Philadelphia is pausing some of its reopening plans as new cases of the coronavirus increase and will not allow indoor dining or gyms and fitness centers to open Friday as previously planned.
The city will, however, allow indoor shopping malls, casinos, museums, and libraries to open Friday, with strict mask-wearing requirements and other health precautions in place, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley announced Tuesday. No eating or drinking will be permitted indoors at those establishments.
“We want to get our economy going as much as we can, but we don’t want the virus to re-surge,” Farley said. “So it’s always a tough balancing act and we feel that this is the right decision at this point.”
Farley said 142 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in city residents were reported in the past day, raising concern about rising case counts, especially among teens who have participated in social gatherings or traveled to the Jersey Shore.
The number of cases confirmed in Philadelphia residents in the last week is higher than the previous week, Farley said.
City officials have interviewed people with the coronavirus infection and found that a number of them reported recent trips to the Shore, where they shared beach houses or socialized at bars or restaurants, Farley said.
Philadelphia also reported five additional deaths Tuesday due to the coronavirus. To date, 1,584 city residents have died of COVID-19 and the city has reported 26,133 confirmed cases of the virus.
Further reopening will be on hold until Aug. 1, Farley said, but the city will re-evaluate progress weekly.
“It’s clear we will be living with this virus for a long time,” Farley said.
He acknowledged that some restaurant owners may have already purchased additional food and materials in anticipation for starting indoor dining this week. If the city focuses on activities that can reopen safely with mask wearing, he said, cases will can continue decreasing.
”I do think that there’s a middle ground that we can find where we aren’t totally opening up the economy but we can get along,” Farley said.
Businesses that have already been permitted to reopen will remain open, Farley said, including hair salons and outdoor dining at restaurants.
But he warned that the city may need to close some of those activities if cases continue to increase.
“If cases rise here in Philadelphia it is possible that we will have to backtrack and close activities that we are currently allowing or that we are starting to allow reopening as of Friday,” he said.