COVID-19 in Philadelphia: How many people are sick, what officials are doing

(Philadelphia Tribune photo)

By Michael D’Onofrio

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia had three confirmed cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19, in the city, with 62 pending tests as of Friday, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said during a daily briefing at the Fire Administration Building with City manager Brian Abernathy and Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel.

The illness of all three people is “not severe,” Farley said, and all three were “people who have resources,” including doctors, “so they have the ability to quarantine at home.”

City officials have stayed in contact with the infected individuals.

Philadelphia’s first coronavirus case, announced on Tuesday, was a man in his 50s who traveled internationally to an infected area.

One of the new cases is a woman in her 50s who was in close contact with the first man.

The third case is a man who has traveled internationally to an infected area.

About 1,000 individuals are under self-quarantine in Philadelphia, including people returning from an infected area in the world and those who have had contact with known cases. Farley said he was not certain whether that figure had changed as of Friday.

Farley said there was “some amount of backlog” of testing for the coronavirus, but had no further details.

The state’s Bureau of Laboratories can provide test results within 48 hours, while two private laboratories take three to four days, Farley said.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia also has testing available by referral from other locations and not open to the public, Farley said.

The health commissioner said he hoped to have testing of the coronavirus in the city for people that was similar to the easily-accessible drive-thru testing now provided by a Delaware healthcare organization.

The city has set up a 24-hour hotline for questions about the coronavirus: 1-800-722-7112.

Farley maintained the infection was spread through close contact. The two most common symptoms were a fever and a dry cough.

“If you have a fever and a dry cough, stay away from other people,” Farley said.

City hospitals were currently dealing with a “relatively small number of people” who were seeking evaluations and testing for the coronavirus, Farley said.

City officials were working with local hospitals, the latter of whom have put in place emergency plans to handle a surge in patients.

On Thursday, the Kenney administration banned all gatherings of more than 1,000 for 30 days.

City Services

City services will continue as normal, Abernathy said.

Public schools

During the two weeks that Philadelphia public schools are closed, they all will be deep cleaned, School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite said in a statement posted to the district website. The district will provide parents with regular updates.

Students have been encouraged to take home with them any personal supplies and medications they might need during the closure.

“We realize the hardship that a districtwide closure of our public schools may cause our families,” Hite said. “The School District is working closely with the Office of Emergency Management and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to develop an action plan to, as much as possible, maintain the critical support services our schools provide to students and families.”

Catholic Schools

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced on Friday its schools will switch from in-person instruction to “Flexible Instruction Days,” and teachers will provide assignments and student support through an online learning system and students will complete assignments from home.

The Archdiocese has convened a special task force “to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on Catholic education and develop our ongoing response,” administrators said in a written statement distributed Friday. “Matters are being evaluated on a daily, if not hourly basis.”

Nutritional Development Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is preparing an emergency feeding plan for students in need.

The Community Food Program is also increasing deliveries to food cupboards.

Libraries

The Free Library of Philadelphia continues to operate during its regular schedule.

But the library has canceled all its public programs and outreach activities throughout the rest of the month starting on Sunday with the exception of LEAP out-of-school-time program, according to a post on the library’s website.

Hand sanitizer will be made available for public use and staff have removed toys from the children’s areas.

Catholic churches

Archbishop Nelson Peréz has dispensed the faithful from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, he announced on Twitter Thursday.

Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune. Tribune City Editor Christina Kristofic and The Associated Press contributed to this report, where it first appeared.