Happy 2021! You Can Go to the Museum Again!

For those of you who, like us, spent the past week in an isolation chamber, here’s a guide to what’s now open under the city's COVID-19 guidelines.

philadelphia covid restrictions

This is how we feel about the prospect of visiting the PMA now that Philadelphia has relaxed its COVID restrictions. Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images.

We’re four days into 2021, and we’ve gotta be honest: It doesn’t feel that different from 2020, does it? The Eagles are a laughingstock; the President is (still) trying to steal the election.

But we resolved to be more optimistic this year, and we’re not about to give up just yet. Fortunately, there’s one bit of good news: Governor Tom Wolf announced that the latest round of statewide COVID-19 restrictions, instituted back in December, flattened the curve enough that some businesses, including museums, gyms and restaurants (for indoor dining), can reopen.

The story is slightly different in Philly, which for months has maintained stricter regulations than the state. Here, indoor dining, along with other activities like private indoor gatherings, remains banned until at least January 15th. But city health officials have also announced a loosening of some COVID restrictions in Philadelphia beginning Monday. One that we’re particularly excited about, after spending much of the holidays ensconced on the couch: Museums are reopening! The PMA, the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Barnes are all set to open their doors this week, with PAFA following not long after. (Each institution is publishing its COVID safety protocols on its website.)

It should be emphasized that Pennsylvania is still dealing with significant community spread of the virus. All 67 of the state’s counties have positivity rates of at least five percent, and the statewide average is 15 percent. In the week ending December 31st, the state recorded 40,407 new cases of COVID-19, down from nearly 49,000 the week before. That, too, is good news. But no one should go out celebrating just yet.

Still, if health officials tell us it’s now safe to go to the museum, we just might take them up on it. Here’s the full rundown of where the current COVID regulations stand.

Opening in Philly

  • Museums
  • High schools
  • Gyms
  • Casinos
  • Outdoor sports
  • Catered outdoor events (up to 25 people)

For the businesses above, the city will be enforcing an indoor density limit of five people per 1,000 square feet, and indoor exercise classes will be capped at 10 people. In all cases, masks are still required. Obviously.

Still Not Opening in Philly

Certain indoor events are more dangerous than others, according to the city health department, which is why these activities remain banned until at least January 15th:

  • Indoor dining
  • Theaters, both movie and live
  • Non-household indoor gatherings
  • Indoor sports
  • In-person college

Back Open in the Rest of PA

If you reside in the ‘burbs, you have fewer COVID restrictions. Starting Monday, restaurants that have certified they’re following certain safety protocols can resume indoor dining at 50 percent capacity. Non-certified restaurants can operate at 25 percent capacity. Alcohol can be served only at establishments that also serve food, and last call is at 11 p.m. Entertainment businesses like theaters and casinos must operate at 50 percent capacity, while other indoor businesses can operate at 75 percent capacity.

If there are lingering questions, you can consult the current list of statewide restrictions and regulations here.