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Philadelphia Allowing Fans To Return To Sporting Events As City Relaxes COVID-19 Restrictions

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia will roll back some coronavirus restrictions starting Monday, including allowing spectators at sporting events, reopening senior centers for the first time since last March, and allowing food and drinks to be consumed in movie theaters. The new guidelines align somewhat, but not entirely, with state restrictions.

Philadelphia has been more restrictive than the rest of the state in most of its shutdowns, but the rules are being eased as the number of new coronavirus cases declines.

"We will be relaxing restrictions effective March 1," Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said during Friday's press conference.

It's another big step on the road to recovery, as the city's health commissioner announced more gatherings will be allowed, with masks still being mandatory.

"It's one step closer to us returning to normal," Farley said.

Restaurants will now be allowed to serve tables of six outside while inside limits stay the same, retail stores can expand from having 10 to 20 people per 1,000 square feet of space, and religious services can increase from 10% to 20% capacity.

Catered events will still be prohibited indoors, but will be allowed outside with a maximum of 100 people.

"Catered events are the events we worry about most. If you have a lot of people clustered together not wearing masks, singing and dancing, there's a great risk there," Farley said. "Many outbreaks have been associated with these settings."

Sports, theaters and other events will be allowed to expand to the state limits -- no more than 500 people indoors and outside can hold up to 2,500.

"We cannot be less restrictive than the state limits," Farley explained.

And, for the first time since the shutdown, senior centers will be allowed to open but people will have to double mask and groups will be limited to 25 people.

"I'm optimistic about where we're going in the next few months. Most respiratory virus get better in the spring and they hit the lowest point in the summer," the health commissioner said. "Then, in addition to that, we have the vaccine."

Dr. Ala Stanford, the head of the Black Doctors Consortium, appeared with Farley and said the organization would now operate on a first-come, first-serve basis, and no longer take registrations by phone or computer. That move is being made to better accommodate the undeserved and minority communities.

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