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October 2020

Outdoor restaurants put diners, passersby at risk? Phila defies state, loosens standards

UPDATE TO DEVELOPING STORY: PHILADELPHIA GUIDELINES ABOUT SIX FOOT SPACING WERE INCONSISTENT WITH STATE, BECAME CONSISTENT and ARE NOW INCONSISTENT AGAIN, APPLYING A LOOSER STANDARD.

OOutdoor restuarant farewayn July 23, Philadelphia issued revised guidelines to require 6 feet between passersby and tables in line with May 27 state requirements.

On October 9, Pennsylvania updated May 27 guidelines but still required 6 feet between passersby and diners.

On October 15, Philadelphia revised the guidelines again to only require a 6 foot passageway, not a 6 foot distance between diners and pedestrians. This is no longer consistent with state standards.

October 22, 2020 Several restaurants in Chestnut Hill  appear compliant with state standards, more appear to exceed current city standards as shown in the photo on the left.

Documentation on extended pages.

BUT then at least one restaurant proprietor must have friends in high places. It blocks the sidewalk.

Mcnallys table blocks sidewalk

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ORIGINAL STORY: Approximately July 21, 2020

Living a block and a half away from Germantown Avenue we like to stroll up and down. It's enjoyable and it's healthy. It's one of the reasons we live here.

We understand Chestnut Hill restaurants, several which we patronize (and now do more take out from) are just trying to stay financially afloat. Due to Covid19 many have added extra outdoor seating both next to the building and at the curb. But If you were to walk past a few of these restaurants you might be 2-3 feet away from open-mouthed diners, a delicious opportunity to spread the corona-virus.

In his July 17 Inquirer article,"Eating out during the pandemic is a dilemma. Outdoor dining appears to be the most safe," Craig LaBan writes "It’s nonetheless unrealistic to expect customers hungering for a taste of quarantine escape to consistently respect boundaries, just as it’s naive to expect restaurateurs, with so little guidance or oversight to suddenly become altruistic public health experts, and not try to squeeze in a few more seats than they should."

No, Mr. Laban, there may be little oversight but the guidance is clear. Pa Governor Wolf's Covid-19 *mandate* about outdoor restaurant seating is clear. "Spacing must also allow for physical distancing from areas outside of the facility’s control (i.e. such that pedestrians on a sidewalk can pass with at least six feet of distance to customer)." Source www.governor.pa.gov/covid-19/restaurant-industry-guidance

Here's the math. The average width of an adult is 1.25 feet so a pedestrian would need 6 feet distance from a table on their left side and 6 feet on the right for a restaurant to be in compliance: In other words the width of the walkway to keep both pedestrians and diners safe is *13.25* feet.

I conducted a little informal survey of how wide the pedestrian passage is at Chestnut Hill establishments with outdoor seating. The most ample passage was outside Iron Hill Brewery with a width of 9 or more feet and staggered tables. The general manager was kind enough to pose to provide a sense of scale. Outside Campbell's Place, the pedestrian passageway is 6 feet or less and similarly so at establishments at the top of the Hill. Without addressing the governor's 6 foot mandate, Campbell's owner Rob Mullen writes that according to the City's Health, L&I and Streets Department Campbell's outdoor seating is in complete compliance. (It is not clear what seating arrangement the inspectors saw when they made their inspections.) October 23, 2020 update: the city now appears to have been enforcing its own looser standards, inconsistent with state standards).

Perhaps we should just cross the street, as a friend suggests, to avoid the restaurants. Perhaps the restaurants could take away just a few tables to be closer in compliance with the law. Perhaps I should watch the next episode of "Breaking Bad" on our daughter's NetFlix account and sulk about how the only real thanks health care workers want is the one they're not getting- people and businesses uniformly embracing good public health practices and regulations. Photo gallery here Crowded outdoor restaurant seating puts diners and walkers in danger of catching Covid-19

Documentation follows about changing and conflicting Pennsylvania and Philadelphia 6 foot distancing requirement.

Continue reading "Outdoor restaurants put diners, passersby at risk? Phila defies state, loosens standards" »


New camera helps eye doctor maintain safe distance

Dr amy weber clarus fundus

Because Covid-19 has forced ophthalmologists to spend less time close to a patient's face, Thorp Bailey Weber Eye Associates have acquired a Zeiss Clarus Fundus camera to take wide angle high resolution digital images of the retina. Dr Amy Weber explains that in a traditional eye exam, after a patient’s pupils have been dilated, she needs to be in close proximity to the patient to do the exam. Now, with the images produced by the Fundus she can zoom in close enough to see every blood vessel. Dilation is only needed in special circumstances such as when the patient has a history of retinal tears or is experiencing flashes. Watch video interview of Dr Weber explaining how high resolution digital camera helps her keep safe distance from patient during exam.


A community takes sides: Back the Blue or Black Lives Matter

Two separate rallies, one for Black Lives Matter and the other for Back the Blue both kicked off at 10:30 am on October 10, 2020 in Springfield Township, Montgomery County Pennsylvania in two nearby township parks. Was it coincidental??? Watch short video of rallies here.  An unscientific poll of 99  respondents on the NextDoor app indicates that people who support both causes are in a distinct minority, about 27%. It also indicates 76% support Black Lives Matter and  47% Back the Blue. Caveat: there is always the question of what people are thinking who are neither participating in such a poll or even on the social media platform where the poll was conducted. It's also worth noting that people may support the causes espoused without ascribing to a provocative movement or slogan.

ND back blue  black matter poll screenshot
As a member of the minority who espouse both causes, your correspondent attended only part of each rally so the material here is certainly not comprehensive and due to personal history, not necessarily well balanced. Photos of both rallies here.

A-little-girl-with-a-back-the-blue-flag-at-springfield-township-rally_50446102426_o
At the Back the Blue Rally in Cisco Park, your correspondent heard 37 year veteran, Michael E. Pitkow, Chief of Police, thank the community for their support and the dedication of his officers. He spoke of a survey being conducted [the outgrowth of community meetings] among community residents soliciting their input about what they want from their police department. He remarked about the challenging times ensuing after the onset of the corona-virus pandemic and the "death of Mr. George Floyd" but noted Springfield Township hadn't experienced the civil unrest occurring in many other places around the nation.

Michele Chesaitis, an active member of the Friends of the Springfield Township Police is concerned when people make negative generalizations about the police. She comes from a police and fire department family and is proud of her family’s service. She considers the close knit community of law enforcement as part of her family, too. When asked whether the Black Lives Matter protesters had any legitimate issues she answered "There are legitimate and valuable issues for every walk of life," and as to what whether police could do better, "that we stop lumping police into groups.” When introduced she began her public remarks by asking everyone to join her in a prayer for the police, "In the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit...."

Watch video interview here.

Black and white teens unite at black lives matter rally

At the Unity and Diversity rally to honor Breonna Taylor, clumps of young adults, families and older adults were spaced far apart in Mermaid Park listening to the speakers. Montgomery County Commissioner Ken Lawrence contrasted the actions of Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend who fired out from inside their home, defending their home with the act of a white vigilante who traveled from his home and killed protesters “There’s a hypocrisy. That’s why Black Lives Matter. Because when it happens to us it’s always something that we did wrong to end up dead.” He highlighted a recent incident in Upper Gwynedd Township in which police successfully de-escalated a situation and no one died; they were able to disarm a man who had fired a shotgun at them. “It absolutely can be done.”  Napoleon Nelson, who is running for representative in the 184th district of the Pennsylvania State House, encompassing Springfield Township spoke next. He had visited the police rally, too, and a photo of him there appears in the photo album above. Your correspondent regrets an opening didn't present itself to interview him, being apparently only one of three African-American adults present at the police rally. The African American Republican congressional candidate Kathy Barnette was similarly engaged with others and Barnette's  mother declined to be interviewed. The below is only an excerpt of Nelson's remarks. Readers are encouraged to listen to the fuller versions of both Lawrence and Nelson here.

"Before I got here I was over on the other side of the Township at a Back the Blue rally. And I do, I support police. I think there’s an important role for law enforcement in our community. But this day, this time, is not about backing the blue.

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