With the warm weather having arrived here in Philadelphia, more and more people are itching to get out of the house. As a result, many Philadelphians are flocking to their local eateries among Philly’s vibrant food scene. With Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announcing the expansion of indoor dining capacity to be at 75 percent (up from 50 percent) as long as these businesses self-certify, it’s clear that the state is looking to open up its businesses to more people. The relaxed regulations come despite the fact that Philadelphia officials don’t feel as optimistic yet and are abstaining from these state-wide changes in an effort to keep COVID-19 rates low.
According to Thomas Farley of the Philadelphia Health Department, the city of Philadelphia will not see these changes to their indoor dining capacities affect COVID-19 numbers. Despite this, Usama Bilal — an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics and a member of the Urban Health Collaborative here at Drexel — still feels this is not enough. He takes these sentiments further by recommending a halt to indoor dining in its entirety.
Bilal has been tracking COVID-19 testing access from the start and has been reviewing studies from various health organizations throughout Europe and from the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He cites a CDC study in particular that has shown how impactful indoor dining is in correlation to an uptick of
The situation, like most pandemic-related problems, is a tricky one. On one hand, many want to reopen, stimulating the economy and supporting local businesses who may not be able to withstand another full closure. On the flip side, there are studies indicating the negative implications to reopening indoor dining, such as an increase in COVID-19 infection rates. As vaccine rollouts continue and vaccination eligibility widens, does that mean that we can resume life as was previously normal? That isn’t the case just yet.
With only 19.2 percent of Pennsylvania’s population being fully vaccinated (as per CDC data from April 7), it isn’t yet safe enough to support the increase of indoor dining throughout the state or even at all. However, that does not mean that outdoor eating options should halt, as that is a much safer environment for dining.
Plus, with sunny weather and higher temperatures on the horizon, outdoor dining will be a more popular option. In fact, many Philadelphia’s “streateries” are looking to do just that by revamping outdoor dining to make it more appealing for avid diners.
In the coming weeks, remember to take extra caution when going out in public to dine and refrain from non-necessary public interactions when possible to help in putting a quicker end to the pandemic.