PHILADELPHIA, December 3, 2020 – Councilmember David Oh (At-Large) today introduced legislation that institutes a duration limit of no more than 60 days on the administration’s COVID-19 restrictions and requires approval from City Council for an extension beyond the original duration period.
The bill amends sections 6-205 and 6-206 of the Philadelphia Code, entitled “Emergency Epidemic Control” and “Prevention of Congregation of Persons,” which provides the authority for the Mayor and the Department of Health to issue certain restrictions during the outbreak of a communicable disease.
The latest round of COVID-19 restrictions went into effect on November 20. The “Safer at Home” order banned indoor dining at restaurants, closed gyms and libraries, prohibited gatherings between people of different households, and severely restricted gatherings at church services, among other measures. Councilmember Oh believes residents and businesses deserve a more inclusive process as the City and nation move into the tenth month of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While the executive branch rightly has certain powers during an emergency, we are now well into this crisis and there is not a consensus on how to move forward,” said Oh. “These orders – whether it be to close a gym or a restaurant – are unprecedented exercises of power that deserve a proper system of vetting and approval.”
The legislation does not restrict the Mayor or Health Commissioner’s ability to craft and implement emergency measures. Rather, the legislation would establish a system in which City Council has the ability to prevent emergency orders from proceeding for unspecified periods of time without justification.
“After 60 days, if the administration wishes to extend an order, they would simply need to come before Council, justify their actions, demonstrate the orders are working, and get approval,” said Oh. “There needs to be a system of checks and balances in a democracy.”