PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia is extending its COVID-19 restrictions through the middle of January as city officials are concerned with a spike in cases following the holidays. Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said Tuesday restrictions for the riskiest businesses, like indoor dining and casinos, will now last through Jan. 15.
The city’s Safer at Home restrictions were initially supposed to expire Jan. 1. Pennsylvania’s restrictions are expected to end Jan. 4.
“Based on the data and the spikes following the holidays, we believe it’s too risky to end all of our current restrictions on either Jan. 1 or Jan. 4. We need to get past that spike before it’s safe to back off,” Dr. Farley said.
The riskiest settings include:
- Indoor dining
- Indoor gatherings and events
- Indoor organized sports
“We can’t afford to have more case spikes like that Thanksgiving spike,” Dr. Farley said.
The health commissioner did say, though, that some lower risk businesses and activities will be allowed to resume on Jan. 4 if case rates do not rise more than expected. Those include:
- Outdoor sports
- In-person learning for high schools
- Outdoor catered events
The health commissioner says there will still be restrictions in how they operate.
The city is working together with the restaurant industry to improve indoor ventilation.
“Outdoor dining is continuing and we’re focusing now on improving ventilation indoors to reduce the risk of airborne spread indoors,” Farley said, adding that funding will be provided to restaurants to meet indoor ventilation guidelines.
Dr. Farley also warned about people getting together over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
“This is still a very high-risk period,” he said.
After the news of the extension of COVID restrictions, restaurant owners around Philadelphia reacted to the city’s decision.
A drive north on 18th Street through Center City shows the creativity and resilience of the city’s hospitality industry.
Many restaurant owners building elaborate outdoor structures on their own dime as a way to stay open through Jan. 4 during the city and state’s ban on indoor dining.
“It has been very challenging,” Nicole Maquis said.
Marquis is the owner of HipCityVeg, Charlie was a sinner and Bar Bombón.
She like so many other restaurateurs has poured thousands into modifications to make dining safe and comfortable.
“Heat lamps and seat warmers and blankets,” said Marquis. “The expenses are piling up on us at a time that is already so difficult.”
She says the new mid-January date is like moving the goal post after kicking the ball.
“You hear that word pivot so much because we’re really doing that every day. There is a new restriction, a new guidance we have to follow and it’s an ever-changing landscape,” said Marquis.
She is in constant communication with city leaders and is pushing to reopen indoor dining safely by using air purification technology approved by the city.
Marquis says she hopes a reopening plan can be created soon, otherwise, she fears closures continuing well past Jan. 15.
“Without a solution, restaurants could potentially be closed until the spring,” she said.
Meanwhile, the city reported 928 new cases and 89 additional deaths.
CBS3’s Alecia Reid and Greg Argos contributed to this report.
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