Hospitals not yet overwhelmed by COVID-19

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Hospitals in the Philadelphia region are beginning to see a spike in patients with the COVID-19 virus, but the system is far from overloaded, health officials said.

The virus is spreading rapidly in the city, with 425 new cases reported Thursday. So far, 2,100 people have been infected with COVID-19 in Philadelphia, and 17 have died, including nine nursing home residents.

In Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery and Chester counties, there have been a combined 1,785 positive tests and 25 COVID-19-related deaths, according to state data.

Even so, healthcare centers in Philadelphia and its Pennsylvania suburbs have not yet been overwhelmed, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.

“The hospitals are preparing for the increase in patients that they expect to see in the future, and they are already beginning to see an increase in patients with this infection in the hospital,” he said.

As of Thursday, there were 560 people in Philadelphia and the aforementioned counties in the hospital with coronavirus, including 316 at city hospitals, Farley said. Philadelphia medical centers have about 6,000 beds, while the region has a total of 12,000.

Farley said 44 percent of the region’s hospital beds are empty, and emergency rooms are seeing about half the number of patients they would have expected pre-virus.

“We have plenty of availability in the healthcare system right now, should people need it,” he said during the city’s daily press briefing. “We want to keep it that way.”

In other coronavirus-related news, Mayor Jim Kenney signed legislation Thursday afternoon devoting $85 million to fighting the disease.

City Council unanimously passed the spending bill earlier in the day during its first remote session. Aside from Council President Darrell Clarke, all other members joined the meeting virtually.

“Everybody understood the nature of moving this as quickly as possible, making sure that we got this in place,” Clarke said. “We will do whatever we need to do to flatten this curve.”

Kenney described the funding as critical. It will be used for testing sites and supplies, operating quarantine locations, acquiring personal protective equipment and maintaining core city operations, according to the Mayor’s Office.

The legislation also provides $400,000 for City Council to launch a public awareness campaign, which Clarke has said will stress the importance of social distancing.

Kenney’s administration will provide updates to council every two weeks on where the money is being spent.

Trash and recycling pick-up is running a day behind schedule due to staff shortages in the Department of Streets, Managing Director Brian Abernathy said.

Kenney said trash men will work through the weekend to catch up. He told residents to continue putting trash and recycling out on their normal days and leave it there if it’s not picked up.

Abernathy said no other city services have been affected by workers calling out.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered all courts to remain closed through April 30. Evictions have been suspended and are not permitted.

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