Coronavirus update: ‘Stay-at-home’ orders begin in Philly Monday, Delaware on Tuesday; 1st death in Montco

COVID-19 testing facility at Penn Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

COVID-19 testing facility at Penn Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Updated 8:25 p.m.

To date, there are 479 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania, 1,327 in New Jersey, and 56 cases in Delaware. Philadelphia has 96 cases.

Philly orders residents to stay at home

Philadelphia is issuing a new “stay at home” order for all residents starting at 8 a.m. Monday, the city’s managing director Brian Abernathy said Sunday.

The city’s emergency restrictions will no longer expire on March 27, and will remain in effect “until further notice,” Abernathy said.

The order also bans all public and private gatherings of any number of people outside a single household except for limited purposes, including shopping for or delivering essential goods, going to work at an essential business, and exercising while maintaining social distancing.

Walk-in takeout orders will also be prohibited, and food and ice cream trucks will not be allowed to operate. All to-go food orders must be paid online in advance. Food delivery services can also continue.

Mayor Jim Kenney said the new restrictions were necessary “to ramp up the level of concern” in Philadelphia.

“There were too many people out, too many people on the street,” Kenney said. “We had to close our playgrounds ‘cause there were literally hundreds of kids playing basketball, people were out in parties and barbecues and picnics, and it just didn’t seem like people weren’t taking it all that serious.”

Abernathy said the city will detail new efforts to help affected businesses during Monday’s 1 p.m. briefing.

During an update Sunday, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine could not say with certainty if stricter restrictions like the ones in Philadelphia were coming statewide. 

“Discussions are being had with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, with PEMA, with local officials, and of course, with the governor’s office on the possibilities of ‘stay at home’ or ‘shelter in place,’” said Levine. “So I don’t have any new information at this time except that conversations are occurring.”

Still, she emphasized that a shelter-in-place order would still allow people to go out and purchase food and other essentials.

Philly reports 11 new cases

Philadelphia reported 11 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the city’s total to 96.

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said 12 of the 96 patients are known to be hospitalized, and 16 are health care workers.

Farley said 165 people were tested for the virus Saturday at the site at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia, up from 91 on Friday. Ninety-four of those tested were health care workers because they are at the greatest risk of infection.

The testing site will be open from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday and Monday, with hopes to continue on that schedule the rest of the week, Farley said.

However, only health care workers and people over the age of 50 with symptoms will be offered a test at the South Philly site.

Here’s a primer on how and where to get tested in the Philly area from WHYY’s Billy Penn.

Delaware ‘stay at home’ order to take effect Tues.

Delaware Gov. John Carney issued a stay-at-home order for residents which will take effect on Tuesday at 8 a.m and last through May 15 or until the “public health threat is eliminated.”

Residents will only be allowed to go out for exercise, to visit an essential business like a grocery store or to go to the doctor.

“I’ve seen way too many people in groups and gatherings of more than a handful of people as I travel across the state,” said Carney. “We all read the news and know what’s happened in other countries and other states in our country. I don’t want Delaware to be an example of what not to do in response to this crisis.”

Carney said the businesses that are allowed to remain open during that time period would be responsible for providing a safe working environment for staff. If they failed to do so, Carney said they risked closure, too.

“The more seriously we take this now, the sooner we’ll get to the other side of this crisis,” said Carney.

The Delaware Division of Public Health reported 11 new positive cases on Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 56.

The patients are between 14 to 80 years old and six have required hospitalization. About half of the patients are 18 to 49 years old.

As the number of cases increases, courts are placing stricter social distancing measures.

Starting Monday, all Delaware Court facilities are closed until at least mid-April save for emergencies, according to an order by the state’s Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz, Jr.

The courts had already drastically scaled back this week with jury trials and other proceedings being placed on a one-month hold.

But Seitz said despite efforts to substitute some in-person appearances by using video and telephone, there have been several possible exposures to the virus.

“Given the escalating nature of the public health emergency, we needed to take further measures to protect the safety of the courts and our justice partners while keeping essential judicial functions operating,” said Seitz.

In each county, people will be able to make bail payments and emergency criminal and civil filings at a 24-hour Justice of the Peace Court location.

Montco reports first death

On Sunday, Montgomery County health officials reported a 72- year old man from Abington Township was the first COVID-19 fatality in the state’s hardest hit county since the outbreak.

The man, who died Saturday, had spent several days in the hospital, according to officials.

The county has had among the highest numbers of reported cases in Pennsylvania with a total of 87 as of Sunday afternoon, second only to Philadelphia which has 96.

Pa. state troopers will enforce business closures

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported another 108 COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 479 known positives.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said since the start of the outbreak, some 47 COVID-19 cases in the state have required hospitalization (roughly 10%) and there’s no indication the number of cases has peaked anywhere.

On Sunday night, Gov. Tom Wolf reminded Pennsylvanians the state would begin enforcing an order to close all “non-life sustaining” businesses Monday morning.

Enforcement of the order was pushed to Monday at 8 a.m. after confusion over what counted as life sustaining was followed by a wave of businesses seeking exemptions.

On Sunday, officials reported almost 10,000 waivers were filed with the state.

Like the New Jersey and Delaware governors, Wolf said closing non-life sustaining businesses would buy the healthcare system time.

“We all need to change the way we live our lives,” said Wolf. “We’ll have to do that for a period of time so that we can emerge safe and healthy. We need time for our hospitals to prepare for the surge and we need time to develop a vaccine.”

In addition to ordering only essential businesses remain open, Philadelphia and governors in neighboring states Delaware and New Jersey ordered residents to stay indoors unless it’s for essential tasks such as grocery shopping.

Wolf refrained from making a similar order this weekend, though he said the measure was under consideration.

“If we have to do more, we will,” he said.

According to Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner, Colonel Robert Evanchick, state troopers were ready to enforce the governor’s order to close non-life sustaining businesses.

Evanchick said troopers would make every effort to achieve voluntary compliance.

“But our message is clear: COVID-19 is a serious health and public safety risk that requires an extraordinary response from law enforcement and the public,” he wrote in a statement. “I urge everyone to stay home, stay calm and stay safe.”

Citing the Pennsylvania Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955, Evanchick said those violating the governor’s order could face fines and even jail time.

Enforcement of the order was pushed to Monday at 8 a.m. after confusion over what counted as life sustaining was followed by a wave of businesses seeking exemptions.

On Sunday, officials reported almost 10,000 waivers were filed with the state.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, health department and Department of agriculture will also enforce the order.

Coronavirus cases now in every N.J. county

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced 590 new COVID-19 cases in the state on Sunday, bringing the total to 1,914.

Murphy said four more people have died, bringing the total number of fatalities in the state to 20.

The four patients were all over 70 and two of them had underlying health conditions, according to Health commissioner Judith Persichilli.

There are now positive cases in every county in New Jersey, which Murphy said was expected as testing ramps up.

“We’re all going to die keeping the number as low as we humanly can,” said Murphy, who continued to stress that the only way the state could slow the pace of the spread of the virus is to remain indoors unless it’s absolutely necessary to go out.

Doing so, said Murphy, would give medical professionals a fighting chance in the battle against the virus. 

In the same vein, Persichilli announced the state would manage a new centralized system to collect and distribute donated and purchased personal protective gear to medical professionals treating patients.

Murphy also announced Sunday that he would make telehealth mental health services available to 3 million New Jersey residents without co-pays.

Jared Maples, Director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security, also warned residents against misinformation regarding the origins of the coronavirus and rumors of an “impending national lockdown.”

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security national operations center, the National Security Council, along with my office here in New Jersey have publicly reiterated this information is false,” said Maples, who stressed people should get their information from official resources.

N.J. residents ordered to stay home

Only essential businesses — such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores — were allowed to open Sunday morning, after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered all other businesses to close their doors by 9 p.m. Saturday and banned public gatherings. Those who flout the rules may be charged by law enforcement, Murphy said.

Murphy’s executive order requires residents to keep six feet apart while in public, with exceptions made for romantic partners, household members and caretakers.

While New Jersey is the first state to order residents to stay indoors, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has similarly ordered all “non-life sustaining” businesses to close. However, confusion over what counted as life sustaining was followed by a wave of businesses seeking exemptions, which has pushed enforcement of that order to Monday at 8 a.m.

Delaware Gov. John Carney ordered the state’s beaches and boardwalks closed Saturday.

“For every person infected with COVID-19, they typically infect two to three additional people,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health, in a statement. “That’s why the steps that Gov. Carney has taken to close schools, restaurants and bars, recreational facilities and beaches is so important. We need to take these steps to prevent widespread outbreaks and slow the spread of the virus.”

Testing sites open in Philly, Montco, New Jersey

With drive-thru testing sites opening this week in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, officials expect the number of COVID-19 cases to rise. 

Philadelphia opened a testing site at Citizens Bank Park on Friday and another opened at Montgomery County’s Temple University campus in Ambler on Saturday. 

New Jersey launched a drive-thru testing site in the epicenter of its outbreak in Bergen County. 

That site reached testing capacity early Sunday, according to Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco. The Bergen County Community College site will reopen at 8 a.m. Monday, the same day a second drive-thru site is slated to open at Monmouth County’s PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel.

Due to a nationwide shortage of personal protective gear, health care workers in the region have asked the public for masks and other donations.

“We are desperate for more PPE equipment, personal protective equipment,” Murphy said Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week.” “We’ve had a big ask into the strategic stockpile in the White House they’ve given us a fraction of our ask. 

“We are as a state — private sector, public sector, nonprofits — turning over every stone, but we need a lot more PPE both to protect our healthcare workers and to treat the sick.”

Hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have also worked to make room for an influx of COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization.

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