Philadelphia City Council Members began a new era of precautions for their weekly meeting Thursday.
It made changes to carry out “social distancing,” including signs on every other chair to prevent people from sitting next to each other. Council also asked people making public comments to stand three feet from the microphone.
Only one entrance to Council Chambers was open and the caucus room was locked tight. Councilmembers had their pre-meeting caucus in the main chambers, instead of in the caucus room where people can just walk up to their elected representatives.
Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez said everyone is worried about the spread of germs.
“As someone who is managing a lingering cough and has gotten a lot of ugly looks, anything to make people feel comfortable is a good thing,” she said.
Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson said this is the new normal for now and the public can participate without coming to City Hall.
“Obviously we have less seats available in the gallery, but we have other methods of communication relative to public access television on channel 64, we have WURD 900 radio availability and PHL Council to watch online,” she said.
Council President Darrell Clarke said it’s all designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“We want to give you an opportunity to speak but we want to be prudent in order to continue that policy,” Clarke said. “If you do not want to be a part of the public comment section, you can always submit your testimony. It will be put in the record and subsequently in the council journal.”
Anyone who wants to stay home can also submit comments in writing to be added to council’s record for the day.
Council is still trying to figure out the public hearing process going forward and is reserving the right for additional restrictions in the future.