What to Know
- Philly restrictions on indoor dining will remain until Jan. 15, a 2-week extension of the original end date.
- The city's top health official is worried about case spikes and virus spread related to the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
Philadelphia is seeing a so-called "second wave" of coronavirus infections as the virus continues to spread wildly across parts of the United States, the city's health commissioner said Tuesday.
Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said a surge of positive COVID-19 infections means the city will have to extend bans on certain activities like indoor dining until at least September.
"The second wave has simply hit us right now," Farley said.
Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
Farley took aim at southern states like Florida and Texas which reopened their states against the guidance of many public health officials as sources of the surge in new infections.
"Between March and May there was an epidemic wave that more or less started in New York City and then spread south and west, hit Philadelphia on the way," Farley said.
"Then after Southern states reopened too quickly and too recklessly, it’s a second wave that started there and then is spreading north and east from there. That wave’s now just arrived in Philadelphia."
Philadelphia recorded 142 newly-identified COVID-19 infections on Tuesday bringing the total number of cases to date to 29,945 with 1,678 deaths. Thirty-six percent of the new infections involve people under 30 years old, Farley said. Emergency rooms in Philadelphia have seen an uptick in patients complaining of fever.
Pennsylvania is also seeing an uptick with 1,120 new cases, the third day in a week with more than 1,000 new cases.
To date nationwide, more than 4.3 million people have contracted the virus while 150,014 Americans have succumbed its effects, according to a tally kept by NBC News.
Socializing, your family, & the Shore
Farley urged people not to travel to beach spots both near and far – from the Jersey Shore to Florida.
City contact tracing has shown that 27% percent of respondents might have been infected when traveling out of state, Farley said, and the Jersey Shore was the most common travel site.
"I don’t think they’re getting an infection when they’re actually swimming at the beach, when they go to the beach they’re likely to be participating in social events, and maybe traveling in cars with other people with this exposure during the travel," Farley said.
Mayor Jim Kenney later noted that not all beach trips are of equal risk.
"If you...leave your house in Philly and go to your house at the Shore and stay in your house, that’s not the same as going to a 150-person party, a kegger in some bar somewhere or somebody’s house," Kenney said.
City contact tracing has showed that a significant portion of positive cases involve a family member - 36%. Though there are only official limits on gatherings of more than 50 people outdoors and 25 indoors, "you can have infection spread at gatherings that involve 5 people or 10 people," Farley said. "So we’re recommending that people not participate in gatherings of any size."
"If you love your family and friends, protect them by wearing a mask," Kenney said.
The reversed trends has prompted Philadelphia officials to push back resuming social activities like dining inside restaurants. While all of Pennsylvania has been allowed to host diners indoors at 25% capacity for weeks, Philadelphia did not allow the practice. They targeted August 1 as a tentative date to resume indoor dining.
Farley said Tuesday that the date would be pushed back to at least Sept. 1. With an increase in cases, however, it's entirely possible that the date can change again. Outdoor dining is still allowed for now.
The delay comes a week after Pennsylvania prohibited bars and restaurants from selling alcohol without a patron consuming a full meal.
Outbreak in baseball team
Farley said a member of his staff has been in touch with the MLB and is letting the league and teams do their own contact tracing after more than a dozen people in the Miami Marlins organization tested positive for the virus. Later Tuesday, the team announced it was suspending its season.
Farley said the risk to Philadelphia residents from the Marlins outbreak appeared low and that the team did not have much contact with city residents. He also said tests of the Marlins' close contacts may not show a positive test result right away, since there is a delay between exposure to the virus and actually developing an infection. The outbreak comes despite a detailed infection control plan that Farley and Kenney both said was strong.
"I think Major League Baseball and the Marlins specifically need to understand exactly how this happened," he said. "If people were following that protocol you wouldn’t have expected to see this many cases, and so they need to figure out where that occurred so they don’t have further spread on this team or other teams have similar spread."
Kenney was hoping to watch a Phillies game against the Yankees that was later canceled.
“It’s disappointing, but in the scheme of things with 150,000 dead Americans, and a federal government in chaos and ruin, and issues going on all over the country with civil unrest and police reform, [baseball] is not the highest thing on my list. But I was disappointed when I found out it was postponed.”