Philadelphia announced new coronavirus restrictions on Monday that aim to combat a lack of mask wearing and social distancing indoors at public spaces, restaurants, gyms and inside private homes.
The restrictions roll the city back to prohibitions that were put in place during the spring COVID-19 surge.
Under the restrictions that will go into effect on Friday, indoor parties and dining will be nixed; fitness centers, museums and libraries will be closed; and eating and drinking will not be allowed at outdoor gatherings. Fans at Eagles games will also be banned.
Hair salons and barbers will be allowed to continue operating with the current restrictions in place.
Philadelphia has seen a precipitous rise in new COVID-19 infections over the past few weeks – going from nearly 400 new infections on Nov. 4 to more than 1,100 on Nov. 13. Overall in the city, fatalities from the disease topped 1,900 since the pandemic began. More than 52,000 residents were confirmed to have had the disease.
Pennsylvania reported 9,675 new cases over the past two days with more than 2,440 people being hospitalized and 531 of those in an intensive care unit. Pa. Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said on Monday that contact tracing staff are having trouble getting people to provide details about where they've been leading up to their confirmed infection.
Nationwide, NBC News data shows the virus is being spread rapidly with more than 133,000 newly confirmed cases in the past 24 hours. 11.1 million Americans have contracted the disease with at least 240,300 of those people losing the battle against the virus.
The restrictions are being put into place as the holiday season nears. Public health experts fear family gatherings for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas and New Year's will only accelerate the virus' spread even further.
Many medical experts have pointed to smaller gatherings, like inside homes and around kitchen tables, as prime spreading events because of a lack of mask wearing and proper social distancing.
Philadelphia's restrictions are focused on reducing opportunities for people to linger indoors and where they'd have to remove their face masks.
Here's a breakdown of the new COVID-19 restrictions lasting from Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 to Friday, Jan. 1, 2021:
Indoor gatherings of any size, in any location, public or private are prohibited
- No indoor parties, group meals, watching sporting events as a group
- No visiting between households
- No indoor weddings, funerals or baby showers
Outdoor gatherings are limited by size and no food or drink
- Outdoor gatherings are restricted to 10% occupancy or 10 people per 1,000 sq. ft.; cap of 2,000 people in very large spaces
- No food or beverages can be served to ensure that people wear their masks at all times
Restaurant indoor dining must end and new changes for outdoor dining
- Indoor dining at restaurants must cease. While restaurants have worked hard to follow precautions, the risk of people indoors during cold weather without masks is too great, officials said.
- Outdoor dining will be restricted to 4 seats per table and all must be from the same household to prevent spreading the virus from one house to another.
Retail stores can operate with limited occupancy
- Reduced density inside retail stores must be enforced
- No more than 5 persons per 1,000 sq. ft.
- All staff and customers must wear masks
- Stores should not serve any person who is not wearing a mask
Museums, theaters, gyms must close and youth sports to cease play
The following businesses must close or cease activities:
- Youth, community and school sports
Religious institutions can operate with reduced occupancy
- Celebration of services are allowed, but with a reduced density of 5% or 5 persons per 1,000 sq. ft.
- Online worship services is encouraged
Continue work from home wherever possible
- Workspaces are asked to continue allowing staff to work from home unless their job cannot be performed in that setting
Online only schooling for colleges and high schools
- Only virtual learning will be allowed for colleges, universities and high schools through Jan. 1, 2021.
Child care and access centers, elementary and middle schools will be allowed to continue operating in-person activities with strict safety protocols in place including universal mask wearing and social distancing.
The Philadelphia school district was planning to return some students to classrooms in the coming days, but put the decision on hold after this recent spike in cases.
City officials said they know there's a lower risk of children becoming seriously ill if they contract the disease and that early childhood education is paramount. Also, essential workers need child care. They point to success seen in Europe where schools were allowed to remain open while reducing COVID-19 viral spread.