"We're not going to get past the epidemic by Thanksgiving, or Hanukkah or Christmas. Family gatherings right now are simply very dangerous," Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. "These are not normal times."
Farley said the number of new coronavirus infections is growing so quickly that Philadelphia is losing the ability to adequately trace the contacts of everybody who is testing positive and may have to impose restrictions on activity.
Farley said contact tracers are unable to reach out to every new person testing positive. As a result, city officials may resort to managing some cases through guidance or asking people who tested positive to reach out to some of the people with whom they may have had contact while contagious.
The city is also considering imposing some restrictions, Farley said.
"(COVID-19) is spreading among relatives and friends, and it's spreading and social gatherings. This is, for example, when relatives are visiting each other...or taking care of a person who has a fever, or sleepovers amongst teenagers, or pizza parties after soccer practice or carpool or friends getting together to watch football games on television, or weddings and bridal showers. These social gatherings and celebration gatherings are very dangerous because people get very close, and because they tend not to wear masks because they want to look good for the pictures," Farley said.
He said officials anticipate increases of the infection in Philadelphia.
"Which means we're entering a difficult and dangerous period of the epidemic," he said.
On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said it had confirmed more than 2,750 additional positive cases, the largest daily increase to date.
The state has a seven-day average of nearly 1,940 new confirmed cases per day over the past week, up from about 920 per day over the last seven days of September. That is higher than it was during the spring spike, when testing was far lower, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Still, coronavirus-related hospitalizations, at about 210 as of Tuesday morning, are far below what they were during the spring spike in cases when hospitalizations in the city exceeded 1,000, Farley said.
The seven-day average of hospitalizations in Pennsylvania is about 960, up from about 460 at the beginning of October, according to state data. The seven-day average of deaths is about 25, up from just below 12 at the beginning of October, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Gov. Tom Wolf, speaking at a separate news conference Tuesday, said that, despite the upsurge in cases, hospitalization rates are still well below April's spike.
"The key to the future and handling this resurgence is really to make sure our hospitals and health care systems don't get overwhelmed," Wolf said. "And the key to that is stuff like each individual Pennsylvanian practicing smart anti-COVID practices, like wearing masks, like practicing social distancing, those kinds of things."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.