Philly Lays Out ‘Safer At Home’ Reopening Plans

PHILADELPHIA — Officials on Friday laid out plans for a slow, gradual reopening of certain activities in Philadelphia with the expectation the city will soon move to the “yellow” phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan.

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley explained the plan — called “Safer at Home” — during a news conference Friday. The title “Safer at Home” was chosen because while limited activities are restarting, staying at home is still the safer option, Farley said.

Starting June 5, the city’s plan would add retail business with restrictions, office-based businesses (with encouragement to work from home or telecommute), childcare centers, outdoor day camps, manufacturing, and warehouse activities to the existing list of activities that are allowed. Currently, the city allows healthcare facilities, pharmacies, grocery stores, and restaurants with restrictions to operate.

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Each industry will have to follow eight different guidelines, with some variation among them but with a common theme. These are: masks, barriers, reduced crowds, social distancing, isolation when an employee may have the virus, hand washing, cleaning high touch surfaces, and communicating rules through signage and more.

For example, retail businesses must provide masks to workers and require workers and customers to wear masks, install barriers for cashiers, screen employees for symptoms, promote social distancing via floor decals and other signage, 6 feet between cashiers, reducing store capacity (Farley encouraged online ordering and curbside pick up), stores can allow indoor shopping by allowing fewer than five customers in the store per 1,000 square feet of space, provide hand sanitizer on entry, and clean high touch surfaces every four hours.

City inspectors will enforce these rules, but Farley said Philadelphians are encouraged to remind others of the rules as well.

“We are all in this together,” he said. This is not a political slogan: it is simple a fact of this epidemic.”

One aspect of “Safer at Home” Farley discussed were social and religious gatherings. While the state is allowing gatherings of up to 25 people, the city is strongly discouraging gatherings of any size.

Farley cited a CDC report of a choir practice and how it led to numerous infections and even a death. The report details a choir with 61 people. One of those people had the virus and infected 52 others, which led to three hospitalizations and one death.

He said he feels the city can move to this phase due to decreasing daily cases and deaths thanks to people staying home.

Farley said the plan is not a reopening or a return to normal and that restrictions will be reinstated if cases increase after the plan is implemented. Rather, he said it is “cautious restart of certain activities that we think are important to get the economy moving in a way that we can continue to suppress the virus.”

This will involve containment, outreach to vulnerable populations, social distancing, and restrictions on businesses as more will be permitted to resume activities.

He called this a “safe mode,” and likened it to booting up a computer in safe mode, which means limited activity while still operational to get rid of a virus.

Full information on “Safer at Home” is available online here.

Friday’s data on the virus showed 255 new cases, bringing the city’s total to 22,405. Additionally, 20 new deaths were reported Friday. In total, the virus has killed 1,278 people in Philadelphia. Of that 1,278, 678 — or 53 percent — were nursing residents.

The city’s hospitals had 469 coronavirus patients as of Thursday, while regionally — including Philadelphia — 912 patients were hospitalized due to the virus.

This article originally appeared on the Philadelphia Patch

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