COVID-19 update for Aug. 8. City case rate falls, plans made to boost net access for virtual learning

Posted 8/8/20

by Kate Dolan

Philadelphia’s COVID-19 case counts continue to fall, and the city announced an initiative to connect Philadelphia students to digital access for virtual learning.

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COVID-19 update for Aug. 8. City case rate falls, plans made to boost net access for virtual learning

Posted

by Kate Dolan

Philadelphia’s COVID-19 case counts continue to fall, and the city announced an initiative to connect Philadelphia students to digital access for virtual learning.

At Thursday’s COVID-19 update press conference, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley announced 109 new confirmed cases for that day, a 3.6 positivity rate and “zero new deaths for the past couple of days.” On Friday, the total number of confirmed cases were 31,120 since the beginning of the epidemic and the total number of coronavirus deaths stood at 1,698.

The case count decline is occurring in surrounding counties, statewide in Pennsylvania and in the country as whole.

“According to the database that the New York Times presents, in the past two weeks, case counts in the US as a whole have fallen 14%,” Farley said.

Philadelphia residents are urged to help contain the virus by cooperating with contact tracing efforts, by answering their phones and providing information on contacts.

“Our biggest obstacle to the success of contact tracing right now is people who don’t answer the phone calls from our staff or people who don’t provide information on contact,” Farley said.

The contact tracers will call from a number beginning with 215-218. For residents concerned with the source of phone calls or wary of scams, Farley said people could reach the public health call center at 215-685-5488 to make sure the call is coming from the health center.

Farley assured Philadelphians that their information is not shared with anyone, including their contacts.

“This process is entirely confidential,” he said. “We simply tell contacts they’ve been exposed to the virus and they need to go into quarantine, so they don’t pass the virus on to others.”

PHLConnectED

With the school year quickly approaching and the Philadelphia School District beginning the year with fully remote learning, access to technology is a concern for the city, with a quarter of families living at or below the poverty line.

“COVID-19 has brought to the forefront the overwhelming need to increase digital access for all  of Philadelphia, especially for those who now cannot afford it,” said Mayor Jim Kenney, announcing an initiative which will connect "35,000 student households, close to 50,000 students” with internet access, in an attempt to close the “digital divide.”

PHLConnectED will connect families who currently do not have digital access to internet service, skills training and tech support. The "collaborative partnership to help ensure digital access for all K-12 students” will provide students with devices or mobile hotspots for students without housing security. PHLConnectED will serve all eligible students throughout the city, whether they attend Philadelphia public schools, charter schools, private schools or mission schools.

Philadelphia’s Chief Information Officer Mark Wheeler called preparing the city’s students for virtual learning “one of the highest priorities of the administration.”

“Our goal is to create a program that provides affordable, simple and reliable digital solutions for all residents, so we’re looking at this very broadly as part of a long-term digital equity strategy,” said Wheeler. “But our very first goal is to get those K-12 students connected so they have consistent access to the internet to do what they need to do in their tele-learning starting this fall and beyond.”

The 2-year, $17 million initiative comes with funding and support from many partners, including the William Penn Foundation, the Philadelphia School District, the city of Philadelphia, select charter schools, and Comcast NBC Universal, which will provide internet access through its Internet Essentials Program.

For more information about how PHLConnectEd works, eligibility and how to get connected, please visit this site.

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