City officials called for more leadership from the federal government to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and said the owners of the defunct Hahnemann Hospital were dragging out negotiations with the city to potentially use the shuttered facility.
Mayor Jim Kenney said the city’s stay-at-home order will remain in effect for as long as necessary to combat the effects of the virus, rebuffing President Donald Trump for weighing whether to defy health experts and lift national restrictions in order to restart the economy.
Lifting restrictions too early would put the economy ahead of saving lives, Kenney said, and city officials continued to wait on much needed federal aid.
“This is a need for the president of the United States and the United States Congress to step up and act like it is a war, like it is a depression and do what needs to be done,” Kenney said.
Trump tweeted on Sunday, “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” and reiterated it during the White House’s Monday news conference and on Twitter Tuesday. Several news agencies reported Trump is considering lifting the 15-day restrictions to help the economy.
Philadelphia had 77 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the total of 252 cases, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said. Twenty-three individuals were known to be hospitalized due to the virus.
Farley said the overall trend for cases was increasing rapidly, which he expected to continue for at least the next week.
Of the total number of cases, 10 were under 20 years old; 122 were between 20 and 39 years old; 56 were between 40 and 59 years old; and 64 were above the age of 60.
City officials remain in negotiations with the owners of Hahnemann Hospital to make use of the vacant building in Center City, which closed due to bankruptcy last year, to handle an anticipated surge in patients and quarantine space.
City Manager Brian Abernathy said negotiations with Joel Freedman, a California investment banker and chief executive of the hospital’s parent company American Academic Health System, were “challenging.”
“[Freedman] is looking how to turn an asset that is earning no revenue into an asset that earns some revenue and isn’t urgently thinking through what the impacts are on public health,” Abernathy said.
“He is looking at this as a business transaction rather than providing an imminent and important need to the city and our residents.”
City officials have turned down the hospital owner’s offers for the city to purchase the building and to lease it for a year.
Abernathy said the owners were now offering a six-month lease for an “unreasonable” rental price, but remained “cautiously optimistic” a deal would get done.
“As you know, the owner, Mr. Freedman, was difficult to work with at times when he was the owner of the hospital and he is still difficult to work with as the owner of the shuttered hospital.”
Sam Singer, spokesman for Freedman, said Freedman was “concerned” and “disappointed” by Abernathy’s comments. Broad Street Healthcare Properties, which Freedman heads, currently owns the former Hahnemann Hospital site.
The company was offering to rent the property, which has a capacity of 500 hospital beds, to the city for $13,500 a day for six months ($2.46 million), Singer said. The city would have to pay an additional $16,500 a day for utilities and other ancillary costs during that time, or $3 million.
Talks between Freedman and the city to rent the former hospital were ongoing, Singer said.
“We’re trying to find a reasonable, equitable solution with the city to provide Hahnemann as a major quarantine center to cope with community members affected by the coronavirus,” Singer said.
PECO to reconnect disconnected residents
PECO will work with customers whose electric service has been disconnected to reconnect service this week, representatives of the utility said in a news release.
“We provide an important service and recognize that our customers are relying on electricity during this critical time,” said Mike Innocenzo, PECO president and CEO. “We need to come together in support of one another during this time, ensuring every customer has access to safe and reliable electric service is just one of the many ways we are doing just that.”
Customers who have had their electric service disconnected should contact PECO at 1-800-494-4000 to begin the reconnection process. Customers will not have to pay new connection fees or deposits, but they will continue to be responsible for any previous unpaid balances. PECO customer service representatives will work with customers to help them gain access to assistance programs that can supplement bill payment.
On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf extended his stay-at-home order for Philadelphia, the four suburban counties and Pittsburgh.
Schools across the state will remain closed at least through April 6. Officials currently plan for staff to return to schools on April 7 and students to return on April 9.
The School District will provide new 10-day school learning guides on Wednesday online at philasd.org. Paper copies will be available at free meal distribution sites at district-run schools starting Thursday.
All Philadelphia Parks & Recreation buildings, playgrounds, and athletic courts remain closed. Parks, athletic fields, and trails remain open.
Free meals for children at fewer locations
The city and School District continue to provide free meals for students 18 and under at limited locations today.
District-run schools will not offer meals today. Meal pickups at schools are available on Mondays and Thursdays.
Meals for children will be provided between 9 a.m. and noon at the following Philadelphia Housing Authority locations:
- Abbottsford Homes Community Center, 3226 McMichael St.
- Bartram Village Community Center, 5404 Gibson Drive
- Raymond Rosen Homes Community Center, 2301 W. Edgley St.
- John F. Street Community Center, 1100 Poplar St.
- Wilson Park Community Center, 2500 Jackson St.
- West Park Apartments Community Center, 300 N. Busti St.
Charter school sites will offer meals at 25 schools, but it’s unclear whether they offer the meals every day. Families should check those charter school websites for more information.
The full list of schools, public housing and older adult centers where meals will be distributed, visit http://bit.ly/CVmeals