PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia officials have announced sweeping new restrictions on businesses and gatherings amid a new surge in coronavirus cases.
Mayor Jim Kenney hinted at the new restrictions in a tweet Friday and was joined by Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley in announcing them on Monday.
Beginning Friday, Philadelphia restaurants will no longer be permitted to offer indoor dining and outdoor dining will be limited to groups of just four people from the same household.
Dr. Farley says the city cannot enforce people gathering from different households to dine outdoors, but the city is asking residents and restaurants to help with enforcing those rules to prevent further spread.
No indoor gatherings, public or private, are permitted under the new restrictions. Businesses are urged to allow employees to work from home where possible.
Those newly prohibited indoor gatherings include weddings, funerals, and household visits.
Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10% occupancy or 10 persons per thousand square feet. There is a cap for very large spaces of no more than 2,000 people, which means there will no longer be fans at Eagles home games.
Youth, community, and school sports will also be prohibited, and teams that have been traveling to suburban counties to participate in competitions are asked to discontinue that practice.
Colleges and high schools are prohibited from hosting in-person instruction. Childcare and elementary and middle schools will be allowed to continue and access centers will remain open under safety protocols outlined by the city.
Other businesses that will be closing their doors under the second round of restrictions include gyms, museums, casinos, libraries, bowling alleys, arcades, theaters, and other performance spaces.
The city is also tightening restrictions on retail stores, asking them to limit occupancy to no more than five people per thousand square feet, including staff. Mask wearing will continue to be required of both employees and customers.
Religious institutions are encouraged to hold their services online but are permitted to hold in-person services with no more than five people per thousand square feet.
The new restrictions will be in effect until at least Jan. 1, Mayor Kenney stated Monday. While these new rules don't go into effect until Friday, Dr. Farley asked that residents voluntarily begin following them immediately.
"There's no doubt these changes are necessary. We need to act now to reduce the rate of increase and to flatten the curve once again," Kenney said during Monday's press conference. "This will help ease the potential burden on our hospitals. It will help slow the spread of the virus, and most importantly it will save lives."
When it comes to the numbers, Kenney says the average number of new cases reported per day has jumped 700% in less than two months, and the number of average cases per day last week was higher than the worst week in April.
"This winter wave will lead to about as many deaths as we had in the spring wave, which is 1,700," Dr. Farely projected Monday.
"If we don't do something to change the trajectory of this epidemic, the hospitals will become full, they will have difficulty treating people and we'll have between several hundred and more than a thousand deaths just by the end of this year," Dr. Farley added.
Dr. Farley added that the health department was seeing the virus spread in a number of settings, including within households, between households, and during social gatherings both large and small. He also mentioned events like weddings and funerals, along with businesses like restaurants contributing to the spread.
The city reported 2,564 new coronavirus cases and eight new deaths on Monday.
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