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Philadelphia is doing a pretty good job of limiting pandemic spread, according to metrics presented by health officials, and moving to “green” is now in sight. The city could enter the final phase of reopening as soon as July 3, with some restrictions lifted a week earlier on June 26.
“You didn’t just flatten the curve, you suppressed the virus,” Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley said on Thursday.
Some regulations under the Kenney administration’s “Reopening with Care” plan are more stringent than Gov. Wolf’s statewide plan, however — and the whole thing depends on downward trends continuing as they have been.
That’ll take careful compliance from both residents and businesses, Farley warned, so if we want to meet those dates, people should:
- Wear masks whenever near others (it’s mandated inside stores)
- Install protective barriers (for biz owners)
- Observe social distancing with people outside your “pod” (masks don’t eliminate the need for this)
- Isolate yourself if you have COVID symptoms
- Continue to rigorously wash your hands
Assuming things go well, many more businesses and activities can relaunch in the coming weeks.
June 26: Yellow and a half
Wolf previously announced Friday, June 26, as a target date for the Southeastern Pa. counties to move into green.
That’s too early for Philadelphia, Commissioner Farley said. He pointed out that the city is different from the suburbs in multiple ways: We’ve had the most cases, we have higher rates of poverty, and we’ve had massive protests, “so we need to be more careful.”
But the city is allowing some things the restart on that date, which we might think of as yellow and a half. These include:
- Residential swimming pools and private swim clubs (city public pools will not reopen)
- Zoos (outside only)
- Beauty and personal services like salons, barbers and spas
- Small indoor gatherings, be they religious or social (up to 25 people)
Businesses and orgs will need to implement safety protocols in order to reopen; more details are promised next week about the city’s guidance for this.
July 3: Green with restrictions
Assuming all continues to go well, Friday, July 3, will bring back a slew of additional options. Allowed to reopen in this stage will be:
- Outdoor group recreational and sports activities
- Gyms and indoor exercise classes
- Schools and colleges
- Libraries and museums
- Indoor shopping malls
- Outdoor performances and small outdoor events (up to 50 people)
- Restaurants with indoor seating (with occupancy restrictions)
Guidance for how specific industries should set up operations is expected next week.
Different from Wolf’s plan for the rest of Pa., some things will not be allowed under this phase in Philadelphia. Those that must wait for a future, as yet undetermined date, include:
- Large religious or social gatherings (over 50 people)
How we’ll avoid another spike
There are several the city will watch to make sure Philly’s on the right track, including:
- Virus reproductive rate (average number infected by a positive-testing person)
- Residents’ and businesses’ adherence to guidance (wear those masks)
- Effectiveness of containment (depends heavily on contact tracing, see below)
- Hospital capacity
- Effectiveness of efforts to protect vulnerable populations
Contact tracing is a big part of how officials across the globe are trying to keep the virus at bay as society reopens. Philadelphia is currently hiring a staff of 70, who’ll be trained to interview positive-testing people, identify their personal contacts, and counsel them on self-quarantine procedures.
Officials say they’ll have the contact tracing in place by July 1.