The following is a summary of last week’s COVID-19 press conferences held by Philadelphia officials.
By Kate Dolan
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley announced the increase in daily cases of COVID-19 in Philadelphia and outlined the Do’s and Don’ts of outdoor dining.
The daily case count on Thursday July 23 was 228, making the overall number of confirmed cases in Philadelphia 29,102 since the beginning of the pandemic with 1,675 deaths. The average last Saturday, July 18 was 139 and a week before that the number was 110.
“That high daily number of 228 is in part because we received this huge number of tests this morning,” said Dr. Farley at Thursday’s COVID-19 Update press conference, explaining that nearly 4,200 test results were provided which is more than twice the typical amount for a single day. “Nonetheless though, this is reflective of an increase.”
The city is increasing testing, now averaging 2,500 per day, while delays in test results from Labcorp and Quest, two out-of-state laboratories collecting about a 1/4 of Philadelphia residents’ tests, continue to be a challenge for evaluating data.
The new cases are predominantly in young people, with 38% of positive cases being people under the age of 30 and 61% being under 40 years old. Currently, there are 158 coronavirus infections being treated in Philadelphia hospitals and 271 in the region as a whole.
“It’s only 15% of the peak of where we were in late April so we are still quite a bit lower and the hospital’s still have plenty of capacity if necessary,” said Dr. Farley.
Bucks, Delaware and Chester counties are seeing increases in cases, reflecting the state’s increase as a whole. The numbers in New Jersey are remaining stable, which Dr. Farley called a positive note. Nationally, the commissioner said case counts are rising, “but not quite as fast as it did maybe two weeks ago.”
Dr. Farley devoted time during Thursday’s briefing to discuss outdoor dining and provided a list of Do’s and Don’ts. As indoor dining is not permitted in the city, Dr. Farley detailed five guidelines so that outdoor dining remains a safe option, for both customers and restaurant workers. The guidelines are wearing masks, installing screens in places like counter areas and registers, reducing crowds, communication and reminders and social distancing.
Sidewalk space and patios have become main dining rooms and the spacing of tables must adhere to social distancing guidelines.
“Six feet apart means that humans are six feet apart, it doesn’t mean that the tables are six feet apart,” said Dr. Farley. “It’s not six feet from the center of a table to another center of a table. It’s six feet from the chair to another chair.”
Inspections are happening across the city and a total of seven restaurants have been ordered to close for not following outdoor dining guidelines. Health inspectors are checking for both coronavirus-related violations as well as conducting regular inspections to ensure that proper food handling practices and safety codes are in place.
Since May 1, 4,277 proactive inspections have occurred and 621 inspections occurred in reposes to complaints.
Michael Carroll, Deputy Managing Director for Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability, added that the Philadelphia Streets department SWEEP officers have responded to 57 complaints and have done 164 inspections since June 12, resulting in 89 warnings and 19 violations.
For citizens with concerns or complaints about restaurants’ outdoor dining operations, Dr. Farley encouraged calling the Department of Health – Office of Food Protection at 215-685-7495.
For more COVID-19 updates, testing data and guidance, visit phila.gov/COVID-19.
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