City of Philadelphia expected to announce tiered system, easing of COVID-19 restrictions

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) – On Wednesday, the City of Philadelphia is expected to announce a revision of its COVID-19 policies as case counts drop.

A COVID-19 vaccine mandate went into effect last month, requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining.

Action News has learned future restrictions, specifically for indoor dining, will be based on a tiered system.

Four levels will determine guidance.

They are “All Clear,” which means no masks and essentially back to normal.

Then there is “Masks Only”, which means face coverings, but no testing or proof of vaccination required.

The next tier is “Caution” where restaurants would require a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of seating.

“Extreme Caution” would mean the city goes back to the vaccine mandate for all dining establishments.

There will be four criteria for each tier: average daily case counts, hospitalizations, positivity rates and trending direction over the past 10 days.

“The tiered system is about time,” said Ben Fileccia with the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association. “From the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve been asking for some type of metrics … now we can actually look at the data, we can look at hospitalizations, we can look at positivity rates, and see for ourselves if we ‘ re trending in the right direction for these mandates to be lifted. “

After meeting last week with the city’s Department of Public Health, Ed Grose, president of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, expects good news.

“What they told us is they were going to start a process of rolling back the mandates based on the number of cases, and there’s a list of four criteria in each rollback. We’re very pleased (health commissioner) Dr. Bettigole and her team take the time to listen to us, “said Grose.

SEE ALSO: Philadelphia firefighters union sues city over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

When asked for comment, a city spokesperson said, “We are actively discussing how and when to update COVID-19 policies as case counts and other factors improve, but those decisions are not yet final.”

CDC data shows as of February 13, Philadelphia is averaging about 357 new COVID-19 cases per day, down 88% from when the vaccine mandate went into effect on January 3.

“I feel like the only choice is to really just do it, see what happens,” said Eliza Ryan of Fairmount. “You can always inflict it again.”

Restaurant owner Shane Dodd of the Fairview in Fairmount said he is excited about the possibility of getting one step closer to normal.

“People are cautious and anything that lifts those restrictions and makes people feel a little more confident going out is obviously beneficial for business,” said Dodd.

But some residents say relaxing protocols is a step in the wrong direction.

“I generally would feel pretty uncomfortable going out, honestly,” said Maddie Shea of ​​Fairmount.

Spoonie O’Neal of O’Neals Irish Pub on South 3rd Street is hoping there will be clear guidance so establishments will not have to make critical decisions.

“Going back to asking people to wear a mask all the time until they sit down is going to become a problem again. It has been a problem because they seem to not want to do that more than show the vaccination cards,” said O ‘ Neal.

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