January 15, 2020: Update on “Safer at Home” restrictions

Some business and activity restrictions will be lifted beginning Saturday, January 16, 2021. Key changes include:

  • Indoor dining is limited to 25% of the stated fire code occupancy for seated dining.
  • Theaters and performance spaces are limited to 10% maximum occupancy.
  • Colleges can resume in-person classes.

For the latest guidance for a wide range of community events, businesses, organizations, and schools, please see our guidance page.

December 30, 2020: Update on “Safer at Home” restrictions and future plans

See Amended Emergency Order for Fall/Winter 2020-21 (12/30/20) (PDF)

Philadelphia’s current “Safer at Home” restrictions were to be implemented through at least January 1, and the Commonwealth’s latest restrictions are set to expire at 8 a.m. on the morning of January 4.

Based on the data and spikes in positive cases following past holidays, the City will continue its current restrictions for the riskiest settings through at least January 15. This includes restrictions on:

  • Indoor dining
  • Indoor gatherings and events
  • Theaters
  • Colleges
  • Indoor organized sports

These activities continue to be considered higher risk because they take place indoors and involve a large number of people, people spending long periods of time together, people not wearing masks, and/or they’ve had previous large outbreaks due to not following social distance guidelines.  

In order to provide adequate lead time for businesses, the City also announced planned changes to restrictions that would take effect when Governor Wolf’s order, which unless it is extended, expires on January 4.

If case rates do not rise more than expected, the City will allow some lower risk businesses and activities to resume on January 4. This includes:

  • Museums
  • Outdoor sports
  • Gyms
  • Casinos
  • In-person learning for high schools
  • Outdoor catered events

For any indoor activities resuming on January 4, masks must be worn at all times and density will be limited to fewer than five persons per 1,000 square feet. 

Below are the original “Safer at Home” restrictions announced on November 16, 2020.

Original post: November 16, 2020

As Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley says, “We may be tired of COVID, but COVID’s not tired of us.”

In response to rising COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia, the City and Department of Public Health have announced changes to restrictions on businesses, events and gatherings, and other activities to help flatten the epidemic curve, prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, and reduce the number of COVID-19 deaths.

The new “Safer at Home” restrictions are effective November 20, 2020 through January 1, 2021. An extension of these restrictions and/or the implementation of additional restrictions is possible depending on trends in the spread of coronavirus in the city. 

Businesses with questions about how to comply with the new restrictions should contact the Department of Commerce’s Office of Business Services at business@phila.gov or 215-683-2100.

To report a business or other institution that is not following the City’s COVID-19 restrictions, residents can call 3-1-1 or submit a request on Philly 311’s website.

The following businesses and activities are not allowed:

  • High schools and colleges must move to online instruction only, with the exception of clinical instruction for students in health sciences. 
  • Indoor dining at restaurants and other food service businesses. (Takeout, delivery and outdoor dining may continue. Additional restrictions on outdoor dining are detailed below.) 
  • Theaters, including movie theaters, and other performance spaces. 
  • Bowling alleys, arcades and game spaces.
  • Museums.
  • Libraries. (Those serving as Access Centers may continue to operate. Curbside dropoff and pickup services for patrons are allowed.)
  • Recreational activities and sports for youth, community groups, and schools. 
  • Gyms and indoor exercise classes. (Exercise groups and classes may continue outdoors.)
  • Indoor pools.
  • Senior day services (senior centers and adult day care centers) remain closed.

Changes to events and gatherings include:

  • All indoor gatherings and events involving people from more than one household are prohibited, in public or private spaces. This includes private events such as weddings and showers, listed as “celebrations” in previous guidance. 
  • Religious institutions and funeral homes are permitted to have people indoors, but density must be capped at 5 people per 1,000 sq. ft. or 5 percent of maximum occupancy. 
  • Outdoor gatherings and events are limited to 10 percent of maximum capacity of the space, or 10 people per 1,000 sq. ft. for venues with an undefined maximum capacity—not to exceed 2,000 people in any outdoor space. In addition, all individuals at outdoor gatherings must wear masks at all times, and—to reinforce mask use—neither food nor beverages may be served.

Additional changes to capacity limits and other precautions will be instituted for businesses and activities that are able to continue:

  • Restaurants offering outdoor dining must reduce table sizes to four people. Guidance will make it clear that groups dining outdoors should be household members only, because mixing different households promotes community-wide spread.
  • Retail stores and indoor malls may continue to operate, but with a maximum density of 5 people per 1,000 square feet. The City will require these stores to enforce mask use and distancing of customers and staff.  
  • Offices are permitted to have only employees that cannot work remotely.
  • Barbershops, beauty salons, and similar personal services may continue to operate, but all staff and customers must wear masks at all times. These businesses cannot work on the face or otherwise perform services that require that masks be removed.
  • College sports may continue if their plan is specifically approved by the Department of Public Health and no spectators are present. 
  • Zoos may operate only their outdoor areas. 
  • Parks, trails, playgrounds, and athletic fields will remain open for individual use only. (No group sports.) 

The following businesses and activities can continue to function under current guidance from the Department of Public Health:

  • Grocery stores and farmers markets.
  • Pharmacies.
  • Banks. 
  • Construction.
  • Landscaping.
  • Home-based construction, renovation, repair, and maintenance.
  • Manufacturing and warehousing.
  • Real estate operations and transactions.
  • Health care services.
  • Home-based support services, such as home health services.
  • Taxis and ride share services.
  • Transit.
  • Outdoor mobile food carts and trucks.
  • Hotels.
  • Drive-in events in which people remain in their vehicles.
  • Child day care and early learning centers.
  • Elementary and middle schools.
  • Access Centers for children in elementary and middle school.

In every permitted setting, be sure to follow our Safety Checklist to help reduce the spread of COVID-19:

  • #MaskUpPHL to block the virus from spreading and require others to wear them.
  • Use barriers such as sneeze guards or plexiglass screens. 
  • Keep people who may be infected away from others (ideally at home).
  • Practice social distancing (6 feet!).
  • Reduce crowds. 
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Keep surfaces clean (don’t forget your cell phone!).
  • Communicate with staff, customers and others taking part in permitted activities and ensure everyone understands and follows this Safety Checklist.


It’s more important than ever that every Philadelphian takes these recommendations seriously and follows the guidelines–it’s the only way we will get through this pandemic quickly and safely!