Philly says no to indoor dining, gyms as plans to go 'green' are scaled back

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UPDATED: 4:22 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The city's health commissioner announced on Tuesday that Philadelphia will not move into the full "green" phase of Pennsylvania's recovery and reopening strategy as planned on Friday.

Because the city will not meet target goals set by leaders — and because of the rise in coronavirus cases from restaurants and bars that reopened more quickly, like in Texas and Florida — Philadelphia is scaling back its planned July 3 reopening.

Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley said the Department of Public Health will re-evaluate weekly what may open and what must stay closed, but it is expected that gyms and restaurant indoor dining will stay closed until at least Aug. 1.

For now, the city is approaching the "green" phase with modifications. As outlined by a statement released on Tuesday, that restricted “green” phase includes the following:

  • Indoor dining will not be allowed to resume on Friday. Delivery, take-out and outdoor options continue to be allowed.
  • Gyms and indoor fitness centers will stay closed.
  • Other activities — includes museums and libraries, indoor shopping malls, and small indoor and outdoor gatherings — which entail less risk, because mask-wearing can be better enforced, will be allowed on Friday.
  • Casinos will be allowed to open, with very strict requirements: Masks are required, 6 feet of distance must be maintained between patrons, no food drink may be served indoors.

Farley noted it’s impossible to eat and drink inside a restaurant and keep a mask on at the same time. As for gyms: “Vigorous physical activity that causes you to breathe fast puts people nearby at risk. No one is more interested in exercise than us, here at the health department. We’re very enthusiastic about exercise, but we encourage you to get your exercise outdoors.”

Farley said this decision was difficult but necessary, as the city failed to meet its target goal for a decrease in the number of new cases. 

In recent weeks, about 3% of COVID-19 tests came back positive. Now, that number is up to 5% in Philadelphia. The ideal target for entering the “green” phase is 4%.

Plus, with a surge in new cases across the country, Farley is concerned the spikes will eventually impact Philadelphia.

New cases are increasing, especially among a younger demographic. He strongly believes that is related to travel down the shore.

“What we’re hearing is many people living together at a beach house or socializing at bars and restaurants,” he added.

The Department of Public Health announced 142 new cases of COVID-19 in Philadelphia and five additional deaths from the virus on Tuesday, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 26,133 and the total number of fatalities to 1,584 since the start of the outbreak in March.

“If cases rise here in Philadelphia,” Farley continued, “it is possible we will have to close activities that we are currently allowing, or that we are starting to allow reopening as of Friday.”