COVID-19 Philadelphia: Officials ban public gatherings over 1,000 people

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia officials have banned public gatherings of over 1,000 people for the next 30 days over coronavirus concerns. They are also recommending there be no gatherings of more than 250 people for the next 30 days.

To date, only one person has tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus but officials expect that number to go up.

The person is being treated at home and officials have started contacting others who came into contact with the individual. The employee self-reported and is now under self-isolation.

"More people will get sick and we have to expect that there will be deaths as a result of this," said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.

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"We are increasingly concerned about several things. First, the contacts to the cases that have been identified in Philadelphia, and in like Montgomery County, many of them have symptoms. And the testing availability and the turnaround time for reporting results has been very limited," said Farley.

Officials say there are 45 people under evaluation for possible coronavirus.

On Thursday, Philadelphia school officials said an employee was recently in contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19. The employee self-reported and is now under self-isolation, officials said.

The district said the space where the employee worked is undergoing a deep cleaning.

Superintendent William Hite said the School District of Philadelphia would remain open, but late Thursday night, officials announced 63 schools would be closed Friday due to a staff shortage from employees living in Montgomery County. Residents in the county are on restriction as officials work to contain the coronavirus outbreak. It's unclear when Philadelphia schools will reopen.

"The School District of Philadelphia has been working closely with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health on how we can safely continue learning and instruction during this public health matter," Hite said. "We will continue to follow the advice of public health officials and remain committed to the health and safety of our entire school community."

The district will limit activities where large groups will be gathered. Athletic practices will be permitted, but games will be postponed until further notice. All school-sponsored trips and work-related travel is postponed at this time unless approved by the superintendent.

"We know that closing schools would have a significant impact on our students who depend on the consistency and predictability of the services our schools provide, including meals, shelter and health services. For these reasons, every effort will be made to keep our doors open," said Hite.



Philadelphia's public gathering ban is just one of the many happening across the region and the country.

The Philadelphia Orchestra played to an empty crowd on Thursday night. They did stream the performance online and plan to do it again on Sunday.

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 22 have tested presumptive positive for COVID-19 across the region.

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COVID-19 stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019, which was when the first cases were reported.



This story will be updated.
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