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COVID In Philadelphia: Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley 'Concerned' Over Coronavirus Increases Related To Holiday Gatherings

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley says he is concerned over the increase of COVID-19 cases the city is seeing related to holiday gatherings. Farley discussed the city's currently coronavirus mitigation efforts on Eyewitness News This Morning Tuesday.

Restrictions on indoor dining were lifted in Pennsylvania on Monday, but in Philadelphia, indoor dining is still prohibited. The city's restrictions on indoor dining are currently in place until Jan. 15, but Farley says he "can't say for sure" if the city is on track to lift the restrictions on that date.

"I can't say for sure," Farley said. "I am concerned that we are seeing increases related to Christmas. We've seen sort of an uptick in the City of Philadelphia. More rapid rises in the suburbs around us. And big increases across New England, New York, across the country as a whole. So we're very worried where this is going to go. We have to watch this over the next few days to determine if they can open on the 16th of January."

The spike can start around five days after the holiday and continue for around 14 days after.

"We started seeing it about five, six days afterward but then it takes a couple of days for the data to get in and it lasted a good 10 days to two weeks after," Farley said. "

The city still hasn't seen the complete effect of Christmas gatherings and Farley says we "definitely haven't seen the effect of New Year's yet."

The city has been distributed over 70,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, some of which is going to hospitals to vaccinate their staff. So far, Farley says about 17,000 people have been vaccinated.

Right now, the city is still in Group 1A of vaccine distribution which includes healthcare workers, people who live in and work in nursing homes.

Farley says Group 1B is "probably weeks" away from receiving the vaccine. That group is expected to include what officials consider frontline essential workers, or people who are exposed to lots of people day in and day out.

More information regarding who is eligible under Group 1B is expected to be released at a later time.

It is still expected that we are months away from having vaccines available for the general public.

"First, I want to set some realistic expectations here, this is going to be months before we have enough of the vaccine out there to vaccinate the general population. There is a very small number of doses out there per week."

In terms of how it will be available, Farley says Philadelphia will use a combination of approaches including healthcare facilities, maybe some mass set up tests, and pharmacies may also be used.

His message to people around Philadelphia for 2021: "It's very exciting that the vaccine is available but this vaccine will trickle out of a long period of time, so till stick with the basic tool we've had for months which is social distancing. So wear a mask and don't gather with people outside of your household indoors."



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