PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley today announced ten additional presumptive confirmed cases of COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Philadelphia. That brings the number of confirmed cases to 44. Health Department staff are working with 160 people who have been exposed to people with this infection to monitor for symptoms.
“We want to preserve our healthcare system for the percentage of people who actually need it,” said Dr. Farley. “If you have symptoms but are young and healthy, and not having difficulty breathing, you don’t need a test right now. Stay home and rest, keep away from others and drink fluids. But don’t go to the emergency department. We want to save that capacity so that the people who need emergency care can receive it.”
Dr. Farley noted that healthcare workers are particularly at risk. In fact, 20 of the 44 confirmed cases are healthcare workers. He said plans for a testing site in the stadium area are still progressing, and his hope is that the site could open as early as tomorrow, but that is not certain. The site will have criteria for who is tested, and testing healthcare workers will be prioritized. The criteria may change over time, he added.
The Mayor’s and Health Commissioner’s Emergency Order that authorizes the restrictions on business activity remains in force until at least March 27, 2020. However, Managing Director Brian Abernathy today said the restrictions are likely to be further revised in conjunction with the Commonwealth. “We expect to have further details tomorrow,” said Abernathy. “For now, the bottom line remains unchanged: stay inside. Do not go out unless you need essential provisions. Stay inside.”
The current order specifies categories of retail, infrastructure, industrial, healthcare and social services businesses that are deemed essential. It also specifies restrictions on working from offices. The order can be viewed or downloaded here. Residents and business owners can also view a plain-language summary of the restrictions here.
Call for volunteers: Chief Service Officer Amanda Gamble today said many of Philadelphia’s non-profit organizations are in great need of volunteer support at this time. The Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service is working to connect residents to volunteer opportunities with these critical organizations.
“It has been uplifting to see the number of individuals who have come to me asking how they can help and volunteer their time,” Gamble said. “We have also been hearing from our non-profit partners that the need for volunteers is maybe the greatest that they’ve ever seen. These organizations are committed to ensuring that all of our vulnerable populations continue to have access to the resources that they provide, and need our help more than ever.”
Any non-profit that is continuing its operations and is in need of volunteer support can post open opportunities on serve.volunteermatch.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Residents who wish to support these efforts can sign up for shifts through the same portal.
Also in need of volunteers is the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), a group of more than 2,500 volunteers who serve the City during public health emergencies and large-scale events. Anyone interested can visit www.phila.gov/mrc to register with our Medical Reserve Corps. Clinical and non-clinical volunteers are needed.
Also today, the Department of Parks and Recreation announced it is closing all playgrounds and athletic courts beginning today. The parks are still open with the strong encouragement of social distancing.
Despite the closure, food distribution at 50 recreation centers and older adult centers will continue through tomorrow, Friday, March 20. The City will have an update tomorrow on meal service locations for next week.
Philadelphia Parks & Recreation parks, fields, and trails remain open, but bathrooms and buildings are closed through at least Friday, March 27. All Philadelphia Parks & Recreation events and programs have been canceled or postponed through at least March 27. Permitted events on Parks & Rec land are canceled or postponed as well. Guidance on April events will be forthcoming.
All other Parks & Recreation buildings across the city are closed to the public through at least March 27, 2020. This includes environmental education centers, the Carousel House Recreation Center, ice rinks, the CASE building, and One Parkway Building.
The City has published a blog detailing City services that remain in operation following the partial shutdown of the government. The blog also provides guidance for residents in need of particular services amid the curtailment of operations.
The Philly311 app now has a section dedicated to COVID-19 requests. The app also provides translation to 16 languages. For residents who call 311, translation is available for over 100 languages through the City’s Language Line.
Business owners or managers who have questions about the order and restrictions can email email@example.com. Residents or employees who believe a business is in violation of these restrictions are urged to contact 311. Restaurants may operate under the order solely to provide food through online, delivery, pickup, or walk-in ordering. Dine-in service is strictly prohibited.
Residents with medical questions can call the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline at 1-800-722-7112. The Helpline, free and available 24/7, is staffed by trained health professionals and is for anyone in the Greater Philadelphia area, including the public and healthcare providers, to help answer questions about COVID-19.
Residents can get COVID-19 updates sent to their phones. Text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive free alerts with information and updates from the Health Department. Information is also being updated daily on the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s webpage www.phila.gov/covid-19.
Notes to media: City officials will continue to update the press every day at 1:00 p.m. in the Mayor’s Reception Room in City Hall. It will be live-streamed via the Department of Public Health’s Twitter (@PHLPublicHealth) and Facebook accounts, and broadcast on PHLGovTV, Comcast channels 64 and 1164, and Verizon channels 40 and 41.
Due to the volume of press requests related to COVID-19, members of the media are asked to hold all City-related questions for those daily briefings. Emailed press questions should go to firstname.lastname@example.org.