Dr. Tom Farley

Dr. Tom Farley provides virtual update on COVID-19. —SCREENSHOT

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health is easing more restrictions for restaurants as COVID-19 cases in the region continue to fall.

“We have more been restrictive than either the commonwealth of Pennsylvania or New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley said during Tuesday’s virtual news update. “The changes will get us closer to alignment with the commonwealth as a whole."

Effective May 7, for indoor dining capacity will be increased from 25% or 50% if restaurants meet enhanced ventilation standards, to 50%, or 75% if restaurants meet enhanced ventilation standards. Maximum table size will be increased from four to six, and there is no longer a requirement that everyone at the table be from the same household.

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For outdoor dining, maximum table size will be increased to 10, which is the state limit.

And for the first time in more than a year, the city is allowing indoor catered social events up to 25% occupancy of space with a total cap of 75 people.

“If the case rates continue to fall, we will increase that cap from 75 to 150 persons as of May 21,” Farley explained.

“I want to encourage people who are having these high risk events to do them outdoors as much as possible.”

He said COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred at weddings due to people dropping their guard because they know each other and start mixing from table to table.

Farley said other indoor gatherings and events will be able to increase their maximum capacity to 25% of normal capacity and outdoor gatherings and events will be able to increase maximum capacity to 50%.

“With these changes, I want to make this strong recommendation. Anyone participating in these higher risk, or higher density events should be vaccinated first,” Farley stated.

“The reason is there is still plenty of people in Philadelphia carrying this virus, so the risk that there will be someone in a setting with many people that is infectious with this virus is high.”

The ease on restrictions comes as the Health Department announced 469 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 137,500.

The department has reported 11 additional deaths in Philadelphia, bringing the number of residents who died from the virus to 3,452. There are currently 481 patients with COVID-19 being treated in local hospitals with a total of 55 on ventilators.

Update on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center will start administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine again Saturday. That site is also offering the Pfizer vaccine.

The neighborhood clinics being run by the Philadelphia Fire Department will also start offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.

Last Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control approved the use of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine following a “pause” to investigate clotting issues in women younger than 50 associated with the vaccine.

The Public Health Department has notified all vaccine providers in the city that they are allowed to begin administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine again.

“The risk for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, while it is real, is very, very low,” Farley said.

“It is much lower than the risk for not getting vaccinated. We’re still delivering the message that everyone should be vaccinated. If people are hesitant about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine they have ample opportunity to get other vaccines.”

The Health Department has launched a webpage with information on how to find a vaccination clinic.

Senior day services allowed to reopen starting May 1

The Health Department released new guidance on senior day services, also called older adult day centers. Due to the high level of risk for participants in these settings, the Health Department strongly encourages that at least 80% of all participants/seniors and 80% of caregivers and staff are vaccinated at these facilities. All persons must wear either KN95 masks or surgical and cloth masks at all times except during mealtimes, social distancing is required, and capacity is capped at 10 persons per 1,000 square feet with a maximum of 15 people per room.

215-893-5747; ajones@phillytrib.com

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