Philadelphia to keep some virus restrictions as cases rise

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Philadelphia is bringing a halt to its plans to allow indoor dining, bars, gyms and fitness centers to reopen, with officials saying Tuesday that the city is seeing rising case COVID-19 counts and could be affected by a growing epidemic elsewhere in the country.

The city's health commissioner, Dr. Tom Farley, broke the bad news during a news conference ahead of its Friday target to lift more restrictions, noting the city is seeing more than 100 new cases per day, instead of a count below 80 that it had aimed for.

Farley pointed out that he had warned last week that if the city didn’t meet its targets for reductions in new infections that it would not lift some restrictions.

“We want to get the economy going as well, but at the same time we are very concerned about the epidemic and we are noticing quite a bit what’s going on around the country,” Farley said during an online news conference.

Farley is also asking travelers to Philadelphia from places with rising case counts to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The city’s health department has contract tracers in touch with some of the people testing positive and a number of them are reporting taking trips to the shore, where they said they were living together at beach houses or socializing in bars and restaurants, Farley said.

He does not believe the city’s large demonstrations over racial justice and police brutality, spurred by the death of George Floyd, had a big impact on the case counts, but said he’ll never know for sure.

Philadelphia, nevertheless, is allowing some places of business to reopen, including indoor shopping malls, casinos, museums and libraries. Outdoor dining can continue and the city has a mandatory mask order for both indoor and outdoor spaces for those in contact with someone they don’t live with.

Across the state, Allegheny County, where officials over the weekend ordered a halt to drinking alcohol in bars and restaurants due to what they call an “alarming” spike in COVID-19 cases, recorded another single-day record high of new cases reported Tuesday.

For the first time, the county, which includes Pittsburgh and is Pennsylvania's second-most populous with 1.2 million residents, broke triple digits in one day, saying it had confirmed another 109 cases.

Hospitalizations grew by seven, the county said. Hospitalizations in Philadelphia are not seeing a corresponding increase, but Farley said that figure is a lagging indicator.

Statewide, Pennsylvania's Health Department on Tuesday reported another 618 coronavirus cases, sending the total above 86,600, and another 35 deaths, for a total of 6,649.

One-third of the approximately 3,900 new positive cases over the past seven days were in Philadelphia and Allegheny County, with Lancaster and Dauphin counties leading the state in the number of new cases per 100,000 residents over that period.

Statewide, new case counts grew by almost a quarter and the percentage of positive tests also ticked up in the last seven days, compared with the previous seven-day period, according to state data.

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