Jim Kenney

Mayor Jim Kenney speaks during a news conference on Thursday, March 19, 2020. — Tribune Photo/Abdul R. Sulayman

If surrounding counties are granted permission by the governor to begin to reopen, Mayor Jim Kenney said he hopes that Philadelphia will join them.

The city currently is in the red stage, which means all non-essential businesses must remain closed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Counties in the red phase are under a stay-at-home order at least through June 4.

As of Friday, 48 of the state’s 67 counties had moved to the yellow phase, which means they may reopen some types of businesses. There are no counties in the green phase.

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Asked if the city might reopen slower and with more restrictions than the suburban counties, Kenney said, “That’s not our goal. From the beginning we have been working with the Southeast Region. We would like to walk the same route together.”

City health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said, “We’ll look at it. There might be things that we can do safely.

“Whatever we do, we want to be very careful about it, very gradual, and have systems in place so that we can measure whether there is an increase in viral activity as a result of that.”

Philadelphia remains in the red phase because it has yet to meet the state’s target of fewer than 50 new reported cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days.

On Friday, city health officials reported 309 new cases of the novel coronvirus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the city to 21,009 since the beginning of the outbreak.

The city confirmed 56 more deaths related to the virus, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,221. Approximately 53% of the people who have died were residents of long-term care facilities.

The numbers continue to trend downward, Farley said.

However, testing of all inmates of city jails and all residents of nursing homes could increase the number of positive cases in the coming days.

Whenever the city is able to reopen, Farley said, it’s important that residents continue to do what they’ve been doing to continue mitigation.

“There will be a new normal,” Farley said. “That new normal will be different from how things were before the epidemic came. It will involve smaller numbers of people in any interior space. It will involve barriers like the Plexiglas barriers you see around cash registers to block repertory droplets, and it will continue to involve spacing and masks.

“Wearing a mask is going to have to become a part of the new normal,” he said. “Get a mask if you don’t have one and get used to wearing it.”

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