Philadelphia health commissioner apprehensive of ‘green’ phase

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley sounded a little doubtful about the city’s move to the “green” reopening phase, as new COVID-19 cases are not falling as quickly as expected.

For weeks, Farley has started his coronavirus briefings with good news to report. So, it was a bit ominous when he led Tuesday’s briefing with: “There is mixed news about the epidemic today.”

Among causes for concern, Farley said the city’s downward trend in new cases has slowed a bit.

“Case counts have been falling, but in the last week, we’re averaging about 100 cases a day. That’s a little less per day than the week before that, but it’s not much less, so I’m concerned we may be hitting a plateau here rather than continuing to fall,” he said.

Last week, about 3% of tests came back positive. Now, it’s up to 5%. This is against the backdrop of a surge in new cases in 26 states and several spots around the region, which he said is likely to impact Philadelphia.

The ideal target for entering the “green” phase is 4%.

“We may have to postpone that and we may have to take steps back depending on how the epidemic evolves. That’s true now, and that could be true at any point in the future,” Farley said. “The risk right now is rising, so we all need to take this seriously.”

Precautions include wearing masks, hand-washing, and practicing social distancing. Farley said the city won’t hesitate to backtrack its reopening schedule if the numbers warrant it, but for now, it’s proceeding with plans to allow hair salons, private pools and a few other small indoor activities to resume on Friday.

While counties in southeastern Pennsylvania will start “green” protocols on Friday, Philadelphia will follow a more cautious approach, with a few more restrictions than other “green” counties through July 3.

“In view of the rising case rates around the country, it’s important that we be very careful as we reopen any activity,” Farley advised. “Businesses and people who organize activities need to take our safe reopening guidance seriously, and individuals need to take our mask, distancing, hand-washing message seriously.”