Pa. coronavirus update: Philly campaigns to bring back workers, tourists; Montco urges celebrating holidays ‘separately’

Center City Philadelphia

Center City Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Updated 4:41 p.m.

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With eyes set on a full post-pandemic reopening, a coalition of businesses and the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia is partnering with the city to promote a safe return to work and leisure for residents and tourists.

“Ready. Set. Philly!” is slated to run through the end of the year. Leaders of the effort say it’s supposed to act as a “mission control” center, including a website where employees and businesses can turn to for information on reopening and vaccinations, as well as a marketing plan. It’s also an opportunity to lay out a vision for the city as vaccinations continue, officials said.

“Center City and University City support more than half of the jobs in Philadelphia,” said Michael Rashid, one of the three co-chairs of the effort and the city’s Commerce Director. “Income is brought back to neighborhoods throughout the city, supporting spending on commercial corridors, which are extremely important to our economy.”

Still, members of “Ready. Set. Philly!” say the goal of the effort is to give the entire city a shot in the arm.

It comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are once again on the rise in Philadelphia, despite ongoing vaccinations.

Leaders involved include Leslie Richards, General Manager of SEPTA, as the transportation system struggles with low ridership numbers and safety concerns brought on by the pandemic.

Angela Val, executive director of the initiative, says it will also include live events that will give visitors a reason to come back to the city.

The coalition’s action plan is being crafted now and will be rolled out in the coming months.

“But we’re going at the pace of the vaccine being rolled out to the general public and the pace of the businesses in which they think they’ll bring their employees back,” she said.

Montco urges celebrating Passover, Easter ‘separately’

With Passover starting this Saturday and Easter coming up the following weekend, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Val Arkoosh is asking residents to maintain COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Arkoosh said over the past week, the county’s 14-day positivity rate has jumped to 5.2%, up from 4.8% two weeks ago. Hospitalizations have also slightly increased during this time — from 110 to 137 — all while the county continues to find cases of the new coronavirus variant from the United Kingdom.

“This variant is 50% more contagious and can cause more serious disease,” said Arkoosh. “We continue to see it spreading in our community.”

To date, the county reports it has only vaccinated roughly a third of its residents because of limited vaccine supply. Despite the county having the capacity to vaccinate more people, it is only averaging about 5,500 people a week with current vaccine deliveries.

“We have a ways to go before approaching anything close to herd immunity, which would offer protection to all of us in the community,” said Arkoosh.

Arkoosh said major holidays have led to spikes in cases in the county. She urged everyone remain cautious, even as vaccinated people can mingle with other unvaccinated, but low-risk people without wearing a mask, per federal guidelines.

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