Philly residents ordered to stay home

Mayor Jim Kenney and city officials announced a mandate requiring city residents to stay home unless they are conducting essential activities like grocery shopping or seeking medical attention.
PHOTO: JACK TOMCZUK
Mayor Jim Kenney and city officials announced a mandate requiring city residents to stay home unless they are conducting essential activities like grocery shopping or seeking medical attention. PHOTO: JACK TOMCZUK

Philadelphia leaders on Sunday ordered people to stay home in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, following in the footsteps of other municipalities and states, including New Jersey.

The mandate, which goes into effect at 8 a.m. Monday, requires city residents to stay home unless they are shopping for groceries, seeking medical attention, caring for family members, friends or pets, or work in an essential job.

People are still allowed to walk, run, bike and partake in other outdoor activities, provided they stay at least 6 feet apart.

Mayor Jim Kenney said there are still too many people outside. Hundreds have been gathering for picnics, parties, barbecues and to play basketball, he said.

“It just didn’t seem like people were taking it all that serious,” Kenney said during a press briefing. “Most people are taking it serious, but there’s still too many people not taking it seriously.”

Officials are trying to “flatten the curve,” or prevent widespread illness that could overwhelm the healthcare system.

Managing Director Brian Abernathy said city leaders hope residents recognize the importance of staying home and said the city would be breaking up large groups of people.

“We don’t want to get to a point where we’re under martial law or anything like that, but I think everyone needs to recognize that this is serious,” Abernathy said.

Residents are also allowed to leave their homes if they have a reasonable fear for their health or safety; are directed to by law enforcement; or are engaging in any activity essential to the health and safety of themselves, family members or pets.

In addition, restaurants and bars will no longer be allowed to offer walk-in take-out. Customers must pre-order by phone or online, or ask for delivery. Food and ice cream trucks also must close under the order.

The city’s order shuttering non-essential businesses, which went into effect March 16, is now in force “until further notice,” Abernathy said. It was initially through March 27.

Eleven new coronavirus cases were reported Sunday, bringing the city’s total to 96. At least a dozen people have been hospitalized, and 16 cases involve healthcare workers, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.

Statewide, there have been 479 cases, and two people have died.

The city, in collaboration with the state and federal governments, opened a coronavirus testing site Friday in the parking lot at Citizens Bank Park. Farley said samples from 256 people were taken during the site’s first two days.

No prescription or appointment is needed to get tested. However, for now, the site is only opened to healthcare workers with common COVID-19 symptoms or people 50 and older with symptoms. Others will be turned away, Farley said.

The city on Friday released a new list for its free student meal distribution sites, which were set up after schools closed.

School District of Philadelphia facilities will now only distribute food on Mondays and Thursdays, and recipients will be able to take three grab-and-go bags. All sites, including charter schools and Philadelphia Housing Authority community centers, will be open from 9 a.m. to noon.

For a full list of locations, visit phila.gov.

Meanwhile, SEPTA is implementing cost-cutting measures due to dramatic ridership decreases as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic.

In a letter to employees, General Manager Leslie Richards said she and other SEPTA executives are taking a 10 percent pay cut. In addition, the transportation system is putting a freeze on new hires, eliminating overtime and considering further service reductions.

Ridership is down 64 percent across the board and 88 percent for Regional Rail.

“Given the evolving situation we must take difficult short-term measures,” Richards wrote. “All options are being considered.”

SEPTA is already running all buses, trains and trolleys on a Saturday schedule.

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