the city has released a slew of PDF documents with info for different sectors.

Consider this a guide to the guides, or your cheat sheet for how things are supposed to operate in the yellow.

Guidelines for Philly operations in the ‘yellow’


Food trucks are allowed to open, walk-up service is permitted, and restaurants with pre-existing outdoor dining can resume operations on June 12. Guidance for restaurants that don’t already have outdoor dining could come from the city later this week.

Retail businesses

While curbside pickup and delivery are still preferred, people can shop inside stores (!), but with noticeable safeguards in place like: 1) mask requirements, 2) physical transparent barriers and 3) drastically reduced capacity allowances.

Child care centers

Kids will inevitably be in close contact, but classrooms should only have 22 people total, including teachers, cribs should be placed six feet apart if possible, non-essential visitors should be restricted and any planned field trips, including those to public playgrounds, should be canceled.

Outdoor youth day camps and recreation

Like with childcare, the city realizes keeping kids and teachers apart at day camps is hardly possible. Campers should be divided into “cohorts” of 25 people or less that remain together and do not mix with other cohorts, activities should encourage social distancing when possible, and staff members should limit contact with each other. Additionally, if kids normally eat at indoor cafeterias, outdoor eating should be promoted when possible.

Outdoor parks-related amenities

Pools won’t operate this summer, but spraygrounds will start opening on a rolling basis on July 6. Outdoor parks and spraygrounds must follow CDC guidelines that include increased disinfecting and face coverings outside of the water. Folks should wear masks and social distance at public playgrounds, and the city will install signs about COVID-19 health precautions, which are already up at city trails and other outdoor spaces.

Office-based businesses

Jobs should still let employees work from home when possible, but workers can begin heading back into the office, including at places like banks. There, high-touch surfaces should be disinfected every four hours, every employee should be screened before a shift, there should only be five people per 1,000 square feet of space, and low cubicles should have barriers installed to cover employees’ heads.

Real estate activities

City guidance advises advises realtors to avoid sending clients to in-person house showings. If potential buyers do visit homes, surfaces should be sanitized before and after.

Manufacturing and warehouse operations

Manufacturing and warehouse operators are instructed to take many of the same protections as office-based business, with the addition of installing physical barriers between workers if it’s impossible for them to stand six feet apart.

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

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Health, Business