Pa. coronavirus recovery: COVID-19 cases in young Philadelphians continue to increase

People waiting in line to enter a grocery store wear COVID-19 protective masks, Friday, July 3, 2020, in McCandless, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

People waiting in line to enter a grocery store wear COVID-19 protective masks, Friday, July 3, 2020, in McCandless, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Updated 3:45 p.m.

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On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 91,299 coronavirus cases since the coronavirus pandemic began, and 6,757 deaths.

Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health reported 26,901 cases and 1,617 deaths. There were no new deaths reported from Monday to Tuesday.

COVID-19 cases in young Philadelphians continue to increase

In the last four weeks, Health Commissioner Tom Farley said, Philadelphia has seen case counts rising in people under the age of 40, remaining mostly stable for those between the ages of 40-49, and decreasing in populations over 50.

That decrease is promising, since older people are at highest risk of medical complications due to the virus — and it might be why, even as case numbers continue to grow, the rate of hospitalizations and deaths has declined. On Tuesday, there were no new deaths reported.

City officials are still concerned that young people, who may be experiencing less symptoms, could still pass the virus on to older ones. Still, the decrease in case counts is significant. At the peak of the epidemic in April, Philadelphia saw 246 coronavirus deaths in one week; that’s a significant shift, Farley said Tuesday, and “the fact that we’re getting closer to zero is a sign that we’re making progress.”

AG puts an end to price gouging at Paoli Pharmacy

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced today that the state’s office shut down price-gouging efforts at Paoli Pharmacy in Chester County.

The attorney general’s office learned that the pharmacy sold approximately 100 individual N95 masks in zip-lock bags, for as much as $25 per mask. Under the Price Gouging Act, a price increase of more than 20% during a declared state of emergency is considered price gouging; before the coronavirus pandemic, N95 masks cost a dollar or less. The pharmacy must pay $5,300 in civil penalties, in addition to restitution of $1,946.50 for consumers who purchased the face masks, and comply with all provisions of the Pennsylvania Consumer Protection Law and Price Gouging Act moving forward.

“We won’t tolerate illegal price gouging during this emergency, and we’re taking action every day to stop it … Pennsylvanians need security and financial protection right now, especially when so many have lost wages and 30% of our residents are out of work,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “You have a right in Pennsylvania to purchase life-saving goods at reasonable prices, whether in-store or online.”

Consumers who purchased N95 face masks from Paoli Pharmacy could be eligible for restitution if they paid more than they should have. If Pennsylvanians see suspicious price increases on products like groceries and medicine anywhere else in the state, they’re encouraged to contact pricegouging@attorneygeneral.gov and fill out a complaint form.

Philly school district begins virtual town halls

Starting today, the School District of Philadelphia is hosting a series of virtual town halls to share information about its plans for the school year and to offer parents the chance to provide input and feedback. District leaders will discuss facility cleaning policies, digital learning and curriculum, scheduling and school calendar changes, and health and safety.

The sessions will take place Tuesday through Thursday of this week and will be livestreamed on the district’s site, Comcast/Xfinity Channel 52, Verizon Fios 20, and Facebook Live @PhillySchools.

Philly educators weigh the risk of back-to-school planning

It’s midsummer now, but the Philadelphia School District is already planning towards students’ potential return in the fall. In addition to holding a series of town hall meetings this week, district leaders are fielding questions and concerns about the risk of reopening city schools.

For example, which students’ needs are most pertinent in the decision about whose classes return in person? Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Hite said the district is prioritizing children who “really need to be in front of a teacher;” that group includes special needs students, students studying English as a second language, students in career and technical education classes, and the youngest grade levels: pre-K, kindergarten, and first graders.

Another concern is transportation. The majority of Philadelphia’s students use bus, subway, and/or trolley routes to get to class; “7th through 12th grade in [the] city of Philadelphia — public schools, school district schools, charter schools, the archdiocesan schools — all of those children take public transportation,” Hite said. The finalized plan, he added, would probably not have all students traveling on the same days. Those who did travel would need to do so under strict SEPTA guidelines, with limited train-car capacity and mandatory mask wearing.

And finally, given that City Health Commissioner Tom Farley is encouraging vulnerable populations to stay home — and monitor those coming in and out — what’s the risk of school kids becoming viral spreaders?

“[Children] could bring it back to people at home, and if you have elderly people, or people who are medically vulnerable at home, that’s a risk,” said Farley. “We’re doing everything we can to communicate to the vulnerable people … that they need to take precautions within those households. That’s not a risk we can eliminate, that’s a risk we can reduce as much as possible.”

Superintendent Hite said that the district is working with the city health commissioner, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and others to consider factors that could increase the likelihood of coronavirus spread. He suggested a form of “continuous questioning” via survey forms for young people who attend school in-person, which he said would allow school administrators to monitor possible COVID-19 risk.

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Philadelphia water shutoffs still frozen

Good news for Philadelphians unable to pay their utility bills recently: The water will stay on.

The Philadelphia Water Department has announced that it will not shut off water service to customers who fall behind on bill payments, at least through Aug. 31.

The city typically suspends water service shutoffs for residential customers between Dec. 1 and March 31, but it has continued to extend that suspension to both residential and commercial customers because of health and safety concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since unpaid water bills continue to pile up, those who can’t pay should apply for help immediately. Philadelphians who qualify for the city’s assistance program can get discounted water rates and have their past-due bills removed. The city recommends that senior citizens and customers experiencing job loss, medical bills, or any other special hardship apply.

Pizza company helps fight COVID-related food insecurity

Food-insecure families in Philadelphia will have more meal access, thanks to a donation of $1 million from pizza company CAULIPOWER to the American Heart Association’s food security and education programs. The AHA will provide nearly 21,000 meals for low-income Philadelphians through a partnership with local nonprofit Food Connect, whose Meals Initiative hires food service employees to prepare and distribute food for those impacted by the pandemic.

The gift, Jennifer Litchman-Green of the American Heart Association Philadelphia said, offers the “opportunity to provide meals to families in North and West Philadelphia while supporting the local restaurant workforce.”

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