Pa. coronavirus recovery: Philly may not go green July 3; PennDot again extends driver’s license dates

COVID-19 cases are on the rise, says Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, who announced a mandatory mask order.

Automobiles drive into the Fort Washington Interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (AP, file)

Automobiles drive into the Fort Washington Interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (AP, file)

Updated 3:18 p.m.

On Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 84,370 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, with 6,579 deaths in the commonwealth. Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health reported 25,693 cases, with 1,579 deaths.

Philly may not go green after all on July 3

Philadelphia health officials said Friday that the city may not be ready to go into the “green phase” of recovery next week as planned, and announced a mandatory mask order.

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At a press briefing, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the city is seeing an uptick of COVID-19 cases and that has him worried about the potential of moving forward with reopening the city. Because of the increase, Farley is demanding that people cover their faces, instead of just urging them to do so.

“That will require the use of masks in all indoor public places and outdoors if people are less than six feet from people who are from different households,” Farley said.

City officials are also reconsidering whether they will further loosen restrictions as planned on July 3.

“We may need to pause on restarting those activities, especially those that are both indoors and where mask use is not practical, such as indoor dining in restaurants.”

Police will not be used to enforce the mandatory mask rule. Farley said the order is more self-enforcement than anything else.

Though the city reported no additional deaths attributable to the coronavirus, Farley said that Philadelphia had seen a concerning spike in cases among teenagers, and that the rate of positive tests had once again risen to more than 5% of all those tested.

“Cases are no longer decreasing,” Farley said. “We’re doing more tests, but that doesn’t explain the increase.”

PennDOT extends expiration on licenses and permits

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has announced yet another extension to expiration dates on driver’s licenses, identity cards, and learner’s permits in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

On Tuesday, PennDOT automatically renewed all documents set to expire from March 16, 2020, through July 31, 2020, through the end of next month, in an effort to limit virus exposure in driver’s licensing centers. The extension also applies to temporary camera cards.

The agency issued a similar renewal notice in May for drivers’ documents set to expire earlier in the year.

Vehicle registrations, auto inspections, and handicap parking placards that were previously extended through the end of June are not covered by the latest extension.

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Philadelphia City Council passes health-care worker protections

At City Council’s last scheduled session before its summer recess, members unanimously passed legislation providing new protections for city health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure approved Thursday ensures that health care workers who contract a virus or disease during a pandemic or epidemic are compensated for lost wages while sick or quarantined and reimbursed for any related medical expenses.

The legislation, introduced by Councilmember David Oh, covers full-time, part-time, and per diem health care workers —  including workers represented by collective bargaining.

If the bill is signed into law, the protections would apply  to city health care workers through summer 2020 and beyond.

Lebanon County will go green July 3

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday that Lebanon County is slated to move to the green phase of reopening on July 3, putting all 67 counties in green. Twelve counties moved to green Friday, joining 54 already in the least restrictive phase of reopening.

Lebanon County will be the last to officially go green. Philadelphia could have joined Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties in joining that group Friday but has opted instead to wait until July 3, as long as cases don’t rise again.

“We will soon have all of our counties in green. A milestone worth a cautious celebration of the hard work and collaborative spirit of Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said in a statement. “But we must remember that the restrictions that remain in the green phase will help us continue to enjoy the freedoms this phase allows for.”

Green phase restrictions, as outlined in Wolf’s Process to Reopen Pennsylvania, include limits on work and congregate settings and social settings.

A release from the governor’s office said that as its counties reopen, Pennsylvania continues to see a steady decline in cases, characterizing that as a positive indicator that the state’s phased reopening plan is working to balance public health with economic recovery.

According to the release, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis of proprietary state case data puts Pennsylvania among states with a 42-day steady decline in cases. Pennsylvania has maintained this distinction for three weeks to date, the release said.

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