City Announces Further Restrictions on Public Gathering

For Immediate Release: March 12, 2020
Contact: press@phila.gov

PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia today announced new restrictions on public gatherings to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Effective immediately, gatherings of 1,000 or more people are prohibited for the next 30 days. The City strongly recommends that events with an expected attendance between 250 and 1,000 people be cancelled, including sporting events and faith-based services.

“It is crucial at this time that everyone in Philadelphia do their part to reduce the spread of this virus,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. “While they may seem inconvenient, these steps are vitally important to protect residents and visitors in our city.”

For events with expected attendance below 250, the Health Department is recommending that organizers use mitigation steps, most importantly by excluding people with fever and recent onset of cough, and by encouraging social distancing within the event.

The Health Department is monitoring the situation around the clock and will be constantly evaluating the latest guidance. The City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which was activated on Wednesday, March 12, will continue to operate. At the same time, multiple City departments have been developing contingency plans to ensure that City services continue to be offered despite these circumstances.

“Those plans could need to be adjusted as we go,” said Managing Director Brian Abernathy. “This will be an evolving situation in every respect. We urge residents to be patient.”

Residents are reminded that non-emergency questions should go to 311. Residents can get COVID-19 updates sent to their phones. Text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive free text alerts with information and updates from the Health Department. Information is also being updated daily on the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s webpage www.phila.gov/covid-19.

Guidance for public gatherings:

  • Public events with an expected attendance of 1,000 or more are prohibited effective immediately.
  • The Department of Public Health strongly recommends not holding gatherings of more than 250 attendees, with a gathering defined by the number of persons in a single room or space.  In view of the risk, those planning non-essential gatherings may choose on their own to discontinue gatherings of smaller sizes.  If groups choose to hold large gatherings, they should carefully adhere to the recommendations below.
  • People who are sick with fever and recent onset of cough should NOT attend, and should instead stay away from other people.
  • Discourage persons with chronic illnesses (such as heart disease, diabetes, or kidney disease) and persons above the age of 60 from attending because of the risk to their own health.
  • Try to offer alternative distant viewing and participation options, such as by video or audio recording or live streaming, and reduce in-person participation by encouraging use of these options.
  • Arrange to increase the physical distance between attendees to three feet or more, such as filling only alternate seats.
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer to attendees, and ask all attendees to wash hands or clean them with alcohol-based hand sanitizer before the meeting or event.
  • Instruct attendees to refrain from shaking or holding hands or otherwise touching each other at the gathering.
  • Do not offer or allow attendees to share cups, bowls, utensils, food or drink, for example at faith gatherings.
  • Do not offer food and drink, because it increases the likelihood that people will come in proximity and share these.
  • Post signs explaining these procedures at entryways and announce them during the event.

Guidance for residents on ways to prevent the spread of the disease remains the same:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap is not available.
  • Do not touch your face with unclean hands.
  • Stay at least six feet away from people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, or into your elbow if a tissue is not available.
  • Stay home and away from others if you are sick.
  • Talk with your primary health care provider and pharmacist to see if you can have a 30-day supply of prescription medications for yourself and other household members.
  • Maintain a supply of over-the-counter medications, such as fever-reducing medications like ibuprofen or Tylenol, or other medications that household members use regularly.
  • Store extra water or non-perishable food at home, so you’ll have some if you can’t go grocery shopping.
  • Keep a supply of essential household items, like cleaning products, detergent, pet care items, and diapers, if you have young children.
  • Talk to your employer to find out about working remotely and about sick leave.
  • Check with your child’s school or daycare to find out plans for early dismissals and how urgent information will be communicated.
  • Make arrangements for back-up childcare in the event that your child is sick or school is closed.
  • If you have elderly parents or relatives, consider how you will care for them if they get sick. If they rely on a caregiver, make back-up plans in case the caregiver becomes sick and is unable to work.

Notes to media: Due to the volume of press requests related to COVID-19, members of the media are asked to send all questions and requests on this topic to press@phila.gov

Starting tomorrow, March 13, City officials will update the press daily at 1:00 p.m. These briefings will take place at the Emergency Operations Center, located at the Fire Administration Building, 240 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123, until further notice.
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