Philadelphia on track for mid-June lifting of COVID-19 restrictions

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — On the day the Philadelphia Health Department held the final edition of its 15-month regular briefings on COVID-19, the city's acting health commissioner said everything is on track to lift all COVID-19 restrictions on June 11.

The final decision on exactly when to lift restrictions won't be made until that week, but the city remains optimistic as the city's COVID-19 numbers appear to be on a steady downward trend.

New COVID-19 cases are averaging 141 every day, a dramatically lower number compared to early spring.

The percentage of vaccinated adults is slowly but steadily rising. 44% of adult Philadelphians are fully vaccinated, and the nearly 300 vaccine providers are collectively giving 60,000 new shots a week.

"We’re not out of the woods yet. This pandemic is still with us, but we are seeing clear improvement over the last few months," said Acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole.

"I can’t stress enough what a miracle it is that we have safe and effective vaccines that can end this pandemic for good."

She said the outlook for getting teenagers vaccinated got a boost when the FDA announced the Pfizer vaccine can now be stored in a regular refrigerator.

"That is a game changer," said Dr. Bettigole.

She said that means primary care providers, including pediatricians, can give shots in their offices.

Dr. Bettigole reflected on lessons learned in the past 15 months.

She said there are racial disparities in vaccine rates among people who are 20 to 44 years old, and the city is targeting outreach to them. She said using data to make sure the city is reaching everyone is one of the lessons learned from the pandemic.

"There are things we didn’t anticipate and didn’t see early on without the ability to break data down," Dr. Bettigole admitted.

"The learning from this is a really critical piece of where we go next because, I hate to say this, but this might not be our last pandemic. And we have to be ready."