Philadelphia briefing: City announces 18 new cases of COVID-19, schedules construction deadline and closes MLK Drive

At the daily city press conference, which went virtual today: Mayor Jim Kenney (center) and Managing Director Brian Abernathy.

The following is largely a release from the city. Local staff watched today’s press conference and edited the release slightly for clarity and to add information.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley today announced 18 additional presumptive confirmed cases of COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Philadelphia. That brings the number of confirmed cases to 85.

Farley disclosed that one of the new presumptive confirmed cases is a resident of a nursing home in Philadelphia, the first such confirmed case in a residential facility. For privacy reasons, the city is not disclosing the location of that nursing home. But the Farley reiterated a call for all nursing homes and resident facilities in the city, as well as hospitals, to institute a strict no-visitor policy.

“We know that residents of nursing homes are particularly vulnerable,” Farley said, “I would expect there will be more cases in these facilities as this epidemic unfolds. A no-visitor policy reduces the likelihood that the virus is going to get into the nursing home. Many of these facilities have already taken this step. But those that haven’t should take that step right now.”

The ity, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, is continuing a drive-through site to provide COVID-19 coronavirus testing to identified members of the public. The Community Based Testing Site, located at Citizens Bank Park, will be open daily from 2 to 6 p.m. 

In its first day of operation, Friday, March 20, 2020, 91 tests were conducted. Sixty of those tested were from Philadelphia; 50 of the 91 were healthcare workers. Testing is strictly limited at this time to those in either of these two categories:

  • People who are over 50 years of age AND are displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19 coronavirus.
  • Healthcare workers who are displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19 coronavirus, including:
    • Hospital and doctors office staff with direct patient contact
    • Nursing home staff with direct patient contact
    • People who perform Emergency Medical Services duties
    • Home healthcare staff with direct patient contact

For those in either group eligible for testing, entry into the site is only open to people in four-wheel, closed-top, non-commercial, non-recreational vehicles. Walk-ins will not be permitted access to the site.

School Meal Sites: School meal sites and schedules will change beginning Monday, March 23. In addition, Parks & Recreation sites are no longer distributing student meals beginning March 23.  More details can be found here.

Construction Activity: In response to Governor Wolf ordering a shutdown of construction sites in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections has provided details in this post. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available. All construction work must stop by Friday, March 27, 2020 at 5 p.m.

MLK Drive: Martin Luther King Drive is closed to vehicular traffic from East Falls Bridge to Eakins Oval, in the interest of facilitating social distancing among trail users. The 24 hour closure will last until further notice.

Business owners or managers who have questions about restrictions can email Residents or employees who believe a business is in violation of current restrictions are urged to contact 311. Restaurants may provide food through online, delivery, or pickup only. Dine-in service is strictly prohibited.

Resources for workers have been added to the page. The blog post will be updated with additional resources as they become available. The post includes a survey for workers affected by COVID-19 to gain more information about the impact.

Residents with questions can call the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline at 1-800-722-7112. The Helpline, free and available 24/7, is staffed by trained healthcare providers and is for anyone in the Greater Philadelphia area, including the public and help answer all of their questions about the COVID-19 coronavirus.

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

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