New campaign wants people to think post-COVID

Mayor Jim Kenney speaks Wednesday, March 24, about an initiative to encourage people to prepare to return to the city.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

In a sign of increasing optimism about the course of the coronavirus pandemic, Philadelphia business leaders and city officials launched a campaign Wednesday encouraging people to prepare to return to Center City.

Dubbed “Ready. Set. Philly!,” the initiative is a partnership between city government, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and other organizations.

The collaboration is aimed at helping guide the rejuvenation of the downtown by providing information to employers looking to reopen their offices and promoting events to tourists and residents.

“If workers and visitors don’t return to work and play, it will change the culture and economics of Philadelphia,” Mayor Jim Kenney said Wednesday at a news conference announcing the partnership.

“Over the past few weeks, things have started to feel very different,” he added. “We’ve dramatically ramped up our vaccination program.”

Angela Val, the campaign’s executive director, said “Ready. Set. Philly!” will roll out an action plan over the next couple of months. The collaboration is funded by corporate donations and is expected to remain active through the end of the year.

Its short-term goal is to jump-start the city’s economy, and organizers hope the effort will play a role in shaping a post-pandemic Philadelphia.

“We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and we need to be ready for it when it happens,” said Michael Rashid, the city’s commerce director.

Officials revealed the effort a day after Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the city would not be following a state plan to relax restrictions on indoor dining, catered events and business capacity limits early next month.

“We have to do everything in moderation,” Kenney said. “We’ve been doing that from the beginning of the pandemic. Listening to the science, following the science, slowly reopening, pulling back when we need to pull back.”

People may be hesitant to go out to a restaurant or return to their desks after more than a year of being told to stay home to stay safe.

Kenney said he believes increasing rates of vaccination and a change in the mood of the country should help make people feel more comfortable.

Farley on Tuesday told reporters that the city expects 50% of adult residents and 75% of seniors will have received at least one vaccine dose by April 30. All Philadelphians will be eligible to get the shot beginning May 1, officials have said.

“Ready. Set. Philly!” will create return-to-work guides, serve as an information hub for business owners and employees and work to make sure public transportation and downtown streets are safe, according to organizers.

It will be overseen by a 20-member advisory council that includes Farley, Center City District President and CEO Paul Levy, SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards and Dan Hilferty, former CEO of Independence Blue Cross.