Philadelphia will close indoor restaurant dining, gyms, and museums starting on Friday and will require office workers to work remotely in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus as new cases surge.
The new restrictions will last through Jan. 1, and include limits on outdoor gatherings and a ban on public and private indoor gatherings — making it a violation of city regulations for residents to hold holiday gatherings with anyone outside their own households.
“There’s no doubt these changes are necessary,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.
Philadelphia had an average of more than 650 new cases of COVID-19 per day in the week that ended Saturday, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said — the highest weekly average since the start of the pandemic. Farley said case counts are doubling every 17 days, hospitalizations have doubled in the past 11 days, and the positivity rate of tests is rapidly increasing.
Farley also urged surrounding counties in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey to join Philadelphia in enacting similar measures. “We all use the same hospitals,” he said. “We all interact with each other.”
The new regulations will not permit fans at sporting events and will limit capacity of all outdoor gatherings.
They also require high schools and colleges to hold classes virtually. Day cares, elementary schools, and middle schools will be permitted to continue in-person instruction. While the School District of Philadelphia has put a return to in-person classes on hold, dozens of private schools in the city have resumed in-person instruction.
The new measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 are not as stringent as the citywide shutdown implemented in March as the pandemic reached the city. But the new rules are the strictest regulations since June, when reopening began.
Outdoor restaurant dining can continue, Farley said, but the number of people permitted to eat at one table will be reduced from six to four people, and diners can only eat with members of their own household. Barber shops and salons, retail stores, and hotels will be permitted to remain open under the city’s new regulations, with safety measures in place such as reduced capacity and mask requirements. Construction work will also be permitted to continue. Religious institutions will be permitted to remain open with reduced density, but online-only services are encouraged.