Philly broadens access to COVID-19 vaccine

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

The third round of Philadelphia’s coronavirus vaccine roll-out begins Monday, with new groups of essential workers now eligible to receive a shot.

Vaccine providers have been told to start inoculating sanitation workers, maintenance and janitorial staff, utility workers, and postal and delivery employees, all of whom are part of Phase 1C.

Other groups in 1C — including those who work in higher education, finance, construction, media, information technology and communications as well as airport and train employees, taxi and rideshare drivers, and public health and legal workers — will be able to get a vaccine later this month, city officials said.

People who qualify for a shot under previous phases can still register for an appointment, and officials have been strongly encouraging anyone over the age of 64 to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

In the Pennsylvania suburbs, where vaccine distribution is overseen by the state, people in Phase 1B can begin getting inoculated Monday.

Under the state’s priority list, which differs from the city’s, 1B includes mail carriers, manufacturing workers, clergy and public transit workers.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration last week opened up eligibility to law enforcement, firefighters, grocery store employees and food and farm workers.

Pennsylvania’s Phase 1C, when additional essential workers will be able to schedule appointments, will begin April 12, and all adults in the state will be eligible starting April 19, in line with a plan unveiled by President Joe Biden.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley has said the city will begin inoculating all adults no later than May 1.

More than 373,000 city residents, or nearly 30% of the population ages 16 and older, have been at least partially vaccinated, according to health department data that was last updated Thursday.

Indoor dining expands in PA

Pandemic restrictions were eased on restaurants and other businesses across the state Easter Sunday, except in Philadelphia, where city leaders have decided to maintain tighter limits.

Restaurants that complete an online self-certification are now permitted to open their indoor dining areas at 75% capacity. They can also resume bar service, and customers are no longer required to order a meal with an alcoholic drink. Eateries must still abide by mask-wearing and 6-foot distancing rules.

Gyms, casinos, theaters and malls were also allowed to open at 75% occupancy Sunday.

Event capacity limits were raised to 25% for indoor events and 50% for outdoor gatherings. Officials said attendees and workers must have enough room to account for social distancing.

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel if we continue to follow safety guidance and get vaccinated,” Wolf tweeted Sunday.

Easter brought smaller changes to the city’s virus protocols.

Hotels are now allowed to serve food and drink at business meetings, and the maximum capacity for outdoor catered events was raised from 100 people to 250.

Indoor catered events are still banned, and restaurants that meet ventilation standards can open at 50% occupancy for indoor dining.

Farley cautioned last week that the city may have to reimpose restrictions if COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, as they have for the past few weeks.

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