Virus Outbreak Pennsylvania

A person crosses North Broad Street in Philadelphia, which is deserted due to coronavirus fears Tuesday, March 24, 2020. — AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Philadelphia officials reported the first fatality from COVID-19 on Wednesday.

The coronavirus victim was a man in his 50s with underlying medical conditions, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said. He declined to provide any additional information about the death.

The man had become sick “a few days ago” and was “hospitalized briefly,” Farley said. The man “died in the last couple of days,” Farley said, declining to provide any additional information about the death.

More deaths from COVID-19 are likely in the city as the number of cases grow, Mayor Jim Kenney said. He stressed that residents should adhere to the stay-at-home order, and avoid all non-essential business and even small gatherings.

The mayor extended the stay-at-home order through April 6 to stay in line with the governor's order for the five-county region.

“This virus is very real and very deadly,” Kenney said.

The city reported 93 new cases of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, on Wednesday, bringing the total of confirmed cases to 342. Thirty-seven individuals were healthcare workers.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus also have been reported among the city’s approximately 30,000 employees.

At least one police officer, one firefighter, and one civilian employee have tested positive for the virus. City officials declined to reveal specific figures.

Of the 342 confirmed cases, 12 were those under 20 years old; 163 were between the ages of 20 and 39; 85 between the ages of 40 and 59; and 82 over the age of 60.

People who visited New York City and surrounds advised to self-quarantine

City officials put in place new recommendations on Wednesday advising anyone who traveled to New York City or the region within the last 14 days to self-quarantine themselves for two weeks.

The recommendation applies to anyone who traveled to New York City’s five boroughs; Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties in New York; or Bergen County in New Jersey.

Farley said those who traveled to that region should remain in doors and have someone deliver food and essentials to them in order to avoid all contact with others.

Negotiations to rent former Hahnemann Hospital ongoing

The owner of Hahnemann Hospital wants the city to pay $2.46 million to rent the facility for the next six months, but city officials don't want to pay one penny.

“Given the condition of the building and given the current needs,” City Managing Director Brian Abernathy said, “we’re certainly willing to cover the owner’s operating expenses but don’t feel that we should be paying rent for what would otherwise be a vacant building.”

City officials want to operate the former hospital site, which has room for 500 beds, as a quarantine and isolation space, or a receiving area for hospitals. The site would not operate as a medical facility.

City officials continue to negotiate with the owner of the site, Joel Freedman, over renting out the one-time Center City hospital, Abernathy said.

At-large City Councilwoman Helen Gym has called for taking the site through eminent domain.

If the city attempted to seize the property through eminent domain, Abernathy said, the city would have to buy the property for a fair market value. Abernathy has said the city has no interest in purchasing the building.

A spokesperson for Freedman said this week that the Broad Street Healthcare Properties, which Freedman heads, offered to rent the property to the city for $13,500 a day for six months ($2.46 million). The city would have to pay an additional $16,500 a day for utilities and other ancillary costs during that time.

City officials also were in talks with several other property owners to rent facilities that could be used to handle a surge of patients, and said the Pennsylvania Convention Center could be one of those sites.

City might use force to quarantine some individuals

The Kenney administration has not ruled out quarantining individuals against their will if they test positive for the novel coronavirus but refuse care.

“In some cases, if it’s to stop the spread of the disease, yes, we may end up at that point,” Abernathy said about forcibly quarantining individuals on Tuesday.

The administration was reviewing its legal options to determine how to respond to individuals who test positive for the virus but refuse to be quarantined.

Renters remain in limbo

The Kenney administration this week pushed back deadlines for property taxes and some business taxes.

But protections for renters remain unaddressed as the end of the month approaches and rents will be due.

At the administration’s daily news conference on Tuesday, Kenney called on landlords to be “mature, be responsible, be a good citizen and try to do your best to get us all through this situation.”

Legal evictions are banned due to the closure of city courts through April 3.

School closures

School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite sent out a warning to parents and staff yesterday that schools might remain closed through the rest of the school year.

School district officials were exploring how to provide internet service and laptops to students in order to resume graded instruction.

The superintendent nixed graded instruction through remote learning for 130,000 district students last week because all students did not have access to the online materials.

At the moment, all schools are closed through April 6. Officials currently plan for staff to return to schools on April 7 and students to return on April 9.

Prison population

No confirmed cases of the coronavirus have infected the city’s jail population, Abernathy said on Tuesday.

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