Thomas Farley

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley speaks at a news conference in March. — Tribune Photo/Abdul R. Sulayman

The majority of city residents who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus for whom there is data available are African American, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

Approximately 46% of the 528 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus for whom racial data is available are African American, Philadelphia Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said during the city's briefing on Wednesday. African Americans make up 43.7% of the city's population, according to the most recent census estimates

“This drives home the point that this virus is affecting all populations in the city of Philadelphia; it doesn’t discriminate,” Farley said. “Every racial and ethnic group, indeed every person in this city is at risk. We all need to be very serious about social distancing and other recommendations to keep residents healthy and slow the spread of the virus.”

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However, Farley noted that the city has racial data for only 31.5% of confirmed coronavirus cases; 1,675 city residents have tested positive.

“We are continuing to see a rapid growth in cases of coronavirus infection across Philadelphia,” Farley said.

The 1,675 confirmed cases to date include 286 new confirmed cases in Philadelphia, and 74 cases that were previously reported by the state and not the county where the individuals live.

Ninety-nine of the new cases are health care workers.

City jails see uptick in coronavirus cases

Twelve inmates in city jails are currently infected with the novel coronavirus, City Managing Director Brian Abernathy reported Wednesday.

That's a significant jump from Friday, when only one inmate had tested positive for the virus.

One guard also has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Abernathy said.

District Attorney Larry Krasner, the Defender Association of Philadelphia and various activist groups have been calling on Mayor Jim Kenney to release some non-violent offenders and elderly inmates from city jails to reduce their risk of getting infected in that environment.

Rent deadline

Wednesday marks the first day rent is due for many since the city shut down as a result of the novel coronavirus, something that is expected to tax many across the city, as many have lost their jobs or experienced a reduction in pay as businesses struggle.

The city has suspended all eviction proceedings and lockouts at least until April 5; Mayor Jim Kenney said Wednesday the city is working to extend that order.

“For most, this is the single biggest bill they pay each month. Ad for those who may have already suffered a loss of job or a reduction in income, they may be struggling to pay that rent already,” Kenney said. “We hope and anticipate that the courts will extend the date but we have not heard any updates yet on that extension.”

The mayor also reiterated that there will be no gas, electric, water or telephone landline shutoffs in the city at least until May 1 due to the financial troubles that many are experiencing.

Food services step up

Twenty more sites will open across the city on Thursday to provide meals to people in need, bringing the total number of sites to 40, said Cynthia Figueroa, deputy mayor for the Office of Children and Families.

Those looking to access the sites can call the WhyHunger hotline at 1-800-5-HUNGRY, or text their ZIP code to 1-800-548-6479.

Changes for SEPTA

SEPTA announced that it is limiting the number of passengers on buses (20), trolleys (25) and the Norristown High Speed Line (30), in an effort to enforce social distancing.

Only disabled passengers will be allowed to board SEPTA's buses and trolleys through the front doors; all able-bodied passengers will board and exit through the rear door.

Onboard fare payments are temporarily suspended.

Already working on a reduced schedule, SEPTA also suspended Route 102 trolley and will use buses on its Route 101 trolley.

Election, poll worker training postponed

The Philadelphia City Commissioners Office is postponing all remaining poll-worker training classes. Officials will contact workers in the future with regard to the rescheduling of classes.

The primary election has been pushed back to June 2. The last day to register for the primary is now May 18 and the last day to apply for a mail-in or civilian absentee ballot is May 26.

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