Philadelphia will transition into the first phase of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan Friday, even as large-scale demonstrations have sparked fears about a rise in cases.
The move will allow some businesses, including retail shops and offices, to resume operations under certain limitations, while others, including gyms and barber shops, will be required to remain closed.
Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the numbers justify the city’s move into the “Yellow Phase” outlined by Gov. Tom Wolf.
“We’ll watch, but I’m hopeful that we don’t see increased spread from the protests, but I don’t think that should change our overall decision about us being able to move to the Yellow Phase,” he said.
Farley noted that most of the protesters have been wearing masks, though the city is urging all who have attended demonstrations to be tested for the coronavirus seven days after being in a crowd.
People do not have to tell testing sites they have attended protests. Instead, they can say they were exposed to someone with the virus, the Mayor’s Office said.
The city is also recommending demonstrators self-quarantine for 14 days following the protests and is advising them to be on the lookout for common COVID-19 symptoms, including a fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Outdoor dining, which is permitted under the state’s Yellow Phase, will not be allowed until next Friday in Philadelphia and, then, only for restaurants that already have exterior seating, officials said Thursday.
Managing Director Brian Abernathy said the demonstrations have delayed the release of outdoor dining guidelines. Those rules will be published next week and will include a streamlined process for eateries without outdoor seating, he said.
Any restaurants that open outdoor areas this weekend will be shut down, Abernathy added.
Public-facing municipal operations that were initially supposed to resume in phases Saturday will now restart on Monday, officials said.
Philadelphia reported 121 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday and 70 deaths, bringing the city’s toll to 1,394.
The large number of fatalities came as a result of data reconciliation efforts, and those counted died over the course of the last month, Farley said. On average, the city is recording less than 10 virus-related deaths a day, he said.
Farley said progress against the pandemic is not necessarily linear. The city will continue to monitor cases and other metrics as the Yellow Phase unfolds.
“If we do see a big increase in the spread of the virus, we may have to backtrack,” he said. “We may have to put more restrictions on people’s behaviors.”
Officials on Thursday announced the death of Police Officer Jose Novoa due to complications related to COVID-19. Novoa, 62, a 27-year veteran of the department, was most recently assigned to the 9th District.
His death came a day after Firefighter Eric Gore succumbed to the virus. Gore had been serving at Engine 37 in Chestnut Hill.