Philadelphia COVID: New restrictions going into effect tonight; lawsuit filed against mayor

Philadelphia COVID-19 live updates, news and information
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A lawsuit has been filed against the City of Philadelphia and its mayor ahead of new COVID-19 restrictions that are set to go into effect at 5 p.m. Friday.

Brian Fritz is an attorney representing "Philadelphia Restaurant Owners Group Against Lockdowns," and is seeking an emergency injunction to prohibit the shutdown of indoor dining Friday.



"We have no reports and no studies of somehow the restaurants being linked to any infections. How is dining in a restaurant in Philadelphia more dangerous than going to a Lowe's, Walmart, Wawa or the city's Christmas village?" says Fritz.

Business owners argue that they should be able to operate with the safety measures put in place in July when many restrictions from the spring lifted.

The lawsuit claims the city's "Safer at Home" restrictions on indoor dining in unconstitutional. (Read the lawsuit HERE.)

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Leyna Bradley, a 21-year-old server at Trademans Bar & Restaurant, is trying to make ends meet as she works to graduate from college next May. She and others working in the industry are facing more financial uncertainty as the new restrictions go into effect.

"The debt's gonna pile up a little bit and it's definitely gonna be stressful not knowing where your next source of income's gonna come from," said Bradley.

"It's very stressful. I mean we have lives, some of us have kids, some of us are still in school, so it's just really unfortunate," said bartender Amanda Negri.

Jen Camela, general manager of Forsythia in the 200 block of Chestnut Street, says a lot of restaurants are being forced to make difficult decisions about their employees.

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A day after officials announced the new restrictions in Philadelphia due to the soaring coronavirus cases, restaurant owners aren't mincing words.



"The folks that we've been lucky enough to come back, we have to send them back home again so that is, I think the hardest part," said Camela.

Gyms are also taking a huge hit when the city's new restrictions go into effect.

Stephen Kindler is the president and CEO of a group of franchises and says closing gyms doesn't make sense, adding that there is no proof of high transmission.

"I have four franchises within a mile of the NoveCare Complex -- the fact the Eagles can work out and citizens of the city can't, that's a tough pill to swallow," said Kindler.

Dr. Thomas Farley, the city's top health official, defended the city's decision, saying now is the riskiest time for the transmission of the virus.

"What was now safe is now dangerous with the change in the weather. Many businesses feel they put safety measures in place, sure they have, and I'm sure there's no spread there and that's true in many places. Remember, there are more people than ever with the virus," said Farley.

The new restrictions take effect at 5 p.m. on Friday and extend at least through the end of the year.

City officials said dramatic action is needed to respond to an exponential growth in cases and hospitalizations.

On Thursday, health officials announced 765 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Philadelphia. That brings the number of confirmed cases to 57,237.

The number of residents who have died from the virus in Philadelphia is 1,945.

The following restrictions will take effect for Philadelphia on Friday, November 20 at 5 p.m. and will last through January 1, 2021:

RESTAURANTS

*Indoor dining prohibited

*Outdoor dining allowed, but require that parties be household members only

*Maximum table size of four seats

*Takeout and delivery service may continue

INDOOR GATHERINGS

*Prohibited indoors at any size, at any location

*Includes both public and private events

*For example: Indoor parties, group meals, football watching groups, visiting between households, weddings, funerals, baby showers

OUTDOOR GATHERINGS

*Gatherings limited at 10% occupancy or 10 persons per 1,000 square feet

*Cap for large spaces of no more than 2,000 people

*No fans at football games

*Masks must be worn at all times

*No food or beverages served at outdoor gatherings to ensure people can wear masks
RETAIL STORES

*Allow with reduced density limit of five people per 1,000 square feet

*Enforcement of mask use by customers and employees

OFFICES

*Employees must work from home unless not possible

SPORTS (Youth, school and community)

*Prohibited

BUSINESS AND ACTIVITY CLOSURES

*Theaters, including movie theaters, and other performance spaces
*Bowling alleys, arcades, and game spaces

*Museums.

*Libraries. (Those serving as Access Centers may continue to operate. Curbside dropoff and pickup services for patrons are allowed)

*Casinos

*Recreational activities and sports for youth, community groups, and schools

*Gyms and indoor exercise classes. (Exercise groups and classes may continue outdoors)

*Senior day services (senior centers and adult day care centers) remain closed

BUSINESS AND ACTIVITY CHANGES

*Barbershops, beauty salons, and similar personal services may continue to operate, but all staff and customers must wear masks at all times. These businesses cannot work on the face or otherwise perform services that require that masks be removed

*Zoos may operate only their outdoor areas

*Parks, trails, playgrounds, and athletic fields will remain open for individual use only. (No group sports)

SCHOOLS

*Colleges & universities: online classes only (College sports may continue if their plan is specifically approved by the Department of Public Health and no spectators are present)

*High schools: online classes only

*Elementary and middle schools: in-person permitted, following Philadelphia Dept. of Public Health safety guidance

*Child care, early childhood education and access centers: in-person permitted, following Philadelphia Dept. of Public Health safety guidance

RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS

*No more than five percent occupancy or five per thousand square feet

*Encouraged to hold services online

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Several essential businesses and institutions will be able to remain open through the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions in Philadelphia.



ALLOWED TO CONTINUE UNDER CURRENT HEALTH DEPT. GUIDANCE
*Grocery stores and farmers markets
*Pharmacies

*Banks

*Construction

*Landscaping

*Home-based construction, renovation, repair, and maintenance

*Manufacturing and warehousing

*Real estate operations and transactions

*Health care services

*Home-based support services, such as home health services

*Taxis and ride share services

*Transit

*Outdoor mobile food carts and trucks

*Hotels

*Drive-in events in which people remain in their vehicles

*Child day care and early learning centers

*Elementary and middle schools

*Access Centers for children in elementary and middle school

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It was supposed to be the time businesses could make up for lost revenue, but the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions in Philadelphia have derailed those plans.



It was supposed to be the time businesses could make up for lost revenue, but the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions in Philadelphia have derailed those plans.

"What this impact will mean is this year we'll lose millions of visitors, billions of economic impact and tens of thousands of jobs," said Jeff Guaracino of Visit Philadelphia.

Under the restrictions, indoor dining is banned, museums are closed, and large gatherings like parades - that draw tourists to hotels and nightlife - are banned.

One exception is the Christmas Village, but the usual festivities at Dilworth Park will look different.

Guaracino says they are focusing on what is open.

"Our concern is supporting the retail, small business, Black and brown businesses, restaurants," he said. "So they can survive it."

Ben Fileccia of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association says the indoor dining ban is crippling business.

"We're just going to see more and more people go out of business, more employees laid off," he said. "The restaurant industry is the second-largest employer in the state of Pennsylvania."

Fileccia said the lion's share of the state's restaurants are in Philadelphia and they need funding fast.

To date, the City of Philadelphia has received $616 million combined between grants and federal money in COVID relief. The city is also urging the state to allocate some of the remaining $1 billion of CARES money the state received from the federal government.

"Based on our population, we asking that Philadelphia receive a direct allocation of $120 million from Pennsylvania's remaining share of CRF funds," city spokesperson Mike Dunn told Action News.

Meanwhile, Guaracino said he is also looking ahead to 2021.

"Tourism will come back," he said. "We will eventually get there."

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