What to KnowWith vaccines increasing and COVID-19 case counts going down, Philadelphia is easing COVID-19 restrictions.The city on Tuesday announced a two-phase approach to reopening. Some restrictions on businesses and gatherings ease on May 21. Then on June 11, all capacity limits will be lifted. Masking requirements will remain in place.
After more than a year of coronavirus-related capacity limits and other restrictions, Philadelphia is one month away from lifting virus-related limitations, except for wearing face masks.
On Friday, June 11, Philadelphia will drop all capacity-related restrictions on businesses and activities and "fully reopen our economy," Mayor Jim Kenney announced during a highly-anticipated Zoom news briefing Tuesday afternoon.
Filling the House and Dining Late Again
There will be no more restrictions based on business or event type on June 11.
The relaxing of rules means that the Phillies could fill up Citizens Bank Park with fans for the June 12 game against the New York Yankees and that the 11 p.m. curfew on dining will no longer be in effect that weekend moving forward.
Everyone will still need to wear masks indoors and in other crowded situations when they aren't eating or drinking, officials said.
Before the reopening of Philadelphia, the city is relaxing capacity restrictions on stores, museums, libraries, offices, theaters, casinos, gyms, outdoor weddings and more on Friday, May 21.
Here are the new guidelines for May 21:No density limits will be in place for retail stores, offices, museums, bowling alleys and libraries. Masks must still be worn unless someone is alone in an office.Theaters and other gatherings with fixed seating both indoors and outdoors (this includes stadiums) will be capped at 50% capacity with a minimum of 3 feet of space, rather than 6 feet. Masks must still be worn.Outdoor venues with no seating can have 33 people per 1,000 square feet and 3 feet of distance must be followed.No maximum number of people for outdoor catered events, but the events are capped at 50%.Gyms and indoor pools can operate at 75% capacity or 15 people per 1,000 square feet. Exercise classes are capped at 25 people.Outdoor pools have no limits.Indoor dining capacity in Philadelphia restaurants remains at the current level of 50% for all eateries and 75% for those businesses that meet "enhanced ventilation standards." Seat backs can, however, be within 3 feet to allow for more customers.Alcohol can be purchased and consumed without food.Casinos face the same 50%, 75% limits that restaurants do. Groups must be 3 feet apart and alcohol can be served at gaming machines.Indoor catered events — which the city considers the "riskiest" — won't budge from the 25% occupancy with a cap of 150 persons, including staff, if there is dancing and alcohol being served. Up to 250 people will be allowed as long as there is no music, dancing or alcohol.
Detailed guidance is expected by week's end, the city said.
The announcement comes a week after officials announced statewide coronavirus-related capacity restrictions in Pennsylvania will be lifted in time for Memorial Day — with the exception of mask wearing in public. On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that as of Monday, May 17 the capacity for gatherings indoor will go to 50% indoors and 75% outdoors.
COVID mitigation update: Effective May 17, maximum capacity limits for events and gatherings will be increased to 50% for indoor and 75% for outdoor.
Municipalities, school districts, restaurants, and venues may continue to implement stricter mitigation efforts.
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said the city wanted a little more time to relax rules. Throughout the pandemic, Philadelphia has often delayed relaxing restrictions within city limits to prevent the spread of the virus among its dense population.
“I know the shutdown has been extremely difficult for everyone… everyone has suffered from being separated from others,” Farley said while noting that he believes the previous restrictions saved thousands of lives.
"I believe it was worth it," Farley said. "I'm sorry we all had to go through this."
In the past couple of days, there have been some signs of normalcy returning. The city announced Monday that MLK Drive will reopen to vehicular traffic at the beginning of August after being closed for more than a year. And, the Philadelphia Marathon will return in November with half the number of runners.
Officials Urge Everyone to Get a COVID Vaccine to Be Safe in Public
Vaccines and a slowing of COVID-19 cases are key in the reopening plan. Farley said cases have been dropping "rapidly" around the country, including in places where restrictions have been lifted.
Kenney called June 11 a celebration that is only possible because of people being safe and getting the vaccine. Demand for vaccines, however, has been decreasing as availability to doses increases.
NBC10's Randy Gyllenhaal teams up with Penn Medicine's John Wherry to debunk three COVID-19 conspiracy theories that have some citizens hesitant about getting a coronavirus vaccine dose.
The city recommends no one go to a crowded place unless they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"If you want to go to a theater, an indoor restaurant, a stadium, a party or a wedding – get vaccinated first," Farley said Tuesday.
Currently a little more than 50% of Philadelphia residents have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to Dr. Rob Danoff of Jefferson Health.
"These vaccines have prevented death and hospitalization and serious illness and allowed families to get back together and allowed placed to reopen again," Dr. Danoff said.
To date, more than 579,000 people in the city have been fully vaccinated, according to city data.
Farley said that it's possible that another wave could still come and that the health department will continue to track hospitalizations.
"We are not yet declaring victory because cases and hospitalizations can rise again at any point if we’re not diligent," Kenney said. "I urge everyone to be smart, to continue wearing masks around others, and most importantly, to join the more than half a million fellow Philadelphians who already got their vaccine."