PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With Fall just around the corner, Philadelphia officials are making moves to help keep the number of COVID-19 cases down. Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley joined CBS3 Thursday morning.
Q: First we want to talk about the new guidelines just announced for sports affecting thousands of youth and high school players, contact sports or sports that are deemed higher risk, including football and soccer can practice, but cannot play games. So a lot of parents want to know how did the city and health officials reach this decision?
Well, we’re worried about the risk of students and children passing the infection from one to another and it’s a number of different groups around the country and cities have thought about what sports are more risky. It’s things like tackle football, there’s an awful lot of contact between people, a lot of spread and respiratory secretion and so we don’t think those are safe and so we made that policy that prevents high-risk and contact sports competition. Allow them to practice so they can hone their skills and allow non-contact sports like cross country and track and field and crew, they can practice and have competitions.
Q: We’re been hearing from a lot of parents who said that their kids have been playing for club teams during the summer and haven’t had any issues and a lot are starting to express concern about the mental health of the athletes that aren’t able to play. You know, sports is such a great outlet for students and kids. What do you have to say to those who aren’t able to play?
You know, this is tough for them. I appreciate that problem and I’m sure that parents are not happy about that, and I’m sure students are not happy about that. On the other hand, we don’t want the children to get the infection, we don’t want them to bring it home to their parents and family members. And there’s an awful lot of things that can be done outside, a lot of skills that children need to build in sports so we think we can get through this and they can get some benefits, mentally as well as physically, with that kind of practicing.
Q: Health officials have been keeping a close eye on college campuses especially Temple University, where we’ve seen that increase in positive cases. A lot of those cases we’re told are primarily connected to off-campus housing and earlier this week the health department had a testing clinic on Temple’s campus. What other steps are being taken to get ahead of the outbreak there.
We’re working very close with the university officials first to make testing available as you say. They also do contact tracing so we talk to the students who have a positive test and see who they’ve been exposed to and try to have those people stay away from others so they don’t pass the infection further on. Then the university, as you know, switched to all online classes to two weeks while determining what they want to do over the long term. We hope that combination really quells the outbreak, definitely is a lot of cases right now. We don’t want it to get any worse.
Q: Restaurants in the City of Philadelphia will be reopening for indoor dining at 25% capacity next week. A lot of people have been looking forward to this and it’s also the unofficial end of summer this weekend. As we head into the fall, how are you feeling about the numbers in the city and will you look at zeroing in on that as we get into the fall season?
Well, you know it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen with this virus in general. Most respiratory viruses tend to get worse in the fall and the winter so we need to be very careful. So we do allow indoor dining but with some very sharp safety restrictions, like 25% capacity as you said. Servers have to wear masks as well as face shields, no more than 4 people at a table and tables six feet apart. We have to be careful on that. We’re starting to see some increases around the country, particularly in college towns and I think the trend is probably more likely to be up than down over the next few months. It’s very unpredictable. I can’t say for sure but we still need to be very careful.
“People should get their flu shots,” Farley said. “This is one thing that we can control. The fly is a safe vaccine, an effective vaccine. Even it doesn’t totally prevent you from getting the flu, it prevents you from getting a severe case of the fly so the flu vaccine is available and many pharmacies around the city, most doctor’s offices, people should start planning now how and where they’re going to get their vaccine.”