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May 11, 2021

Philly aims to lift remaining COVID-19 restrictions on June 11, but first an incremental step toward that goal

On May 21, limits on indoor spaces like offices, stores and some other businesses with be removed; but face mask will remain mandatory

Government COVID-19
Philly Reopening June 11 Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia has set a June 11 date to lift the city's remaining COVID-19 restrictions, citing falling rates of coronavirus transmission and a growing population of vaccinated residents. The city's mask mandate will remain in effect.

After more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and social gatherings in Philadelphia, city officials have set a timeline to lift all remaining Safer-at-Home orders on June 11. Philadelphia's mask mandate will remain in effect until further notice.

In advance of those plans for a full reopening next month, the city will take an intermediate step to significantly ease COVID-19 restrictions. Effective May 21, those changes are as follows: 


• Still 50% maximum capacity, or 75% maximum capacity if they can meet enhanced ventilation standards
• Distance between chair backs will be reduced from 6 feet to 3 feet
• Requirement prohibiting alcohol sales without food purchase will end
• Mask requirement remains in effect for those not seated or eating


• Will be allowed to operate with no density limits, but mask requirements are still in effect

Retail stores, bowling alleys, museums, libraries, etc.

• Will be allowed to operate with no density limits, but mask requirements are still in effect

Gyms and indoor pools

• Will be permitted to operate at 75% of capacity limit or 15 people per 1,000 square feet
• Exercise class sizes limited to 25 people

Indoor gatherings and theaters

• Venues can operate at 50% of their capacities
• Must enforce a minimum of 3 feet of distance among people from different groups

Outdoor gatherings and theaters

• Venues with fixed seating, will be allowed to operate at 50% of occupancy limits
• Venues without seating can have a maximum of 33 people per 1,000 square feet
• Must enforce a minimum of 3 feet of distance among people from different groups

Indoor catered events

• Events can to take place at 25% of venues' occupancy limits
• Food must be served at tables only
• A maximum of 250 people, including staff, will be allowed if there will be no music, dancing, or alcohol
• A maximum of 150 persons, including staff, will be allowed if there will be music, dancing, or alcohol

Outdoor catered events

• Can take place at 50% of sites' occupancy limits, with no cap on number of persons attending

Outdoor pools

• Can operate with no density limits or maximum capacity


• Can operate 50% maximum capacity, or 75% maximum capacity if they can meet enhanced ventilation standards
• Must enforce a minimum of 3 feet of distance among people from different groups
• Alcohol can be sold to patrons at gaming machines
• Mask requirements are still in effect

Philadelphia's reopening plan comes as COVID-19 transmission continues to fall in the city and vaccination rates gradually climb. The health department, which has taken an especially cautious approach throughout the pandemic, indicated Tuesday that officials are comfortable with moving to the next stage of recovery soon.

The announcement follows Pennsylvania's decision last week to lift its remaining statewide mitigation orders on Memorial Day. Pennsylvania's mask mandate will remain in effect until 70% of the state population has been vaccinated. Those who already are vaccinated no longer need to wear masks when outdoors unless they are in a crowd, based on recent revisions made by the CDC.

Philadelphia last eased restrictions on restaurants and indoor gatherings, including catered events such as weddings on May 7.

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said the city has set a later date than the rest of Pennsylvania to make additional progress toward a safe reopening. 

"It gives us more time for case rates to fall and vaccinations to rise. It's just a little extra margin for safety," Farley said. 

The health commissioner could not provide a date for when the city's mask mandate might be lifted, but stopped short of calling mask requirements indefinite. 

"I want to watch what's happening with the epidemic here, around the country, what's happening to our vaccination rates," Farley said. "Right now, the rates are falling quickly. I'm hopeful that the vaccine is the reason for that, but I can't be sure. I think if we have more evidence that the vaccine is the reason for that, then we can feel comfortable we don't need to wear masks. But if I think this is just sort of the seasonal behavior of the virus, then I want people to keep their masks on." 

For the week ending May 8, Philadelphia averaged 241 new COVID-19 cases per day, with a test positivity rate of 3.2%, based on currently available data. During the previous week ending May 1, the city averaged 404 cases per day and had a test positvity rate of 5.1%. 

As the rest of nation looks to emerge from the pandemic, an Axios/Ipsos poll released Tuesday found that Americans are growing increasingly more comfortable with going out again and resuming more normal routines. Among a nationally representative sample of 1,078 US adults, 59% said they had visited family and friends in the last week. While many continue to follow restrictions and wear masks as advised – including those who are vaccinated – these numbers also are falling as mitigation measures get lifted and eased.

At a COVID-19 Congressional briefing on Tuesday, infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told lawmakers that the vaccines have been even more effective in real life than in clinical trials.

Health experts also have advised that while continuing safe practices remains important to protect vulnerable groups while vaccination rates increase, those who are fully vaccinated should feel protected and more safe to resume additional activities.

President Joe Biden announced earlier this month that the U.S. aims to have 70% of the population vaccinated by July 4. As of May 11, more than 115 million Americans, or 34.8% of the population, has been fully vaccinated.

In Philadelphia, 579,000 people were fully vaccinated as of Monday, accounting for about 39% of residents 18 and older, according to CDC data. Approximately 49% of those 18 and older have had one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Among city residents 65 and older, 61% are fully vaccinated and an estimated 71% have had one or more doses. 

Farley said Tuesday the virus remains unpredictable and setbacks could present themselves again, but he's optimistic about the path ahead for Philadelphia and the rest of the country. 

"I am always hesitant to predict the future. I can't guarantee that this is the end of the epidemic," Farley said. "It may come back in the fall. It may come back in the summer. It could come back in the winter. But I do think we've made enormous progress. I'm really optimistic about where we're headed from here. If people just do a few simple steps from here, that will help us get across the finish line."