Coronavirus update: Philly to go ‘yellow’ on Friday

A person wearing a protective face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus walks past a shuttered business in Philadelphia, Thursday, May 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A person wearing a protective face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus walks past a shuttered business in Philadelphia, Thursday, May 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Updated at 5:35 p.m.

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Pennsylvania has reported 511 new cases of COVID-19 to date, bringing the total number of cases to 77,780. So far, 5,742 state residents have died.

23,281 of the states cases have been among Philadelphia residents. 1,394 Philadelphians have succumbed to the virus.

Philly to go “yellow” on Friday 

City officials announced Thursday that Philadelphia will move into the “yellow” phase of the state’s color-coded reopening plan on June 5, ending days of speculation about whether a series of Justice for George Floyd demonstrations would delay the decision. 

“We had a plan for us to move to the yellow phase if the numbers continue to look good and the numbers continue to look good,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley during a virtual news conference. 

The city reported 121 new positive cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total to 23,281. To date, 1,394 residents have died from the respiratory virus. 

Under the city’s “Safer at Home” plan, outdoor day camps, child care centers, warehouses, and certain retail businesses will be allowed to reopen with safety precautions. 

Employees must wipe down surfaces every four hours. Business owners must limit capacity to five people per 1,000 square feet. 

Restaurants and bars can continue to do takeout and delivery, but are not permitted to open their dining rooms. And while Gov. Tom Wolf has given the green light, outdoor seating will not be allowed in Philadelphia for another week, said Managing Director Brian Abernathy.

City officials say they plan to cite restaurants that offer outdoor dining this weekend.

“I know that this delay is disappointing to restaurants and staff but we believe this extra time will allow us to create a more streamlined and safe process,” said Abernathy.

In another departure from state guidelines, the city is strongly discouraging any social and religious gatherings of any size. Under the state plan, gatherings of 25 people are permitted in the yellow phase.

“Telework must continue where feasible,” according to state guidelines.

As late as Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Jim Kenney was still weighing whether it was safe for the city to move ahead with loosening some of its pandemic protocols, telling reporters, “We’ll have to see what happens today, tonight, tomorrow, and Friday to see where we’re at from a crowd point of view.”

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Final Pa. counties to move from “red” to “yellow” 

To date, Pennsylvania has reported 78,335 positive cases of COVID-19. A total of 5,832 people have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic.

The new numbers come as the final 10 counties prepare to move into the “yellow” phase of the state’s color-coded reopening plan on Friday.

They are: Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Bucks, Berks, Lackawanna, Lehigh and Northampton counties.

“As Pennsylvania continues to move forward in the process to reopen, we need to remember that the threat from COVID-19 has not gone away,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement. “As counties move into the yellow and green phases, we must take personal responsibility to protect others. Wearing a mask, continuing to maintain social distancing, and washing your hands frequently are all steps we can take to help protect others, including our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians, our essential workers and our health care system.”

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that he would let the state’s stay-at-home order expire at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday.

The governor renewed the state’s 90-day disaster declaration originally signed on March 6. The declaration was set to expire Thursday.

“Pennsylvanians have done a tremendous job flattening the curve and case numbers continue to decrease,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement. “Renewing the disaster declaration helps state agencies with resources and supports as we continue mitigation and recovery.”

Montgomery County to begin reopening on Friday 

Montgomery County reported 64 new positive cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total to 7,285 since the start of the pandemic. Another four people succumbed to the virus, bringing the total to 706.

The overwhelming majority of the county’s coronavirus cases have come from residents at long-term care facilities.

“Thanks to your sacrifices and hard work, Montgomery County remains on track to move to the ‘yellow phase’ on June 5,” said Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, in a statement.

Montgomery County — among the hardest-hit counties in Pennsylvania — is one of 10 in the state that are scheduled to go from “red” to “yellow” under its color-coded reopening plan.

Delco urges continued precautions after move to ‘yellow’

Delaware County officials are urging residents to continue to wear masks, follow social distancing protocols, and wash their hands when the county moves into the “yellow” phase of Pennsylvania’s color-coded reopening plan on Friday.

“There are absolutely no guarantees that we are out of the dark or that we will inevitably progress towards further loosening,” Delaware County Councilman Kevin Madden said during a virtual news conference Thursday.

Under the yellow phase, retail stores are allowed to reopen and welcome customers inside. However, that cannot exceed 50% of the total maximum occupancy for the business.

Restaurants and bars can resume outdoor dining, but are encouraged to do as much delivery and curbside pickup business as possible.

Gyms, malls, movie theaters, and casinos must remain closed.

Teleworking “must continue where feasible,” according to the state’s guidelines.

Gatherings of up to 25 people are permitted, but health officials say residents should continue to wear masks when they are out in public and follow social distancing protocols.

To date, Delaware County has reported 6,600 positive cases of COVID-19. A total of 553 county residents have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic.

“It would be so easy for us to lower our guards, stop taking precautions like we have been, and cause another spike,” said Madden.

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