Health officials in the city are warning residents against traveling to a number of states in the South and West that are seeing a sharp rise in cases of COVID-19. Officials are also asking residents returning from those state to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The advisory applies to residents returning from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, or Utah.
“We’ll never be able to stop people from bringing the virus from other places into Philadelphia,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “What we can do is try to reduce the likelihood that once people have it in Philadelphia that they spread it to others.”
The move by Philadelphia is similar to the statewide orders implemented in nearby New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which are requiring anyone coming from the 15 states, along with Idaho, to quarantine for 14 days.
New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut were some of the hardest hit states in the early stages of the pandemic – accounting for more than 39,000 deaths combined – and officials are hoping to prevent future spikes as the country continues to grapple with the public health crisis.
The advisory in Philadelphia is the broadest move any city in the country has taken in regards to advising residents against travel to areas seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Some smaller cities and counties in Texas are warning their residents against traveling to hard-hit areas of the states, like Houston, and asking residents who return from the state’s largest city to quarantine upon their return and get tested for COVID-19.
The soaring numbers have raised fears that many other states could see the same phenomenon if they reopen too, or that people from the South and West could spread the virus to other regions.
Some distant states and cities that seemed to have tamed their outbreaks, including Colorado, Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey, hit pause or backtracked on some of their reopening plans for bars and restaurants.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, warned on Capitol Hill on Tuesday that the rise across the South and West “puts the entire country at risk” and that new infections could reach 100,000 a day if people don’t start listening to public health authorities.
“When you have an outbreak in one part of the country, even though in other parts of the country they’re doing well, they are vulnerable,” Fauci said.
Outbreaks in Florida, Arizona, Texas and California have already forced those states to reverse course and take such measures as shutting down bars and beaches and curbing restaurant capacity.
The virus in the U.S. is blamed for more than 2.6 million confirmed cases and over 127,000 deaths, the highest toll in the world, by Johns Hopkins' count. Worldwide, the number of infections is put at more than 10.6 million, with over a half-million deaths.
The real numbers in the U.S. and globally are believed to be significantly higher, in part because of limited testing and mild cases that have gone unrecorded.
In New Jersey, where cases had been declining since late April, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a pause on Monday, in part because of people not wearing masks and social distancing.
“Unfortunately, the national scene, compounded by instances of knucklehead behavior here at home, are requiring us to hit pause on the restart of indoor dining for the foreseeable future,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.