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Philadelphia coronavirus restrictions eased, with guidance on sporting events, restaurants, theaters and more

Restrictions will ease starting Monday.

Outdoor dining at 13th and Sansom Streets, in Center City Philadelphia, Thursday, November 19, 2020. .
Outdoor dining at 13th and Sansom Streets, in Center City Philadelphia, Thursday, November 19, 2020. .Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

Philadelphia will roll back some coronavirus restrictions starting Monday, including allowing spectators at sporting events, reopening senior centers for the first time since last March, and allowing food and drinks to be consumed in movie theaters.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the new guidelines align somewhat, but not entirely, with state restrictions. Philadelphia has been more restrictive than the rest of the state in most of its shutdowns, but Farley said he was easing the rules because the number of new coronavirus cases has declined significantly in the last two months.”It’s one step closer to us returning to normal,” Farley said.

The changes include:

  1. Professional sports teams can have spectators. Outdoor venues with a capacity of 10,000 or more, such as Citizens Bank Park, can host 5% of capacity up to 2,500 people, while the largest indoor venues can have a maximum of 500 people. Those numbers are consistent with state guidelines. For Citizens Bank Park, that would mean a capacity of 2,150.

  2. Restaurants may have up to six people per table for outdoor dining, and they no longer have to be from the same household. Indoor dining is still limited to 25% capacity and four people per table.

  3. Theaters can allow food and drink inside, as long as people are seated in groups of four or less.

  4. Outdoor catered events are permitted with a maximum of 100 people. The previous limit was 50 people. Indoor catered events remain prohibited.

  5. Religious services can increase capacity to 20%, an increase from the previous restriction of 10%.

  6. Senior centers can open, with a requirement that people wear K95 masks or two masks at once, and a limit of 25 people per room.

  7. Retail stores can have 20 people per 1,000 square feet -- an increase from the current restriction of 10 people per 1,000 square feet.

Farley said he would ease more restrictions if case rates continue to decline and the pace of vaccinations continues to increase. And if the state eases its restrictions, Farley said he would have to consider whether the city would remain aligned with the state.

”I’m optimistic about where we’re going in the next few months,” he said.

For all indoor venues, including theaters and sports arenas, the current state guidelines allow 10% of maximum capacity if the venue holds less than 2,000 people, 5% of maximum capacity if it holds between 2,000 and 10,000 people, a cap of no more than 500 people no matter the size.

Outdoor venues have a limit of 15% capacity if they hold less than 2,000 people, 20% capacity if they hold between 2,000 and 10,000 people, 5% capacity if they hold more than 10,000 people, and a total cap of 2,500. Those limits include not only spectators but total occupancy -- including players and staff in the case of sporting events, for example.Farley said all the restrictions require people to wear masks to make them safe. Indoor catered events remain prohibited, he said, because they are the most likely to spread the coronavirus.

”If you have a lot of people clustered together not wearing masks, singing and dancing, there’s a great risk,” he said.

This story has been updated to include more information about Citizens Bank Park’s capacity.