When Philadelphia enters the “yellow” phase of reopening, customers walking through the doors of businesses will be offered hand sanitizer, employees will be wiping down surfaces every four hours, and business owners will limit capacity to five people per 1,000 square feet.
Those are some of the guidelines laid out in the city’s “Safer at Home” plan for moving to the first stage of reopening, in which parts of the economy, including office-based businesses, manufacturing, and retail can restart. Mayor Jim Kenney unveiled the city’s modified version of the state’s yellow phase on Friday.
As he announced the “mini-step forward,” Kenney said the incremental loosening of restrictions on business and social activities does not mean the city has beaten the coronavirus. Residents must continue social distancing and wearing masks in the yellow phase.
“We are still safer at home and should only leave to engage in essential activities,” Kenney said. “The work of Philadelphians so far has put us in a much safer place than we were two months ago, but we are not out of the woods yet.”
The city’s announcement came as Philadelphia and all still-shuttered counties prepare to start reopening next Friday; 18 other counties moved to the green phase; and state officials discussed how to reopen schools on time in the fall. Wolf also approved 16 southwestern counties to move to green next Friday.
State officials said Philadelphia and its surrounding counties remain on track to reopen next Friday as planned — though city officials repeated Friday that they could postpone the move if cases increase in the next week.
Under the city’s new plan, businesses such as bars and restaurants, where the virus could spread easily, will remain closed except for takeout and delivery. Child-care centers, outdoor day camps, and warehouse operations will be able to resume.
“We’re ready to put our toe in the water, and see how everybody behaves and how everybody reacts,” Kenney said.
The plan establishes rules for businesses operations that are reopening, including posting signs that lay out the rules, and spacing cash registers six feet apart.
City inspectors will enforce the guidelines “as much as possible,” but the city is asking residents to voluntarily comply, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.
While the state permits social and religious gatherings of up to 25 people in the yellow phase, the city strongly discourages any congregating, though it will not prohibit such events.
“If you have 25 people coming together and singing, for example,” Farley said, “there is really a risk of spreading from one person to another.”
The city is still working on a plan for outdoor dining, which the state has approved for yellow counties, and does not plan to allow it on Friday. It will also gradually resume government operations, officials said. The Philadelphia Parking Authority will resume enforcing meter and parking regulations on June 8 in Center City and University City.
Farley said the city will also be monitoring early warning signs that the virus may be spreading more rapidly as the economy begins to reopen, such as hospital emergency-room reports. If cases spike, he said, the city may reinstitute stronger restrictions on commercial and social activities.
Philadelphia reported 255 newly confirmed cases Friday, for a total of 22,405, after receiving a large number of lab reports. Farley also reported 20 deaths, for a total of 1,278.
Pennsylvania reported 693 new cases, raising its total to 70,735, and 91 new deaths, bringing the toll to 5,464.
The state will release more guidelines for schools next week, Wolf said, that could include reduced class sizes and a mix of in-person and online learning. Officials are still considering the immediate future of high school and college sports.
“Every single high school and middle school and elementary school in the commonwealth is thinking about: How do we get back to as close to normal as we can be and keep people safe?” Wolf said.
Montgomery County Commissioners Chair Val Arkoosh said putting “all of these pieces into place” for incremental reopening will “allow us to live with this virus — which we are going to be doing for the foreseeable future.” The county has sufficient infrastructure to identify any virus hot spots that break out as it reopens, she said Friday.
In Delaware County, council members unveiled a detailed timeline for establishing a county health department, aiming to have it fully operational by the end of 2021. It is the only county in the Philadelphia region without its own health department, which local leaders said hindered their initial response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Wolf said he hoped the commonwealth would not have to implement another “lockdown” even if there is a second wave of the virus in the fall before a vaccine is available. The state hopes to have a robust supply of rapid or at-home tests by fall, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said.
New Jersey also announced several new steps on Friday: Child-care centers can reopen June 15, non-contact organized sports can resume June 22, and youth day camps are cleared to start July 6. Competitive horse races, without fans, may begin as early as next weekend; the first qualifying races took place Friday, said Gov. Phil Murphy.
The state also plans to increase by June 12 the number of people allowed to gather indoors to accommodate religious services, Murphy said.
Drive-in and drive-through graduation ceremonies will be allowed as early as June 12 after state education officials modified their guidance late Thursday. Murphy announced earlier in the week that more traditional outdoor graduation ceremonies can be held with capacity limits, social distancing modifications, and universal masking requirements beginning July 6.
Murphy reported 1,117 more confirmed cases, bringing the statewide total to 158,844, and 131 deaths, bringing the state’s toll to 11,531.
“We remain confident in our overall direction,” Murphy said, urging people to keep wearing masks and practicing social distancing. “These challenges are surmountable if we stick to it.”