Philadelphia eases final COVID-19 restrictions, small businesses are cautious

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The city of Philadelphia is back to normal, for the most part. The indoor and outdoor mask mandate is a thing of the past, and the 11 p.m. last call is now to 2 a.m.

"It's pretty exciting. Me and all my friends are all vaccinated, so we're okay with doing it," said Ali Malick of South Philadelphia. "I just hope people get vaccinated and stay safe."

The city's final two COVID-19 restrictions were wiped away Friday at midnight.

Mayor Jim Kenney credits more than two-thirds of adults vaccinated.

"While we're all happy this is moving forward, the city strategy was very jerky in the process," said Cory Elmi, general manager of Milk Boy. "They literally got this news 48 hours ago, and I can not only speak for myself, but a lot of restaurants their staff is lean. More hours means we're going to be working even more, and a lot of us are working a lot as is."

Following CDC guidance, the city still requires masks to be worn on public transportation and in health care facilities.

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Each individual business can also choose to require customers and staff to wear masks. The South Philly Food Co-op requires all customers and staff to wear masks while inside.
"I still think we're not quite out of the woods yet," said front-end manager Cameron Adamez. "Instead of asking, 'Oh, are you vaccinated? Or are you not?' It's just easier to wear a mask when you come in. Then you can take it off when they leave."

But restaurant advocates say not all places will be staying open until 2 a.m. as there's a staffing shortage roiling the food industry.

"It's really hard to find labor. So they don't want to push their existing employees harder than they have already, so a lot of them are going to continue to close at midnight," said Ben Fileccia, director of operations and strategy for the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Pennsylvania will lift its mask mandate on June 28 or once 70% of adults are vaccinated, whichever comes sooner.

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The city of Philadelphia is back to normal, for the most part. The indoor and outdoor mask mandate is a thing of the past.

At O'Neals Pub on South 3rd Street, Spoonie O'Neill had counted every day.

"452 days since we've been in some type of lockdowns," said O'Neal. "Do you feel like you just got out of prison? I do, I really, really, really do."

O'Neal is very mindful that many Philadelphia businesses did not survive the pandemic lockdowns.

"If it wasn't for our employees, if it wasn't for our regulars, we would not be in business," he added.

Not knowing who or how many would lose their lives to the dreaded virus, many were grateful that they were among those who got through it.

"Just seeing everybody smile, seeing everybody laugh, that's what makes me happy," said Dan Paschos of Broomall.

Dan Bertolini of Old City, "I just wanna say Philadelphia is back, and we're riding this Sixers wave into the summer."

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