On Monday afternoon, the City of Philadelphia rolled out a new set of restrictions for businesses, institutions and households to curb the quickly increasing spread of COVID-19, which has hit record numbers of cases in the state in the last few days.
The restrictions will take effect Friday, and include the closure of indoor dining, theaters, gyms, gaming spaces, museums, casinos, senior care centers, libraries, high schools and colleges for in-person instruction. Restaurants may continue outdoor dining, but tables are limited to four people and should be members of the same household, the City said.
It also calls for changes to events, banning all indoor gatherings between households, and private events like weddings, showers or funerals. Outdoor gatherings and events are limited to 10% capacity of the space, or five people per 1,000 square feet. Unlike in the spring, the City is not closing “nonessential” businesses like salons and retail stores, but employees and customers must wear masks at all time, and capacity limits will tighten.
Notably, “offices are permitted to have only employees that cannot work remotely,” the City said, calling back on its remote work mandate from earlier this year. For companies who started to send employees back or who have opened offices back up on a limited basis, this means anyone who can work remotely should work remotely. (Check out our extensive How to Work Remotely reporting from across the mid-Atlantic.)
These restrictions — take a look at the full list here — will last through at least Jan. 1.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine urged folks to also download the COVID Alert PA app to be notified if they’ve been in close contact with someone who later tests positive for the virus, or anonymously notify other residents if you test positive.
I urge every Pennsylvanian to download the COVID Alert PA so you can get a notification if you've been in close contact with someone who later tests positive for #COVID19, or anonymously notify other residents if you test positive.
— Dr. Rachel Levine (@SecretaryLevine) October 19, 2020
What the City didn’t say Monday is if new types of business relief, loans or grants will become available to institutions that are now — once again — forced to close. On Oct. 30, the City shared a roundup of currently available resources, including the small business Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund and the the Black Restaurant Accelerator, which will boost approximately 500 Black-owned businesses over the next five years.
Philly's new "Safer at Home" order is strong. Includes ban on all public + private indoor gatherings involving people from >1 household.
Obvs not enforceable, but absolutely the right message.
Financial support for affected workers and business owners is now desperately needed. https://t.co/9V8CtkNwZG
— Julie Lynch (@juliaflynch) November 16, 2020
The City also announced last week a new commitment of $30 million dollars in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to aid renters and small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, $10 million of which is committed to providing small business relief through the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Relief Pennsylvania Statewide Small Business Assistance program.
Nationally, President-elect Joe Biden addressed his plan for the virus and economic recovery in a press conference Monday. He said he’d been meeting with business and labor leaders on “opening our economy responsibly and rebuilding it.”
Biden has been consulting a coronavirus task group, a collection of public health officials and scientists to lead the charge on his approach to getting the pandemic under control once he takes office.
His approach includes mitigating the virus with tactics like mandatory masking, social distancing, a scaled-up production of treatment drugs and an eventual safe distribution of a vaccine.
“It was really encouraging, quite frankly, to get businesspeople together agreeing on a way forward,” Biden said. “We all agreed we need to get the economy back on track, getting our employees back to work and beating this virus.”
Biden called on Congress to pass another COVID relief act for businesses and residents, citing a similar tactic in the relief act of 2009. He said that controlling the virus is key in addressing a longer-term economic recovery.
“Small business and entrepreneurs are the backbone of the country. They’re teetering on the edge,” Biden said. “The only way we do any of this is together.”
Today's news of a second vaccine is further reason to feel hopeful. What was true with the first vaccine remains true with the second: we are still months away. Until then, Americans need to continue to practice social-distancing and mask-wearing to get the virus under control.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 16, 2020