Health chief says Philly “past the peak”

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said on Tuesday that a second wave of coronavirus has arrived in Philadelphia.
PHOTO: JACK TOMCZUK

Health officials believe Philadelphia is “past the worst” of its coronavirus outbreak, but any thoughts of reopening are still weeks away.

The daily number of new cases in the city has begun to fall, thanks to social distancing, not because of any increase in testing capacity, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.

“It’s looking like we are past the peak of this epidemic, that we are now on the downslope,” Farley said during a press briefing Monday. “Now, we’re not going down quickly.”

Mayor Jim Kenney, noting Saturday’s beautiful weather, continued to urge residents to follow the stay-at-home order and refrain from gathering. Most are following the rules, but some, mostly young people, continue to get together for picnics and other activities, he said.

“We are at a very critical point in this crisis,” Kenney said. “The better we follow the public health guidance, the sooner we will get our lives back to normal.”

“People have to be disciplined and adult and mature about what this is,” he added. “Even though you think you’re invincible, your parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles are not invincible, especially if they’re over a certain age.”

Philadelphia reported 302 additional COVID-19 cases on Monday, though that tally might be falsely low due to reporting delays over the weekend. Twelve people died from complications of the virus, raising the city toll to 484.

Officials said 985 coronavirus patients are being treated at city hospitals. Region-wide, 33 percent of hospital beds and 29 percent of intensive care unit slots are open, Farley said.

In assessing Philadelphia’s fight against the virus, Farley said it is useful to look at the reproductive rate, also known as “r-naught,” which is the average number of people infected by a person with the virus.

If it’s above 1.0, the disease is spreading. If it’s under 1.0, even slightly, that means the virus is in decline. Farley believes the city is now on the good side of the metric.

“In the competition against this virus, we’re showing that we can win, but the game isn’t over yet,” he said. “Not by a long shot. There’s still much more we need to do in order to win.”

Meanwhile, municipal leaders are in the process of reworking protocols to allow more people to stay at the Holiday Inn Express and Fairfield Inn and Suites, two city-run quarantine sites in Center City.

Managing Director Brian Abernathy said the hotels will begin accepting seniors staying in homeless shelters. Officials are also looking at allowing recently released inmates who have no place to stay.

So far, the sites have been open to people with symptoms who can’t quarantine at home, including those who are homeless and first responders. Currently, there are 93 people staying at the Holiday Inn and one at the Fairfield, Abernathy said.

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels are scheduled to do a few runs over Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon after departing from Joint Base McQuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington County.

“We probably could use the money on something else, rather than the personnel and equipment utilized, but I’m not going to turn something which might be positive into a negative,” Kenney said.

The jets are scheduled to fly in formation over the city beginning just before 2 p.m., according to an itinerary released Monday.

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