PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — City officials said several coronavirus-related restrictions will be lifted in Philadelphia this weekend, including its outright ban on indoor dining.
During a Tuesday press conference, Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley said indoor dining can return to 25% of seating capacity.
Tables should consist of no more than four people from the same household.
“Everyone must wear masks at all times except when they’re seated at tables and eating,” he said, “so they must wear masks when they get up to use the restroom, and servers must wear masks and face shields.”
Indoor dining in Philadelphia has been banned since Nov. 20 — longer than the governor’s statewide restrictions.
The easing of restrictions takes effect on Saturday, Jan. 16.
Theaters and performance spaces can also operate at 10% capacity, which includes attendees and staff. Everyone in attendance must be masked, and no food or drink is allowed.
Philadelphia-area colleges can resume in-person classes, though Farley is urging students not to gather.
“In early September, we saw a surge in cases in Philadelphia because of college students related to social events. We don’t want to have a repeat of that now,” he added.
Restrictions will continue to be in place at senior centers and adult day care centers, as well as indoor catered events and indoor social gatherings.
“(Social gatherings), we think, is the primary way the virus is spreading now,” said Farley, “so we’re not allowing those to restart now.”
New coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have decreased by a third since the restrictions went into effect in November. Still, Farley announced another 637 positive cases on Tuesday. More than 600 patients are currently hospitalized — 91 on ventilators.
Farley credits the slight bump in new cases partly to increased testing after the holidays.
On the vaccine front, Farley said distribution is going well. Roughly 50,000 health care workers have been immunized, and nearly 10,000 received a second dose.
He expects to begin shots for the second priority group, designated in Phase 1b, by the end of January. The group includes teachers, grocery store workers, and other essential front-line workers, as well as people over 75 or with chronic health conditions.
“Over time, everyone who wants the vaccine will be able to get it,” said Farley, “but with the number of doses we’re receiving, it will take months. So we ask you just to be patient. We’ll get to you as soon as we can.”
The plan is to eventually distribute vaccines through hospitals, pharmacies, clinics and possibly mass vaccine events in a large space, like the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
To date, there have been 98,215 COVID-19 cases and 2,640 deaths in Philadelphia since the start of the pandemic.