State Says: Philadelphia Region COVID-19 Cases Too High to Lift Restrictions Right Now

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is planning to release a COVID-19 exposure notification app next month to help with contact tracing. Image via

The Philadelphia region is reporting too many new cases of COVID-19 to be eligible right now for a phased-in lessening of restrictions, said Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine in an April 23 press briefing.

Hospitals in that region are still challenged because of a higher level of COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia and its suburbs.

“We are not there for the southeast,” she said, referring to southeast Pennsylvania. “The virus determines the timeline. We will get there but we don’t know when.”

On April 22, Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf announced a three-stage color-coded plan for a limited reopening of some regions of the state, assuming certain health criteria are met.

The entire state is currently under a red setting, the most restrictive stage.

State health officials are now looking at the state region by region to determine if some areas could move to a less restrictive yellow stage and eventually to a least restrictive green stage.

The administration is studying conditions in the north-central and northwest regions to see if those areas could move from red to yellow on May 8.

To qualify for a shift in restrictions, all counties in selected regions must show an average of less than 50 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 individuals over the course of 14 days.

Other criteria include adequate testing capability, hospital bed availability, adequate protective equipment and contact tracing capability.

Dr. Levine said the state will be expanding its testing to include anyone who is symptomatic.

Previous testing included only health care workers, individuals in long-term facilities, and symptomatic seniors over 65. Wide spread testing of people without symptoms is still not available.

The commonwealth will also use a Carnegie Mellon University tool that examines the balance between strengthening a region’s economy and minimizing public health risks in its criteria for lessening restrictions.

Dr. Levine said mitigation efforts like social distancing and sheltering at home is bending the rising curve in coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania, allowing for lesser restrictions in some regions.

“It has been going up but at a much lower rate allowing the health care system to withstand the number of cases,” she said.

Should a region once again see an increase in new cases, more severe restrictions could be put back in place.

The following is a comparison of the three different restriction settings:


  • Life Sustaining Businesses Only
  • Congregate Care and Prison Restrictions in Place
  • Schools and Most Child Care Facilities Closed
  • Stay-at-Home Orders in Place
  • Large Gatherings Prohibited
  • Restaurants and Bars Limited to Carry-Out and Delivery Only
  • Limited Travel for Life-Sustaining Purposes Encouraged


  • Telework Must Continue Where Feasible
  • Businesses with In-Person Operations Must Follow Business and Building Safety Orders
  • Child Care Open with Worker and Building Safety Orders
  • Congregate Care and Prison Restrictions in Place
  • Schools Remain Closed for In-Person Instruction
  • Stay-at-Home Restrictions Lifted in Favor of Aggressive Mitigation (watching for and testing symptomatic individuals, isolating individuals who test positive, contact tracing and quarantining of that individual’s contacts).
  • Large Gatherings of More than 25 Prohibited
  • In-Person Retail Allowed, but Curbside and Delivery Preferable
  • Indoor Recreation, Health and Wellness Facilities (such as gyms, spas), and all Entertainment (such as casinos, theaters) Remain Closed
  • Restaurants and Bars Limited to Carry-Out and Delivery Only
  • All businesses must follow CDC and DOH guidance for social distancing and cleaning


  • All Businesses Must Follow CDC and PA Department of Health Guidelines
  • Aggressive Mitigation Orders Lifted
  • All Individuals Must Follow CDC and PA Department of Health Guidelines
  • Monitor public health indicators, adjust orders and restrictions as necessary






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