Kenney hopes to have trash collection “back on track” next week

Mayor Jim Kenney is quarantining at home after being exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19. Metro File

City leaders are hoping to return to a normal schedule for trash and recycling pick-up on Monday after weeks of delays.

Sanitation crews are about a day behind on trash, though in some neighborhoods, collection has caught up, Mayor Jim Kenney said during a press briefing Thursday afternoon.

Officials have said the delays have been caused by staff shortages due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and increased curbside tonnage, a result of people spending more time at home.

Kenney said 55 temporary trash collectors have been hired to help fill the gaps, and an additional 22 will be starting soon. His administration previously announced plans to hire a total of 125.

“Thanks to the measures we put in place, we are getting back on track,” Kenney said.

Residents are advised to set out their trash and recycling on their normal days.

Daily COVID-19 case counts in Philadelphia continue to trend below 100, with 88 new infections reported Thursday and a positive test rate of 3%.

“We are seeing continued progress against the coronavirus epidemic, with improving signs locally, regionally and nationally,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.

During what officials characterized as the “second wave” of the pandemic, the health department noted an increase in cases among people under 40. Those numbers have evened out, and new cases are no longer predominately in younger people, Farley said.

An average of 3,000 city residents are tested every day, and city leaders have a goal of 5,000 tests per day.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance, advising people that they may not need to be tested if they were exposed to someone with the virus and are asymptomatic.

The controversial change drew objections across the country, and Farley said Thursday that the health department is sticking by its guidelines that anyone with symptoms and people who have been exposed should be tested.

“As the case rates go down, testing those people who were exposed is even more important because we want to identify as many people with the infection as possible so that we can do contact tracing and stop the chain of transmission,” he said.

It’s recommended that people wait seven days after their exposure to get tested to ensure accurate results, he added.

In other coronavirus-related news, the School District of Philadelphia is adding 22 new meal distribution sites, for a total of 62, but the distribution locations will require recipients to provide a student identification number beginning next week.

Previously, families could receive the free meals, no questions asked. Kenney blamed the U.S. Department of Agriculture for not extending a waiver issued early in the pandemic that relaxed rules.

City and district representatives continue to push federal officials to lengthen the waiver period, Kenney said.

Only students who attend Philadelphia public schools or Kipp West PHL Preparatory Charter, Philadelphia Electric and Tech Charter, Math Civic and Science Charter, Prep Charter School of Math, Science Tech and Careers and Multi Cultural Academy Charter will be eligible under the new rules.

The grab-and-go sites will be open from 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays and are in addition to 31 city-operated food box distribution centers, which also operate on Thursdays between 10 a.m. and noon.

For more information about both food programs, visit www.phila.gov/food.

The Philadelphia Water Department has extended its shut-off moratorium, which began in March, through the end of September, officials said Thursday.

However, late bills will pile up and remain on a customer’s account. Anyone who needs help paying their water bill is encouraged to go to www.phila.gov/waterbillhelp or call 215-685-6300.

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