Many of you have likely been wondering when we will be able to go back to school, hang out with friends, and return to our normal lives. These are all valid questions that for a while did not have any answers. However, recently we have gained more insight on these issues. On April 17, Governor Tom Wolf outlined a three phase plan to reopen Pennsylvania. These phases were assigned the colors of red, yellow, and green.
The red phase is the most restrictive of the three and includes measures such as strict social-distancing, the stay at home order, and the prohibition of gatherings of more than ten people. In this phase, non-essential businesses and a number of facilities such as schools, recreation centers, and theaters remain closed. Bars and restaurants are limited to takeout and delivery only. In order to transition into the yellow phase, an individual county would have to have fewer than fifty new confirmed cases per 100,000 residents for a consistent length of two weeks.
On May 8th, twenty four counties entered the yellow phase. In order for Philadelphia to transition to the yellow phase, with its population of 1.58 million people, it would need to have fewer than 800 new cases per day. On June 5th, despite not reaching the required standards, Philadelphia became one of the last counties to enter the yellow phase, albeit, a modified version due to its relatively high infection rates that would be closely monitored for increased risk. In the yellow phase, gatherings have been increased to twenty five people, restaurants can open for outdoor dining, as well as businesses and some child care. However, facilities such as indoor recreation, schools, and entertainment facilities remain closed. To make the transition to the green phase, a county would have to remain at low risk for a period of fourteen days. During this time, health professionals would closely monitor the area for anything that could increase the risk such as significant outbreaks.
Philadelphia officially entered the green phase on June 26, however, this was also a modified version. In this phase, some businesses like barbers and salons were allowed to reopen, however, indoor dining and the use of gyms is still not permitted. Philadelphia was expected to enter the unmodified version of the green phase on July 3rd, however, this has been pushed back to August 1 at the earliest. This decision was made because of the high infection rates as well as Philadelphia’s greater risk due to the high density of people living in one area. As daily counts of Covid-19 cases have risen in the past few days, the decision to go “green” will be evaluated each week. The city wants to have less than eighty new cases per day or a less than four percent positive rate out of the 2,000 tests. In recent days, we have been rising to around six percent, so it seems unlikely that Philadelphia will move forward with this plan until the numbers start dropping again.
Data has shown that the rise in cases have been mostly as a result of younger people who attend social gatherings and travel. While conditions will not return to the way they were before the pandemic started for a long time, we can slowly progress to a new state of normalcy if everyone takes the necessary precautions and continues to social distance.