On Sept. 8, Philadelphia restaurants were permitted to open for indoor dining at 25 percent capacity after a six month hiatus.
That same day, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that indoor dining could be increased to 50 percent capacity statewide starting Sep. 21, CBS reported.
However, Philadelphia County is not included.
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley and the Philadelphia Health Department made the decision not to increase the capacity until October at the earliest, NBC 10 reported.
Doubling this seating capacity in such a short span of time could lead to an influx of COVID-19 cases, and Philadelphia is making the responsible decision by keeping indoor dining at 25 percent.
People diagnosed with COVID-19 were twice as likely to have dined at a restaurant in the past 14 days, according to a Sept. 12 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After months of careful preparation before moving through the red, yellow and green phases, it seems Wolf is faltering under the economic pressure to re-open prematurely.
The restaurant industry has been hurt more than any other sector in the American economy and will be the slowest to recover, the Morning Call reported.
Since March, 332,000 restaurant industry jobs have been lost in Pennsylvania, and 91 percent of Pennsylvania restaurant operators have had to lay off or furlough employees, the Morning Call further reported.
Despite this economic slump, doubling indoor dining capacity raises a red flag for the suburbs outside of Philadelphia County, as patrons will take off their masks as soon as they are seated.
About a month ago, my family and I dined outside at a restaurant in Philadelphia. Not only were random pedestrians from the street weaving between tables, but the tables weren’t six feet apart, and everyone was on top of each other.
If outdoor dining was not practical in the city, increasing the capacity of indoor dining from 25 to 50 percent would be especially unsafe.
Because symptoms for COVID-19 can take up to two weeks to appear, we will not know whether indoor dining caused a spike in cases until it is too late.
Philadelphia is prioritizing the health of its citizens by remaining at 25 percent, and they should be commended for not gambling with people’s lives.
Kierstin Knellinger, a senior public health major, said she will still not be dining indoors at restaurants for the foreseeable future.
“I think Philadelphia made the right call by not increasing indoor dining to 50 percent yet, and they are reducing the risk the best they can,” Knellinger said.
With Center City Restaurant Week running from Sep. 13 to Sep. 25, Philadelphia likely took a financial hit by delaying the expansion of indoor dining capacity, but offering outdoor dining and takeout are safer alternatives.
Hayley Barvitskie, a junior public relations major, is relieved Philadelphia is not expanding indoor dining as prematurely as other parts of the state.
“Based on the increase in daily cases, I’m glad Philadelphia didn’t expand indoor dining,” Barvitskie said. “Especially with Restaurant Week, it’s not smart to expand right now. As for the rest of Pennsylvania, I think they should wait longer, but I don’t think they would have to wait as long as the city of Philadelphia.”
Mira Sadeghi, a senior public health major, thinks the rest of Pennsylvania should follow Philadelphia’s lead and limit indoor dining capacity to 25 percent.
“From a public health perspective, I think the rest of the state should hold off as well, but I do understand the need to keep business flowing,” Sadeghi said.
Our city is reopening safely and efficiently, and will hopefully continue as fall and winter approaches and it becomes nearly impossible to delay indoor dining any longer.
Philadelphia’s 25 percent capacity limit for restaurants will help the city prepare for these upcoming months.