Drexel assistant professor on COVID spread: 'I'm recommending stopping indoor dining altogether'

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley didn't mince words when he discussed the state of the coronavirus in Philadelphia Wednesday.

"This is a very dangerous period. We have not yet vaccinated enough people," warned Farley.

He is reminding residents to keep social distancing and stay masked up.

"We're at more than 400 cases per day. We know that death tends to lag behind that so I would expect we're going to have increased deaths from COVID," said Farley.

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There could be possible relief for long haulers, the people who still have COVID symptoms months after recovering from the virus.

Dr. Usama Bilal, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel University, wants officials to shut down all indoor dining right away.

"I'm recommending stopping indoor dining altogether. The evidence is very, very clear," said Dr. Bilal.

He says he's compiled stats from 20 studies conducted both here and in Europe. But he specifically cited a CDC study that focused on restaurant dining published on March 5 that claims, "Allowing on-premises restaurant dining was associated with an increase in daily COVID-19 case growth rates 41-100 days after implementation and an increase in daily death growth rates 61-100 days after implementation."

"We have seen it over and over. Cities reopen indoor dining, wait for a few weeks and cases start going up again," said Bilal.

Action News also asked Bilal if other factors could contribute to the rise in cases. He says the stats don't show that.

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Health officials said not enough vaccine is out there yet to protect people to really make a huge difference as positive cases continue to rise in the city.

"The biggest spike is in younger people. So that tends to be the most economically active people, the people who usually go out more," said Bilal.

Philadelphia restaurant owners say another closure simply can't happen.

"To come out and say specifically that it's inside dining is, in my opinion, ridiculous. To pull the plug - it would crush us. It's ludicrous," said Spoonie O'Neal of O'Neals Pub on South 3rd Street. "You can also look at the other states that have continued to progress and the numbers are better than us and they're doing more and allowing more."

A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health said there is no comment on how they plan to proceed moving forward at the moment.
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