Pa. coronavirus update: Philly’s vaccine clinics now taking walk-ins; Pa. to up capacity limits on bars, restaurants

Vincenteen Miller Paige wearing a face mask outside of Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter

Nicetown resident Vincenteen Miller Paige received the COVID-19 vaccine at Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter in Philadelphia on March 15, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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Updated: 4:30 p.m.

Philly’s vaccine clinics now taking walk-ins

Philadelphia’s four city-run vaccination clinics are now allowing walk-ins, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley announced Monday.

To be eligible, a vaccine seeker must fall in Philadelphia’s 1A or 1B category, and live in the clinic’s neighborhood. The city began allowing walk-ins this weekend, Farley said, after noticing that some of its appointment slots were going unclaimed.

A resident of Philadelphia’s Nicetown neighborhood receives the COVID-19 vaccine
A resident of Philadelphia’s Nicetown neighborhood receives the COVID-19 vaccine at Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter at a mass community vaccination site on March 15, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“This is removing one additional barrier for people to get vaccinated,” Farley said at a press conference for the launch of a new vaccine clinic at Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter in the Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood. “Setting up an appointment and making that appointment is not necessarily easy if you have a lot of other stresses on your life.”

As of Monday, Philadelphia was operating vaccine clinics at Community Academy Charter School in Juanita Park, the MLK Older Adult Center in North Philadelphia, and University of the Sciences’ Bobby Morgan Arena in West Philadelphia, in addition to the Nicetown-Tioga location.

Two new clinics in South Philadelphia are opening later this week. They are a compliment to Philly’s main vaccination hub: the FEMA run site located at the Convention Center in Center City. That site has been vaccinating about 6,000 people per day, seven days a week.

Farley said Monday morning that walk-in appointments are intended for residents of the clinic’s neighborhood, but did not indicate that requirement would be strictly enforced. “Any evidence that you are a Philadelphia resident” would be sufficient, he said.

Dr. Thomas Farley, flanked by city officials, speaks at a press conference
Dr. Thomas Farley, commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (left), joined by 8th District City Councilmember Cindy Bass (second from left), Managing Director of Philadelphia Tumar Alexander (second from right), and Le’Yondo Dunn, Simon Gratz High School principal (right), speaks at a press conference at Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter on March 15, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Joe King, 78, lives at Opportunity Towers, a subsidized housing complex across the street from Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter.

King has already received his first vaccine shot, but on Monday morning he was scouting out the clinic at Gratz for information to bring back to his neighbors, many of whom have yet to be vaccinated.

“I’m going to let them know,” he said. “Come on over across the street, and get the shot!”

Pa. to up capacity limits in bars, restaurants

Gov. Tom Wolf will expand more business and event capacity limits and lift coronavirus restrictions on bar service starting on Easter Sunday, April 4.

Monday’s announcement says bars and restaurants can raise indoor capacity limits to a maximum of 75% from 50%, but must follow the state’s social-distancing requirements.

Going away are a ban on seating at the bar and serving alcohol after 11 p.m., as well as a requirement that patrons order food with their alcoholic drinks.

Other businesses can also move to 75% of maximum capacity, including salons, gyms, casinos and theaters. Outdoor events can go to 50% of maximum capacity, while indoor gatherings can go to 20%.

Philly to reflect on one year of COVID

Tuesday, March 16, will be a sobering milestone: that date is the one-year anniversary of the beginning of Philadelphia’s first pandemic lockdown.

To mark the occasion, city officials are organizing a number of virtual and socially distanced activities under the umbrella of #Phillyreflects.

At noon, churches and other places of worship will light candles, ring bells, or put on other displays to honor the more than 3,000 city residents who have died of COVID-19.

At 5:30 p.m., Mayor Kim Kenney and other officials and community leaders will hold a virtual event featuring “words, ritual, and music” to mark the one-year anniversary. You can pre-register for a Zoom link here, or tune in on Facebook.

At 7 p.m. building across the city will light up in blue to honor frontline workers, first responders, and all lives lost to the pandemic.

City officials are asking people to post pictures of blue-lit buildings, as well as their reflections on the last year, to social media with the hashtag #phillyreflects.

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