Coronavirus in Philadelphia: City puts restrictions in place to reduce spread of COVID-19

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The City of Philadelphia ordered several closures and restrictions in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus. To date, there are at least 9 confirmed cases in the city.

The following was released by Mayor Jim Kenney's office on Monday afternoon:

City officials have announced new restrictions on commercial activity, and a halt to all non-essential City government operations, in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Philadelphia.

The following changes on commercial activity are effective Monday, March 16, 2020 at 5 p.m. and will last through at least March 27. A precise end date has not been determined.



ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES

Only essential commercial establishments should remain open.

To allow for essential goods to be accessible to the public, the City of Philadelphia designates the following businesses as essential:

-Supermarkets and grocery stores
-Big box stores
-Pharmacies
-Discount stores, mini-markets, and non-specialized food stores
-Daycare centers
-Hardware stores
-Gas stations
-Banks
-Post Offices
-Laundromats and dry cleaners
-Veterinary clinics for domestic pets and pet stores

Also deemed essential are commercial establishments that sell any of the following:

-frozen products;
-non-specialized stores of computers, telecommunications equipment, audio and video consumer electronics, household appliances;
-IT and telecommunication equipment;
-hardware, paint, flat glass;
-electrical, plumbing and heating material;
-automotive fuel;
-domestic fuel;
-sanitary equipment;
-personal hygiene products;
-medication not requiring medical prescription;
-medical and orthopedic equipment;
-optics and photography equipment;
-soaps and detergents.

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FOOD ESTABLISHMENTS

Food establishments may only accommodate online and phone orders for delivery and pick-up, and cannot allow dine-in service, for the duration of these restrictions.

"These new restrictions come in response to the latest data we have on COVID-19. These changes are not made lightly, and we are well aware of the potentially devastating effect they will have on the businesses and workers of Philadelphia," said Mayor Jim Kenney. "Our Administration is actively developing grant and loan programs aimed at business and job preservation. For now, I urge all businesses and residents to observe these restrictions so that the threat of this virus can quickly be eliminated."

On Monday night, it was quiet in the city.

"A little eerie, less traffic though, so that works," said Jordon Carstarphen.

Melany Masalski compared it to the eve of a weather event.

"It's as if you were waiting for a snowstorm or something like that," said Masalski.

At Cosmi's Deli on South Eighth Street by Dickinson, Mike Seccia is taking every precaution and thinking about people out of work.

"We're going to keep washing hands, wearing gloves. Drivers are going to be delivering with gloves and sanitize door handles.

PHILADELPHIA GOVERNMENT CLOSURES

Non-essential City of Philadelphia government operations are halted, and all City government buildings will be closed to the public, effective tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (Staff members are still expected to report to work on Tuesday, March 17, unless otherwise instructed by their supervisor.)

Beginning Wednesday, March 18, all non-essential City workers will not need to report to work. Individual department heads are currently determining what operations are essential. Employees will be receiving additional information on their status in the next 24 hours. Essential operations will include public safety, health and human services, utilities, sanitation, and payroll.

PHILADELPHIA COVID-19 SICK LEAVE, BUSINESS AND WORKER RELIEF

The City and PIDC will launch a program to support Philadelphia businesses, help maintain payroll obligations, and preserve jobs impacted by the spread of COVID-19. The program will be a tiered program that aims to provide targeted support for small businesses.

The program will include a mix of new grants and zero-interest loans for Philadelphia businesses that make under $5 million in annual revenue. PIDC will continue to offer its existing lending programs for small and midsize businesses on flexible terms to provide working capital, fund contract receivables, refinance high-interest debt, and meet other needs.

More details about the program, including how businesses can apply, will be announced in the coming days.

The City will also continue to explore additional relief options available to businesses of all sizes that are made available through the State and Federal governments, as well as other sources. Additionally, the Commerce Department's Office of Business Services is available to answer questions businesses may have during this difficult time. They can be reached through the business services hotline (215-683-2100) and email (business@phila.gov).

In response to the COVID-19 health emergency, the Office of Benefits and Wage Compliance will not be enforcing predictability pay as of the April 1, 2020 effect date of the Fair Workweek law until further notice. However, employers are still expected to comply with other portions of the law. The City, through the Office of Benefits and Wage Compliance, will continue to work with businesses on compliance during this difficult and constantly-evolving situation.

In addition, the City's "Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Act," otherwise known as the sick leave law has been expanded so that covered workers can use their paid sick leave for COVID-19 related business closures, quarantine, and to stay home with their children during school closures without fear of retaliation.

The Mayor also praised Governor Wolf's relaxation of unemployment requirements, while calling on the Governor to streamline SNAP and TANF requirements.

Health Department update: Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley announced one additional presumptive confirmed case in Philadelphia, bringing the City's total to nine. The City is awaiting test results on 44 other people, and is currently following 104 people who have been exposed.



GREATER PHILADELPHIA CORONOVIRUS HELPLINE

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 healthcare providers, to help answer questions about COVID-19.

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 www.phila.gov/covid-19.
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