By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With new restrictions set to take effect Friday afternoon in Philadelphia, the city’s new cases of the coronavirus continue to be higher than at any point in the past eight months. Tomorrow at 5 p.m., the new limits on gatherings in Philadelphia go into effect, closing things like indoor dining and gyms.

“Our restrictions are temporary, but death is permanent,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said during a Thursday press conference.

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Farley says they’re necessary because cases of COVID-19 are exploding.

“We know many affected businesses are unhappy with these restrictions,” Farley said.

The health commissioner says the new limits on gatherings are necessary because of surging COVID-19 cases in and around Philadelphia.

“This is a dangerous period,” Farley said. “This is possibly the worst period of the epidemic.”

There are increased concerns about Thanksgiving because contact tracing shows clusters of cases related to the last holiday —  Halloween celebrations.

The virus is spreading mainly in households and at social gatherings, but people are also getting infected elsewhere.

“We’re also hearing about spread in office settings, particularly when people get together over lunch not wearing their masks,” Farley said. “And also in health care settings when health care workers get together over lunch not wearing masks.”

Farley says there’s also evidence COVID is spreading at restaurants, which is why indoor dining is again being shut down.

“If we don’t act now, there is a risk our hospitals may be overrun,” Farley said.

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Hospital cases have doubled recently, but they’re not close to capacity. Many new infections are being spread by people with mild or no symptoms.

There has also been a growing number of clusters in congregate facilities and jails.

“The next couple of months are going to be very difficult, but remember, we’ve come a long way and we’re close to finish line, we’re just weeks away from starting to offer a vaccine,” Farley said.

But the vaccine won’t be available to most people until the middle of next year. For now, the city’s motto is, safer at home.

“Stay away from others unless absolutely necessary,” Farley warned. “Don’t get together, in particular with friends or family.”

Farley says there’s been an increase in demand for testing and there’s again a backup with some labs, causing a delay in results.


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Stephanie Stahl