Coronavirus update: Wolf issues stay-at-home order for Philly suburbs, extends school closures

Medical workers wait for cars to pull up to the swabbing tent at the city's coronavirus testing site next to Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia on Friday, March 20, 2020. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Medical workers wait for cars to pull up to the swabbing tent at the city's coronavirus testing site next to Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia on Friday, March 20, 2020. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Updated 6:50 p.m.

To date, there are 644 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania, 2,844 in New Jersey, and 87 cases in Delaware. Philadelphia has 175 cases.

Wolf extends school closures; issues stay-at-home order for Philly suburbs

Gov. Tom Wolf issued a “stay-at-home” order today for Philadelphia and its suburbs, as well as Monroe and Allegheny counties, taking the fight against the coronavirus to a new level by requiring residents to remain inside except for essential trips such as buying food or seeking medical help.

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The order applies to Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties in the southeast, Monroe County in the northeast, and Allegheny County in Western Pennsylvania.

The order takes effect at 8 p.m. and will remain in place for two weeks, Wolf said. Also, the governor extended school closures in Pennsylvania for another two weeks.

“These restrictions are unlike anything we’ve experienced before,” Wolf said at a news conference. “If we want to save lives, we must distance ourselves socially. This is going to be difficult.”

– Angela Couloumbis of Spotlight PA and Justine McDaniel of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Wolf said residents living in any of the seven counties under the order are allowed to leave their home for any of the following activities:

— Tasks essential to maintain health and safety, or the health and safety of their family or household members (including pets), such as obtaining medicine or medical supplies, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies they need to work from home

— Getting necessary services or supplies for themselves, for their family or household members, or as part of volunteer efforts, or to deliver those services or supplies to others to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences

— Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking or running if they maintain social distancing

— To perform work providing essential products and services at a life-sustaining business

— To care for a family member or pet in another household

— Any travel related to the provision of or access to the above-mentioned individual activities or life-sustaining business activities

— Travel to care for the elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons

— Travel to or from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning, for receiving meals, and any other related services

— Travel to return to a place of residence from an outside jurisdiction

— Travel required by law enforcement or court order.

— Travel required for non-residents to return to their place of residence outside the commonwealth

SEPTA CCT connect offers same-day rides to essential services

Starting Tuesday March 24, SEPTA’s CCT Connect paratransit program will offer same-day reservations for rides to and from medical facilities, pharmacies, supermarkets, and food distribution centers.

The door-to-door shared-ride service, which serves Philadelphia residents 65 years of age and older and people with disabilities, will be available only to registered CCT customers.

Uber and other ride-hailing companies have suspended shared rides due to the coronavirus. CCT, however, will remain a shared service at this time, SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said Monday.

CCT drivers will pick up within Philadelphia borders and drive to any location in the surrounding counties within three miles of the city’s border.

CCT operates a limited number of vehicles and rides will be provided as space in vehicles is available.

To make a same-day trip, you may contact the CCT Control Center at 215-580-7720 or 215-580-7145 then press #2.

Standard fares will apply.

All Pa. schools closed two more weeks

Pennsylvania’s Department of Education has extended the closure of all public and charter schools through April 6.

This order is for schools statewide, not just in counties where the virus outbreak has been most severe.

“Protecting the health and safety of students, families, teachers and all employees who work in our schools is paramount during this national health crisis and we must continue our efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus,” said Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera in a statement.

Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary Rivera acknowledged that the school-closure mandate could be extended again.

Originally, Wolf had ordered the closure of schools through March 27.

Pennsylvania has already canceled this year’s round of standardized tests, which were set to begin in late April.

Wolf said in a press conference Monday that he did not yet know how the school closures would impact graduation for high school seniors.

Pa. up to 644 cases, 6 deaths

Pennsylvania reported 165 new patients diagnosed with COVID-19 on Monday, the largest single-day jump since the coronavirus outbreak began.

“Our notable increase in cases over the last few days indicates we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a press release. “Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now: stay calm, stay home and stay safe. We have seen case counts continue to increase and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home.”

Another 6,595 patients have tested negative for the virus, according to the latest state numbers.

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

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

Montgomery County has had among the highest numbers of reported cases in Pennsylvania with a total of 136 as of Monday afternoon, second only to Philadelphia which has 128.

Philly reports large jump in COVID-19 cases

As of mid-day Monday, 175 Philadelphians have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Health Commissioner Tom Farley.

That’s a 79-patient jump over Sunday, Farley said. He attributed the spike to a testing lag that resulted in several hundred tests coming back relatively quickly.

“Still, this increase represents evidence of further spread of the virus in the City of Philadelphia,” said Dr. Farley. “Our test results reflect spread that happened about 12 days ago, and we have to assume that there’s been quite a good deal of spread since that time until today. So we expect that there are many more people in Philadelphia with this infection now.”

The city’s testing capacity will dip this week, Farley added, because of a shortage in available tests.

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Farley reiterated that the city will prioritize testing for health care workers and older residents over who are showing symptoms.

Philadelphia instituted a “stay-at-home” order that began Monday morning.

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

Montgomery County has had among the highest numbers of reported cases in Pennsylvania with a total of 136 as of Monday afternoon, second only to Philadelphia which has 128.

Philly ‘stay-at-home’ order in effect

Philadelphia’s new “stay-at-home” order for all residents is now in effect.

The order bans all public and private gatherings of any number of people outside a single household, and residents will only be able to go out for limited purposes, like shopping for or delivering essential goods, going to work at a life-sustaining business, seeking medical care, and exercising while maintaining social distancing.

People will also not be able to place walk-in takeout orders at Philly restaurants — all to-go food orders must be paid online in advance or done through delivery.

Philadelphia’s Managing Director Brian Abernathy said people who continue to gather in groups will be reminded to go home.

“We don’t want to get into a point where we’re under martial law or anything like that, but I think that everyone needs to recognize that this is serious,” Abernathy said. “This is not something we can continue to scoff at or thumb our nose.”

Pa. begins enforcement of business closures

While Pennsylvania has not enacted a “stay-at-home” order, Gov. Tom Wolf said Sunday evening that state troopers were ready to begin enforcing his shutdown of 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.

Philly opens “relief fund” for small businesses

Philadelphia has set aside $9 million for small businesses that have lost 50 percent of revenue or more due to the coronavirus outbreak, officials announced Monday.

The relief will be available to businesses that make $5 million or less annually.

“These businesses are the backbone of our city’s economy, and this fund will help some of our small businesses survive the COVID-19 crisis while also retaining as many jobs for workers as possible,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a statement.

The city is making loans and small grants available to businesses depending on their size.

Interested businesses can apply for relief by filling out a form on the city’s website.

Philly restaurant industry cries for help

Some of the most prominent Philadelphia restaurateurs say their industry is on the verge of collapse due to mandatory, coronavirus-related closures.

Stephen Starr, Marc Vetri and 40 other restaurant owners have banded together to form a new coalition called Save Philly Restaurants. They’re petitioning local, state and federal officials for a relief package that includes emergency unemployment benefits for laid-off workers, rent abatement and a moratorium on commercial evictions.

The restaurant industry, they say, is in an especially precarious position because the business model requires near-constant revenue.

“None of us have a clear path to survival beyond a couple of weeks from now,” said Nicole Marquis, owner of Hip City Vedge. “Restaurants run on very tight margins.”

Right now, Marquis said, the priority is helping restaurant workers, who she says are the most vulnerable.

Temple, Villanova cancel in-person commencement

Temple and Villanova Universities announced they will not hold in-person commencement ceremonies.

Temple was set to hold its festivities on May 7. President Richard Englert says the university is “exploring alternatives” to an in-person event.

Villanova says it will broadcast a live-streamed event on May 15 instead of a traditional ceremony.

Broad Street Run postponed

Philadelphia’s annual Broad Street Run, held typically in May, has been postponed.

One of the country’s largest road races will now be run October 4th, according to Mayor Jim Kenney. Runners registered for the event will automatically have their registration transferred to the new data.

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