Coronavirus update: Philly got 13k requests for emergency rent relief; Delco moves toward health dept. of its own

Rowhomes at 34th and Spring Garden Street for sale or rent. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Rowhomes at 34th and Spring Garden Street for sale or rent. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Updated 3:03 p.m. 

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As of Saturday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has reported 75,697 COVID-19 cases  (including confirmed and probable cases). There are 159,608 cases in New Jersey and 9,422 cases in Delaware. Philadelphia has recorded 22,629 cases so far, and 1,278 deaths.

Pennsylvania’s death toll stands at 5,507, New Jersey’s is at 11,634, and Delaware’s is at 361. Philadelphia’s death toll is 1,278.

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Philly received 13K applications for emergency rental assistance

Earlier this month, Mayor Jim Kenney tapped $10 million in federal relief funds to help renters who have lost income because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program received nearly 13,000 applications for what were originally 3,000 slots. The city announced Saturday that it will be able to assist 4,000 households, thanks to private donations.

The city’s rental assistance program has raised over $35,000 so far to supplement its main source of funding from the Community Development Block Grant program provided under the federal CARES Act.

“We recognize that many people are suffering financial hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why the city quickly stood up small business relief and rental assistance programs,” Kenney said in a statement. “If you can give, I encourage you to do so today so we can continue to help more people.”

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The program will provide up to $2,500 for three months of rent, and may provide ongoing assistance to households with continued need for up to a year as funds are available.

You can make a tax-deductible donation to the city’s assistance program here.

Delco takes steps to form its own health department

Delaware County Council has unanimously voted to hire a consulting firm to help create a strategic plan to form a health department by the end of 2021.

The county is the largest in Pennsylvania that does not have its own health department. According to County Council members, it’s also the biggest in the country.

The coronavirus pandemic’s hit in Delaware County reignited local conversations surrounding the need for a health department.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted how vital it is for there to be coordinated, comprehensive public health programs and policies,” said Council Vice Chair Monica Taylor. “Delaware County has already benefited from this process during the COVID-19 pandemic and will undoubtedly need it as we address its long-term impact on our community.”

Taylor — who was sworn into office in January with two other council members elected in November’s Democratic wave — said efforts to create the department were in motion before the pandemic.

Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health is currently studying Delco to evaluate the delivery of health services in the county and provide recommendations on how to enhance those services. The results of the study — which will help the county better understand the needs of its residents and identify any gaps in service — will be available in July.

At the county’s public meeting on the topic, Taylor detailed the timeline. The process is heavily regulated by the state Department of Health and is expected to take 18 to 24 months.

After the release of the Johns Hopkins study results, the county plans to host a community town hall in July or August to discuss it. That will be followed by an economic impact and feasibility study.

The timeline also outlines the goal of hiring a health department director and the creation of a board of health by early 2021.

According to a study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Delaware County ranks 47th out of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties for health outcomes, 33rd in length of life, and 59th in quality of life. Its neighbors in Chester County ranked third, Montgomery County ranked fourth, and Bucks County ranked sixth in health outcomes.

Chester County is assisting Delco in its COVID-19 response. Chester County manages communications with health operators in the county, handles public information, coordinates with nursing homes and hospitals, performs contact tracing, sources testing kits, and updates online information.

Last week, Delco had the highest 14-day per capita rate of residents with COVID-19 in the Philadelphia region.

Del. to host another test site open to people without symptoms

After a successful turnout earlier this month at a saliva-based testing site in Seaford in Sussex County, the state is hosting another on Tuesday in Lewes.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Beacon Middle School, people with or without symptoms can be tested. Pre-register here to reserve a place and reduce wait times for the test. Limited on-site registration will be available. People are asked not to eat, drink, or brush their teeth 20 minutes prior to taking the test.

Delaware paid $30 million for 200,000 saliva-based testing kits from Curative Inc., a Los Angeles-based biotech company.

Gov. John Carney’s administration said they have the capacity to test 80,000 people per month.

State leaders hosted drive-through food drive in Darby

As food pantries nationwide see a high uptick in people needing assistance, local state lawmakers hosted a drive Saturday to collect food donations for local organizations.

State Reps. Maria Donatucci, Joanna McClinton and Margo Davidson, State Sen. Anthony Williams, U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon and the Delaware County Department of Human Services sponsored the event.

The contactless food drive took place at Park Lane Elementary School in Darby from 1 to 4 p.m. Items being sought included dry food goods, peanut butter, canned meats and tuna, soups, cereal and items that cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits, such as paper towels, toilet paper, bar and dish soap, laundry detergent, toothpaste, deodorant, diapers, wipes, formula and hand sanitizer.

Items will be donated to Mount Zion CME Church Food Center, Neighbor to Neighbor Community Center, Interfaith Food Cupboard and more.

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