Philadelphia will announce changes to coronavirus restrictions Monday after days of high case counts, an increase in the positivity rate and evidence of community spread.
It wasn't immediately clear which restrictions would be changed, but they were expected to be stricter. In the initial lockdown in March, restaurants were shut down, schools went virtual and residents were urged to stay home unless leaving for essentials. Restrictions were eased into the summer, allowing for outdoor dining and eventually indoor dining. Charter and parochial schools opened for some in-person or hybrid learning.
The mention of new restrictions comes after recent case numbers worse than the spring, and as officials across the country face political pressure to keep businesses open despite the risks. Part of the high case count can be explained by more testing, but there is still high risk, officials have said. Philly reported 1,158 new cases Friday, and as of Saturday the total number of cases since March was nearing 53,000.
Much of the precautions we heard about in the spring - wearing masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing - have not gone away. Neither has the virus, which has surged in recent weeks and is expected to spread more as the weather gets colder, the air gets drier, and as some extended families gather for the upcoming holidays.
"Extended family gatherings right now are very dangerous. Don't have extended family gatherings over the holidays," Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley told reporters in a Zoom meeting Tuesday.
The city's most recent news conference on the coronavirus was Nov. 10; officials did not announce any new restrictions then but said they were being considered.
"We want everyone to be prepared in case we have to put those restrictions in place," Farley said. "More important though, because the spread is mainly happening in private settings, our success depends mostly on what Philadelphia residents do on their own."
He advised against other small gatherings like getting brunch or hosting a football watch party, and said it was crucial to wear a mask whenever you are in contact with someone from outside your household. That includes exercising.
"This has been a tough eight months for everyone in this epidemic. And I know that everyone is tired of this virus. Unfortunately, the virus is not tired of us," Farley said. "So we all need to step up our safety precautions now just a little bit longer, until the vaccine arrives to protect us."
Philadelphia isn't unique in dealing with a coronavirus surge as both Pennsylvania and New Jersey reported new daily case total records on Saturday. The governors of each state are meeting with governors of other Northeast states this weekend for a summit to discuss responses to the virus.