A Philadelphia man diagnosed with the novel coronavirus died after a short stay in the hospital, becoming the city’s first death related to COVID-19.
The man was in his 50s and had underlying medical conditions, according to Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.
“We are all deeply saddened by the loss of this resident,” Mayor Jim Kenney said during a daily press briefing. “Our prayers are with the family and loved ones at this very difficult time.”
“The unfortunate reality is that there will likely be more deaths as the number of cases grow, which is why our stay-at-home order is essential,” he added.
City officials reported 93 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the largest one-day increase since the beginning of the epidemic.
In total, 342 people in Philadelphia have been infected, Farley said, including police officers, firefighters and other city employees. City leaders declined to elaborate on those cases.
SEPTA announced the first COVID-19 case among its employees late Tuesday night. The person works at the authority’s Center City headquarters and last reported to their job on March 19, SEPTA said.
The employee, who doesn’t interact with riders, has been quarantined at home with mild symptoms, and SEPTA notified their co-workers and cleaned the area where they worked, according to a statement.
“The health and safety of employees and customers is SEPTA’s utmost concern,” the transit system said. “SEPTA is urging any employees with a fever or respiratory illness to remain at home, and contact their healthcare provider.”
Farley said the Department of Public Health has published guidelines on the city’s website instructing organizations on what to do if an employee contracts COVID-19. In general, all co-workers who have spent 10 minutes or more within 6 feet of the person with the virus should self-quarantine for two weeks, he said.
Meanwhile, city officials want anyone who has traveled to New York City, as well as Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties in New York and Bergen County in New Jersey, in the last two weeks to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The New York metropolitan area has been a coronavirus hotspot, and the city alone has reported more than 1,000 new cases a day since March 18 and nearly 200 people have died.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress, after days of negotiations, reportedly reached a deal on a $2 trillion relief package early Wednesday morning, and Kenney said the city was happy with the plan, if not the timing.
“We are pleased with the passage, although having this a week ago certainly would have been more helpful,” he said.
Kenney specifically praised the proposal’s direct payments to residents; emergency loans to businesses that don’t lay off workers; extension of unemployment protections; and aid to cities and counties.
“At first glance, I can tell you this package is a significant step toward ensuring that all Americans, including Philadelphians, are able to weather the economic hardship of this pandemic,” he said.
Philadelphia businesses, especially restaurants, bars, hotels, child care centers, retailers and those in the tourism industry, have been hit hard by the pandemic.