PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- People in Philadelphia are flushing their personal protective gear down the toilet and Mayor Kenney is urging them to stop.
These items, including gloves and wipes, are putting a strain on the city's water infrastructure, the mayor said. Nineteen of the Philadelphia Water Department's pumping stations have been impacted by PPE waste.
Officials said the Philadelphia Water Department is seeing 12 times more clogging than normal at its processing facilities.
Department officials are now reporting 100 pounds a month compared to the usual 100 pounds a year.
Kenney warned this could create public health problems and the risk of water main breaks which drain the city's water reserves.
"We are seeing a large increase in the amount of PPE and other items being discarded through people flushing these items down the toilet," Kenney said Tuesday. "This is taking a toll on our water treatment infrastructure and residents' private property."
Officials said masks, gloves, and wipes should be properly disposed of in the trash.
They should not be left on the ground, dropped into sewer inlets, or flushed down toilets. When people leave them on the streets, they can go down the storm drains, creating more clogs.
Officials also add that flushable wipes are not flushable, despite the label.
"We strongly recommend against flushing anything but toilet paper. Even wipes sold as 'flushable' often don't have the science or regulations to back up that claim, so it's a pricey gamble," Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Randy E. Hayman said. "If you use wipes for your hands or anything else, please toss them in the trash and dispose of them like you would other household waste. It may seem like a small thing, but it can have a big impact at a time when we need everyone to work together."
Philadelphia health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley announced 358 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the city total to 13,803.
The Department of Public Health again noted clusters of positive cases in congregate settings, including nursing homes, behavioral health facilities, and the Department of Prisons. Five additional inmates have tested positive. The current total of positive cases at correctional facilities is 68.
There were 25 new deaths reported for a total of 541. Of the 541 total deaths, 306 (57%) were long-term care facility residents.
The Department of Public Health reports 1,012 patients with COVID-19 are currently being treated in Philadelphia hospitals, with a total of 1,858 people hospitalized in the region (including Philadelphia).
Farley said it appears the city has passed the peak of the pandemic, with declines in daily cases and deaths.
GOLF COURSES REOPENING
Golf courses in Philadelphia will be able to resume operations as early as this Friday, May 1, Kenney announced.
Those courses that choose to reopen must follow the guidelines for outdoor recreation issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and shared by the state earlier this week.
Five city-owned golf courses and two driving ranges will reopen Friday, with strict guidelines in place.
City officials said failure to comply with these rules and restrictions may result in removal from the course. Additional rules and restrictions at City-run golf courses include, but are not limited to:
- There will be limited access to the putting greens with no more than four players permitted at a time.
- All players must practice social distancing and maintain a minimum distance of six feet from each other as well as employees at all times.
- At sites where golf carts are operating, only one player is allowed per cart, with a maximum of two carts allowed per tee time.
- There will be no clubhouse or restroom access.
- Food and beverage service will be limited to pre-paid drinks and pre-packaged snacks.
- All rakes and ball washers have been removed from course.
- No player should touch the flagsticks-all holes have been raised so balls do not go into the hole.
- All carts will be sanitized after each use by golf course staff.
- Masks are suggested for customers in accordance with state and local guidelines.
- All employees will practice social distancing and maintain a distance of six feet from all customers and staff members at all times.
- All employees will wear a mask while on the property.
- Hand sanitizer will be provided to employees and customers as available.
The City-run sites reopening this week are Cobbs Creek Golf Course and Karakung Golf Course (same location), Walnut Lane Golf Course, John F. Byrne Golf Course, Juniata Golf Course, Burholme Golf Driving Range (miniature golf will not open), and Strawberry Green Driving Range (aka 33rd and Oxford Driving Range).
The city will begin scaling back operations at the COVID Surge Facility at Temple University's Liacouras Center over the next 14 days.
Officials will be stopping admissions and discharging those who are being treated when they are able to go home.
"With few patients, a stabilizing of the number of cases within the community, and sufficient bed capacity at existing hospitals, I do not see the need for a surge facility in the foreseeable future. The city is grateful to Temple University for its willingness to host this facility. Everyone involved is thankful that we are at a point where it is not needed at this time. Please help us keep it that way, by continuing to follow social distancing and other guidelines," Farley said.
Farley said the Liacouras Center will remain active to support the city's COVID-19 response, which includes hosting Department of Defense personnel working in area hospitals, and in case a need to reopen to patients occurs going forward.
Mayor Kenney announced an Executive Order detailing the resumption of construction activity in Philadelphia. This follows Governor Wolf's order allowing resumption statewide on Friday, May 1.
Under Kenney's order, construction activity may resume in Philadelphia on May 1 within strict limitations appropriate to the situation and the need to limit the spread of COVID-19.
These limitations include:
- All projects with currently issued construction permits can resume or start construction on Friday, May 1 at 7:00 am except underpinning, demolition of attached structures, and/or projects that require support of an existing party wall.
- No work is permitted within any occupied dwelling unit, except emergency repairs.
- In multi-family buildings, no work is permitted within any occupied dwelling unit or within any shared common area, except emergency repairs.
- Work can only take place between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for emergency repairs.
- Each Contractor must appoint a Pandemic Safety Officer who must obtain COVID-19 training certificate from OSHA here or here.
- Each contractor must maintain a COVID-19 Safety Plan at the work site and comply with all Commonwealth and City orders related to COVID-19, and the Governor's April 23, 2020 "Guidance for Businesses in the Construction Industry Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency."
- For permitted work on one and two-family dwellings, no more than four workers are permitted on-site at any time per dwelling unit.
- No more than four workers may work at a commercial site or portion thereof that is enclosed and less than 2,000 square feet; one additional worker is allowed for each additional 500 square feet of enclosed area over 2,000 square feet.
- All construction permit applications filed on or after the Order must be applied for, approved, paid for, and issued online and only those permits issued on-line may start construction.
- Permits for projects that require ZBA action cannot be issued until further notice.
- Complaints about possible violations of the Order can be made by calling 3-1-1. Copies of the Order are available to members of the media on request.
Concurrent with this order, the mayor announced that the city's Board of Health will consider new regulations that increase the fines for violations of such activity. Details will be announced at a later date.
A list of available testing sites is provided on the City's website. Click on "Where Can Someone Get Tested?" The list includes private testing sites being run by hospital systems and other organizations across the city, as well as public testing sites.If individuals are not able to get tested through their medical provider or do not have a medical provider, they can be tested at a public testing site.
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health, along with the Health Federation of Philadelphia, is working with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) in Philadelphia to expand testing capabilities in underserved communities. Recommended criteria for testing eligibility at the sites are:
- Age 50+ and symptomatic.
- People under 50 who are at high risk for severe illness due to chronic conditions and are symptomatic.
- Health care workers (defined broadly) who are symptomatic or are asymptomatic with close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case
The City-run location in Center City continues to serve those who are over the age of 50 and are displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19 coronavirus, as well as health care workers who are displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19 coronavirus. The site is available by appointment only and a referral is required. Those who meet the criteria and want a test can call (267) 491-5870 to obtain a referral.
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