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COVID In Philadelphia: City To Keep Restrictions In Place After Pennsylvania Allows Larger Crowds

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- COVID-19 restrictions in Philadelphia will remain in effect for now. City officials announced Tuesday they will not align with the state in allowing larger crowds, but it could be easier for people to get vaccinated in the city.

The city will allow some people who are qualified to get vaccinated without appointments at the convention center, where FEMA is providing 6,000 shots a day. Half will go to walk-ups.

But the city also announced today it's holding on to other restrictions.

"I'm worried people are so eager to get back to normal we may be opening up too quickly," Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.

The health commissioner has not decided if Philadelphia will follow the state's lead in allowing larger crowds to gather. So for now the more stringent city restrictions will stay in place.

"It would be convenient for us to align with Pennsylvania, but I am very concerned about the trend in cases. We're seeing right now cases not going down, if anything, they're going up," Farley said.

With only 16% of the city vaccinated there's a new push to increase the numbers, especially in minority communities.

Starting March 17, for a week, the FEMA site at the convention center will serve a combination of appointments and walk-ups, but only to people who qualify and live in certain neighborhoods.

"These are strictly for people who live in 22 zip codes that are the most under-vaccinated," Farley said.

Also for special events, the city is accepting applications. Permits are under consideration, pending COVID precautions and restrictions.

"The epidemic is still here and it's still deadly. I want to remind people don't let your guard down too early. To use a football analogy, don't fumble the ball on the 5-yard line," Farley said.

The city is also launching a new mental health campaign called "Boost Your Mood."

"We all have experienced a prolonged trauma of stress, anxiety, isolation and loss, so it's OK to not be OK," said Jill Bowen, commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services.

And marking the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 hitting Philadelphia, buildings will have blue lights on tonight to honor the lives lost and frontline workers.

"Each of us has sacrificed something over the last year. We owe it to ourselves, to each other, reflect as we mark this solemn anniversary," Managing Director Tumar Alexander said.

Farley says he'll decide by early next week if the city will go along with the easing of restrictions announced by the state yesterday.

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