Coronavirus cases, deaths continue to fall in Philadelphia

City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley speaks during a coronavirus press conference in March. PHOTO: Metro File
PHOTO: Melissa Mitman

Metrics continue to show that the novel coronavirus is weakening in Philadelphia, the city’s health commissioner said Tuesday.

The 7-day average for cases is 105 a day, compared to 123 for last week and 166 the week prior. Only two COVID-19-related deaths have occurred this month, though officials said fatalities can lag behind other indicators.

Still, it’s good news, according to Thomas Farley, the health chief who has been guiding the city’s response.

“Our case counts are falling in Philadelphia and around us, and our severe outcomes are falling over the long term,” he said.

The city logged 145 new cases Tuesday, bringing the total to 31,584 since the beginning of the pandemic. There have been 1,700 deaths attributed to the virus.

Farley said younger people are still making up a large share of the recent infections. For the cases reported Tuesday, nearly 60% of those who tested positive are under 40 years old.

Last week, the percent of positive tests was 4.1, which is the lowest it has been in Philadelphia. Gov. Tom Wolf has said counties with rates exceeding 5% should be more closely monitored.

Coronavirus testing delays continue to plague Quest Diagnostics, Farley said, frustrating public health officials and leaving people to wait several days before obtaining their results. The national laboratory processes about 12% of the city’s tests.

Farley said the health department has brought up the issue to representatives from the federal coronavirus task force, who arrived in town Tuesday to observe how Philadelphia is responding to the pandemic.

The city is preparing to send out about 14,000 postcards to residents considered at high risk for serious complications if the contract COVID-19.

Farley said the mailings will urge recipients to stay home and have people in their household wear masks. The cards will also include phone numbers and websites where residents can get more information about the virus.

Officials said the individuals were identified through Medicare, which maintains a list of addresses for people who receive medical equipment.

In other coronavirus-related news, Wolf on Monday said that the state has awarded $96 million in grants to nearly 5,000 small businesses affected by the pandemic.

The funding came from the federal CARES Act and was distributed through a series of programs.

About 23% of the businesses that benefited are located in Philadelphia, according to information provided by Wolf’s office.

“These grants and the relief they will provide are testament to what we can do when we prioritize the right initiatives,” State Sen. Vincent Hughes said in a statement. “It is critical to understand that there is still a great deal of need.”

Officials said applications for the second and final round of funding will be available until Aug. 28. Business owners who already applied will automatically be reconsidered and don’t need to apply again.

For more information, go to www.dced.pa.gov.

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