Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley issued a warning Tuesday to restaurants that have reopened for outdoor dining, saying the city is hearing that tables are being placed closer together than COVID-19 guidelines allow. The health department will send sanitation inspectors to restaurants reported to have tables less than six-feet apart, and encouraged diners to call 311 if they think the rules are being violated.
“If people are not following the rules with outdoor dining, are they going to follow the rules when we move to indoor dining, where there’s higher risk of transmitting the virus?” Farley said during a news conference. “Until we have a vaccine, the only thing protecting us is our behavior. If people don’t follow the rules, we may have to shut down outdoor dining.”
Philadelphia reported 116 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total to 24,591, and 21 additional deaths for a total of 1,495. Farley said there continues to be no evidence of increased spread due to protests over George Floyd’s death. Statewide, there were 362 new cases, bringing the total to 79,483, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
“The amount of testing has bounced back up,” said Farley, who had advised people participating in the protests to get tested. “Positive results are less than 6%, which is an all-time low. That’s a very good thing.”
Also on Tuesday, researchers in England announced that a cheap and widely available steroid, dexamethasone, can improve survival rates in some of the patients most severely affected by COVID-19. The news, however, was greeted with some skepticism by experts, noting that the British team has not released the data supporting its conclusions.
The havoc wreaked throughout the economy from the pandemic continues to be assessed. In Harrisburg, Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday that $40 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will support Pennsylvania’s dairy industry and food security programs, which have suffered months of uncertainty. Any dairy farm that has experienced losses because of discarded milk can apply for assistance.
As Southeastern Pennsylvania moves toward the “green” phase in reopening, officials in Montgomery County, which reported 18 new cases of COVID-19 and one death on Tuesday, encouraged people to stay vigilant and continue following social distancing guidelines.
“As the coronavirus continues to remain in our community, each of us must be personally responsible for our actions and work together to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in Montgomery County," said Board of Commissioners Chair Val Arkoosh, a physician.
In Bucks County, only one new case of COVID-19 has been reported since Sunday.
However, officials are still dealing with pockets of new cases in Chester County, where a recent 14-day average was higher than the previous reporting period. Seven new cases were reported on Monday. Agricultural workers in Avondale, Kennett Square, and West Grove — the heart of the region’s mushroom industry — have borne the brunt of the new cases.
At his daily news conference on the virus, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy reported an additional 470 cases of COVID-19, bringing the cumulative statewide case total to 167,426.
“Our rate of transmission continues to trend along the very lowest in the country,” he said, adding that three months ago, each case in the state was infecting on average five more people. “We need to keep [that average] below one and drive this damn virus into the ground,” he said.
New cases in long-term-care facilities, he said, are trending downward, too. Though more than 1,200 people are in New Jersey hospitals with the virus and more than 300 are in critical condition, hospitalizations have also dropped — by 93% since the peak of the pandemic, and by 50% just since the beginning of the month.
Murphy said it is crucial that residents continue to maintain social distancing and wear masks. Once among the nation’s hot spots, New Jersey now ranks 31st among the states in the number of new cases as other states such as Florida, Texas, and California are seeing cases spike.
Experts agree that outdoor activities are safer than indoor ones, and now the region’s famous gardens are beginning to reopen. Starting Thursday, Longwood Gardens will allow members to visit on a “limited, non-public basis" while wearing masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines. The Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center in Fairmount Park will reopen on Wednesday, June 24, although capacity will be limited to 30 people an hour.
But other traditions won’t be the same this year. The Philly Pops announced it will participate in the 2020 Wawa Welcome America virtual festival on July Fourth, streaming three performances.