Emily and Dan Hanratty and their two young daughters had come all the way from Portland, Ore., to Philadelphia’s historic district, where they were scheduled to ride a horse-drawn carriage Friday morning.
“It’s canceled,” Emily Hanratty said, sitting with Reagan, 4, and Reese, 2, on the stoop of the shuttered Red Owl Tavern, across the street from the shuttered Independence Hall. “Not because of the pandemic, but because of the heat.”
Their consolation would be a trip to the Jersey Shore, where Dan’s father lives.
The pandemic, the heat, and the lack of Fourth of July weekend festivities combined to turn one of Philly’s favorite tourist and commercial areas into a quiet zone early Friday.
About three blocks away, the Fashion District shopping mall — shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic barely six months after opening — reopened for business at 11 a.m., complete with hand sanitizer stations and signs about required face coverings. Although a line of people waited on the Market Street sidewalk to get into the Century 21 department store shortly before its doors opened, few people were inside the gleaming, air-conditioned mall.
Shacqura Cooper, 26, of Philadelphia, was among the few early birds. She waited, masked, outside of Sephora, where nearly a dozen saleswomen in T-shirts emblazoned with “Resilient Hopeful Thankful” were ready to serve customers.
“I want to get some perfume,” said Cooper. “I think most people don’t know the mall is open.”
Like other big cities, Philadelphia reluctantly chose to cancel July Fourth events in the interest of public health. But for the city known as America’s birthplace, the decision was especially painful. Forget the feel-good Welcome America Festival with its days of fireworks, concerts, and throngs of delighted visitors and residents.
Gov. Tom Wolf allowed all of Pennsylvania to move to the “green” phase of reopening on Friday despite an uptick in case counts — although he ordered continued masking in public. Green means businesses may reopen, many restrictions are lifted, and groups of up to 250 people are allowed to gather.
Philadelphia, however, decided to take a more cautious approach because of a recent uptick in new cases to about 100 a day. City officials have allowed many businesses to reopen, but are holding off until Aug. 1 to assess the safety of reopening fitness centers, indoor dining, and other risky settings. Health Commissioner Thomas Farley warned that some open businesses may have to close if case counts continue to rise.
At least one family was glad not to be in crowds, and not to be able to go inside historic houses and museums on Friday.
“We can see more from outside,” said Sviatlana Shinkevick, gazing at Independence Hall with her husband, Pavel, and son, Steban. “It takes time to go into each museum.”
Just six months ago, they moved from their native Belarus to West Hartford, Conn., so Pavel, an information technology specialist, could take a new job.