Mask requirement stays, for now. Some restrictions will be relaxed May 21: Density limits for retail, museums and libraries, and restaurants will be allowed to seat people a minimum of three feet apart, rather than six.
The city announced this week that on June 11, all Safer at Home restrictions put in place for the COVID-19 pandemic will be ending, with the exception of mask-wearing.
“Today’s announcement has been long-awaited in our 14-month battle against COVID-19,” said Mayor Jim Kenney on Tuesday. “This moment is possible because of the immense sacrifices that Philadelphians of all ages made over the last year.”
The announcement comes as average daily case rates and the positivity rate among those tested for the virus continue to fall in Philadelphia. The region, and the United States as a whole, are also experiencing falling case rates. Before being completely lifted, some restrictions will be relaxed earlier, on May 21. Density limits for retail, museums and libraries will be removed. Restaurants will be allowed to seat people a minimum of three feet apart, rather than six.
A full list of changes to the safety restrictions and reopening of Philadelphia are available here: https://www.phila.gov/2021-05-11-fully-reopening-philadelphia-our-plan-for-relaxing-covid-19-restrictions/
Later in the week on Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened its mask requirements, announcing that fully vaccinated Americans will no longer need to wear masks in most settings. It’s unclear how the new recommendation may change Philadelphia’s mask requirement come reopening on June 11.
“As we look forward to our recovery, which will be strong, we have to stay mindful that the pandemic is not over. We are not yet declaring victory because cases and hospitalizations can rise again at any point if we’re not diligent,” said Kenney. “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.”
Data from the CDC shows that as of Monday night, May 10, 39% of city residents over 18 are fully vaccinated and 49% have had one or more shot. For residents over 65, 61% are fully vaccinated and 71% have had one or more shot.
The vaccine roll-out continues to expand as the Philadelphia Department of Public Health notified all vaccine providers in the city that the Pfizer vaccine can be given to kids ages 12-15 years old, after the FDA and CDC approved its use for the age group this week.
City-run sites that administer the Pfizer, including the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the Esperanza Community Vaccination Center, will require 12-15-year-olds to be accompanied by a parent or guardian and must provide a document with the child’s name and date of birth. To find an appointment, visit phil.gov/covid or vaccines.gov.
As of Thursday morning, 202 cases were confirmed, bringing the city’s total to 141,803. 329 patients were being treated for the virus in Philadelphia hospitals. The health department confirmed 11 new deaths, bringing the total number of Philadelphia residents who’ve died from COVID-19 to 3,555.
On Thursday, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley announced his resignation. In his last COVID update press conference on Tuesday, he said the city would be changing its indicators for tracking the epidemic slightly, watching more closely the hospitalization statistics and the number of people falling seriously ill each week to determine the epidemic’s status.
Farley also said that although restrictions will be lifted in June, there will still be guidance and recommendations, including to avoid crowded indoor large gatherings if not vaccinated.
“I know the shutdown has been extremely difficult for everyone,” said Dr. Farley.
“Some people will question whether it’s worth it. But I can say this, although we’ve lost more than 3,000 lives in Philadelphia, I believe we’ve also saved thousands of lives and we’ve prevented the crisis in hospitals that is now taking place in India.”
“While we had legal restrictions, we couldn’t have done it without the voluntary cooperation of more than a million Philadelphia residents,” he said. “To every Philadelphia resident who has suffered from this shutdown, I just want to say I’m sorry we all had to go through this. But from the bottom of my heart, thank you for doing your part to save the lives of others.”