Philadelphia’s coronavirus death toll passes 500

Mayor Jim Kenney shared his condolences during Thursday's press briefing.

As residents craned their necks to view a military flyover Tuesday afternoon, Philadelphia passed a grim milestone in its battle with the novel coronavirus.

More than 500 Philadelphians have succumbed to complications related to COVID-19, officials said. That includes 32 new deaths reported Tuesday, and the city’s toll now stands at 516.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all of their loved ones,” Mayor Jim Kenney said during his daily press briefing. “Please know that all Philadelphia joins you in mourning these individuals, and we’d like to send our special prayers for them.”

There were 577 additional coronavirus cases Tuesday, raising the city’s total to 13,445. In southeastern Pennsylvania, 1,856 people are hospitalized with the virus, including about 1,000 in Philadelphia.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the city’s data comes in batches, so the full story of the pandemic can’t be gleaned from daily case counts.

“It’s still looking like we’re past the peak, but the decline we’re seeing in daily cases is a very slow decline,” he said. “It’s not as fast as we would all like it to be.”

Weekly averages indicate the city’s peak likely occurred between April 8 and April 12, Farley said.

At least some workers who have been staying home may be able to return to their jobs in Philadelphia as soon as Friday.

Gov. Tom Wolf has said restrictions on the construction industry will be eased Friday, allowing most projects to resume. Kenney’s administration is still reviewing the state’s action and will release more details Wednesday on how the change will be rolled out in the city.

“For now, I can tell you, with some limited exceptions, construction projects that were subject to the state’s shutdown order on March 20 will be allowed to resume in Philadelphia on this Friday,” Kenney said.

The mayor said he hopes it will boost the city’s economy. Previously, only construction supporting life-sustaining businesses was permitted.

Workers will be required to follow the state’s coronavirus-related guidelines, including wearing masks, according to Wolf’s office.

Wolf announced Monday that golf courses, marinas and privately-owned campgrounds will also be allowed to reopen Friday with social distancing precautions, though it’s unclear if city leaders will go along with the move.

Managing Director Brian Abernathy said officials haven’t made a final decision on whether Philadelphia’s golf courses will be permitted to resume operations.

In other coronavirus-related news, Kenney urged residents not to throw masks, gloves or wipes, even “flushable” ones, in the toilet.

Kenney said the Philadelphia Water Department has reported 12 times the amount of clogging waste than would normally be expected. In addition, 19 of the department’s 21 pumping stations have experienced issues.

The improper disposal of personal protective equipment and wipes threatens waterways and could lead to significant infrastructure damage, including water main breaks, Kenney said. He asked residents to throw the refuse in a trash can.

“Please do not flush any of these items down the toilet,” he added. “That was an odd conversation, but we had to have it.”

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