City calls for broad restrictions in effort to stop Covid surge

by Kate Dolan
Posted 11/16/20

The city announced new COVID-19 restrictions this afternoon in response to the unprecedented surge in daily cases.

“The average number of reported positive cases of Covid-19 per day in Philly has jumped at least 700 percent in less than 2 months,”

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City calls for broad restrictions in effort to stop Covid surge

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The city announced new Covid-19 restrictions on Monday afternoon in response to the unprecedented surge in daily cases.

“The average number of reported positive cases of Covid-19 per day in Philly has jumped at least 700 percent in less than 2 months,” said Mayor Jim Kenney at Monday’s press conference. “We need to act now to reduce the rate of increase and to flatten the curve once again.”

Indoor dining is prohibited. Indoor gatherings of any size, public or private, are prohibited. Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley acknowledged that the city cannot enforce the new restrictions but strongly recommends that people do not visit other households and severely limit interaction, as small social gatherings continue to be a source of rapid Covid-19 spread.

Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10% occupancy, and food and drink are prohibited at those events.

“There will be no fans at football games,” Farley said.

Retail stores can remain open but must limit occupancy to 5%, or five persons for every 1,000 square feet. Gyms, museums and libraries must close. Religious services can accommodate only 5% capacity and colleges and high schools can provide online instruction only.

Middle schools, elementary schools, childcare and access centers can remain open, operating under safety protocols from the health department and the CDC. The reason for allowing these schools to remain open is due to the success Europe has had with their most recent lockdown efforts. The model employed there kept schools open and COVID-19 cases still declined as citizens followed other precautions, according to Dr. Farley.

The restrictions go into effect in Philadelphia on Friday, November 20 and will remain in place until January 1, 2021. A full list of restrictions will be available on the city’s website tomorrow, Tuesday, November 17.

The new restrictions, titled “Safer at Home,” come as cases rapidly increase. On Monday, 654 confirmed cases were reported, and since Friday, 2,564 cases were reported. The highest average of cases per day, 657, was reached last week and Dr. Farley expects that number to increase with late reporting. The positivity rate for last week among people tested was 13.4%.

Less than 5% is considered the threshold in order to consider the disease “under control.”

Tracking the number of cases reported for each week since the beginning of the epidemic, Farley made projections about the immediate future of the virus’ impact in the Philadelphia area.

“Since September, we’ve been rising at an exponential rate,” he said. “That means that the number of daily cases is doubling about every 17 days, which means that we’re on track to have about a four-fold increase in cases by December 31 of this year, or more than 3,000 cases per day for just the city of Philadelphia alone.”

Hospital capacity is one of the main reasons for the restrictions as city and health leaders are concerned about straining area hospitals, as was the case in April. In the last 11 days, the number of people hospitalized has doubled.

“We’re clearly on track to exceed the peak of about 1,000 patients in hospitals that we had in April, and we may totally exceed the hospital capacity of the entire city by the end of 2020,” Farley said.

Kenney and Farley acknowledged the impact the restrictions will have on businesses and assured residents that the city will continue to lobby for state and federal relief aid. So far, the city has allocated $38.7 million in direct support to small businesses and $39.4 million for rental assistance in the city.

“The bottom line is this: if we don’t do something to change the trajectory of this epidemic, the hospitals will become full and we’ll have difficulty treating people and we’ll have between several hundred and 1,000 deaths just by the end of this year,” Farley said.

Since March, 54,607 confirmed cases have been identified in Philadelphia and 1,917 Philadelphia residents have succumbed to the virus

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