Memorial Day brings worry about second wave

Parks and nature trails in the city will remain open, but barbecues, large picnics and other group activities are not allowed.
PHOTO: Getty Images

Philadelphia leaders on Wednesday reiterated their concern that Memorial Day weekend could lead to a second wave of the novel coronavirus.

It’s looking like the weather will be ideal, particularly on Sunday and Monday. Earlier this week, officials urged residents not to go to the beach or travel to the Jersey Shore.

“I urge everyone to resist the temptation of taking part in large gatherings,” Mayor Jim Kenney said during his daily press briefing. “There may be a tradition for you or your family, but it is still simply too risky, and we want to see you around next Memorial Day to celebrate.”

Parks and nature trails in the city will remain open, though Kenney said barbecues, large picnics and other group activities would not be allowed. He asked park-goers to wear masks and stay 6 feet apart.

“We have made a lot of progress thanks to the willingness of just about everyone to step up,” he added. “The last thing we want to see at this point is a holiday weekend wiping out all that progress.”

Officials reported 227 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, in line with recent counts; however, there were 103 additional deaths connected to the virus, raising the city’s toll to 1,152.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley attributed the jump in deaths to weekly database reconciliation efforts. Employees in his department have been tracking down death certificates and matching them to known coronavirus cases.

Overall, the number of virus-related fatalities continues to decline, Farley said.

“There’s still signs of progress against the epidemic, but it does say that the peak of the epidemic is worse than we estimated before and the total number of deaths from the epidemic is higher than we estimated before,” he added.

On Wednesday, the city launched an outreach campaign to alert people about free COVID-19 testing sites in their neighborhood. The effort will utilize social media, neighborhood Nextdoor pages and automated phone calls.

Nearly 50 locations in Philadelphia offer testing. Visit www.phila.gov/testing for more information.

Farley said Wednesday it might be time to think about how to restructure nursing homes to better protect residents, following the statewide release of data Tuesday showing coronavirus cases and deaths by facility.

“They don’t have the kind of resources that a hospital does to prevent infections spreading from one resident to another,” he said. “Reform may not be too strong of a term.”

Some hospitals in the city have partnered with nursing homes to provide resources and expertise, Farley said. He said those efforts have been successful, and he thinks they could be formalized in the future.

More than 3,000 residents of long-term care facilities in Philadelphia have been infected with COVID-19, and 54 percent of the city’s deaths have occurred in nursing homes.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday eased virus-related restrictions on the real estate industry, allowing for the limited resumption of activities.

All real estate businesses are required to follow certain guidelines, including wearing masks and putting in place a procedure if an employee tests positive. In-person interactions should still be avoided when possible, Wolf’s office said.

Only the real estate agent and two people should be permitted to view a property for sale or rent, according to the Governor’s Office.

City-sponsored food box distribution sites will be closed on Memorial Day and will reopen on Tuesday instead from 10 a.m. to noon. Seniors who have been having food delivered on Mondays should receive it Friday.

Student meal locations at public schools will be closed Monday, and meal sites at Parks and Recreation properties that are usually open Mondays will be open Tuesday.

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