Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley reported 518 new cases — an increase, he said, that shows the spread is plateauing. However, the number of hospital cases, which have reached more than 1,600 region-wide, shows it hasn’t yet hit its peak.
“I can’t say when we will be at the peak of the hospital surge of this epidemic,” he added, which means officials cannot predict when the city will be ready to reopen. “I can’t say yet we’re seeing decreases, or if — or when — we’ll see decreases in the future. I will just say right now we’re at a plateau of about 500 new cases per day.”
For now, city officials are not discussing dates to reopen the city.
“I know that’s difficult for people,” Farley continued. “The uncertainty of this is really tough. We need to have certain conditions in place in order for us to reopen safely.”
One crucial need: better testing. Farley said the city has been hamstrung from the beginning by a shortage of testing materials and lab capacity.
“If we can’t test enough people to know where this virus is, we can’t reopen the economy,” he said. “I hope other states that are thinking about reopening are considering that. If they reopen quickly and they can’t test, then they get a big surge of infections, which is going to hurt their population as well as ours.”
“It could actually hurt business even more than it’s being hurt now,” Mayor Jim Kenney added. “If we have a big surge … the economy’s going to take even a double hit.”
To date, there are 8,563 cases in Philadelphia, 63 of which were reported within the Department of Prisons.
The city also announced 34 more fatalities, bringing the death toll to 298. Half of the people who died were in long-term care facilities.
In other coronavirus-related Philadelphia developments:
Free hotel rooms for health care workers
A hotel in University City is providing free rooms for doctors and nurses caring for patients during the coronavirus crisis.
Since late March, the Homewood Suites by Hilton at 41st and Walnut streets has offered free rooms to workers who may need a place to recharge.
“We were hearing these stories about the doctors and nurses working double, triple shifts and then driving home, resting for a couple of hours, and going back to work, almost like a war zone. And I just said, maybe I can make just one part of their day easier,” said David Adelman, CEO of Campus Apartments, which owns the hotel.
About 30 doctors and nurses from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and CHOP, as well as the Penn Police Department, have taken Adelman up on his offer, for three or four nights each.
He said some Jefferson doctors asked if they could stay there, too. Of course, Adelman said yes.
“They're all doing the really important stuff. This is easy, in my view,” he said.
The free room offer stands through the end of April. Adelman said he will consider extending it if there's demand.
Kenney said the city applied for a grant from the Treasury Department’s State and Local Government Stabilization Fund, which is part of the federal CARES Act.
The fund gives states and cities support based on population size. The city anticipates receiving roughly $276 million in coronavirus-related expenses. The first of two installments is expected this month.
“With tax revenues dropping, we are facing the potential of drastic cuts in city services — and we hope new federal aid could help us avoid some of those cuts,” the mayor said.
Philadelphia has more than 100,000 new respirator masks for hospitals on the front line.
Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said the city received 86,000 of the much sought-after masks from FEMA.
“It showed up on our loading dock unexpectedly but very happily,” Thiel said.
And that was on the heels of a shipment of 15,000 it had ordered for itself.
Thiel said the city has several orders out and he hopes FEMA will be sending more.
“You think about how many patients our hospitals see, remember it can be difficult to know if someone has COVID-19 or not, right now. So, that 86,000 sounds big but they’re going to go quickly,” he said.
Thiel said the next big challenge in personal protective equipment is isolation gowns, which are growing scarce.
To date, the PHL COVID-19 Fund has secured $13.8 million. The fund awarded its second round of grants — more than $2.5 million — to 79 Philly nonprofits on the frontlines of the crisis.
More than 3,300 people or organizations have donated to the fund.
Suburban corrections officer dies
A sergeant from the Chester County Prison died Thursday after contracting coronavirus.
The 58-year-old had been hospitalized in Delaware County since March 30. County officials say he had underlying health issues.
A county spokeswoman said they are not releasing his name at the request of his family.
“We were extremely saddened to receive the news that one of our own staff, a Chester County Prison corrections officer, had passed due to COVID-19, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife and family,” read a statement from Chester County commissioners.
Officials do not believe he was symptomatic during any of his shifts in the prison.
According to the county’s website, there are 18 confirmed cases in the Chester County Prison: 10 inmates, eight employees.
Firefighters union contract
Kenney said the city reached a tentative agreement for a one-year contract extension with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22.
“The men and women of the Philadelphia Fire Department have been on the frontlines of our response to COVID-19,” said Kenney. “I am glad that we’ve been able to give them this peace of mind at a very trying time.”
The extension provides a 2.5% raise.
Negotiations with District Council 33 are still underway.