Philly raises fines for violating COVID-19 prevention rules

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia Board of Health has increased fines for violating COVID-19 prevention measures, as part of the preparation for beginning to reopen the city’s economy without causing a resurgence of the virus.

With construction poised to restart Friday, Mayor Jim Kenney said the city wants to send a strong message that it’s still very much in prevention mode, and strict guidelines have to be followed when people return to their jobs.

“Up until this point, we have done our best to rely on verbal warnings from police and notices from enforcement agencies. But the message should be clear: As we ease restrictions, we will need cooperation and for people to follow the orders,” he said. “If you don’t follow the orders, the city will fine you and take you to court.”

The maximum fine for all violations was initially $300. They have now increased to $2,000 for businesses and $500 for individuals.

“We want to set a real strict rule that people need to follow the guidelines, so the way we do that is to get people’s attention,” Kenney added. “Money gets people’s attention.”

Philadelphians can be fined for gathering in groups of more than five or opening a business deemed nonessential.

The city hasn’t issued many fines since they were first enacted. About 25 were given out for gatherings — half of them were issued on the first day of the shutdown. 

No businesses were cited, but they did receive cease operation orders.

Officials say they still can’t predict when the stay-at-home order will be lifted or how reopenings will proceed, but Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley said the city continues on the downward slope of the curve — despite reporting 665 new cases and 66 additional fatalities.

“All of us, particularly me, want these daily numbers to fall faster than they are, but the fact that they’re falling at all is a sign that we’re making real progress,” he said.

To date, there are 14,468 total cases in Philadelphia and 607 coronavirus-related deaths.

Farley, however, has now grown concerned about a drop in the number of toddlers getting measles vaccinations. He urged parents to get their children immunized.

“We certainly don’t want to have a measles outbreak on top of our coronavirus outbreak,” he noted. “You want to prevent them from getting measles, which for them is going to be a more serious infection than coronavirus.”

For more resources regarding COVID-19, visit phila.gov/covid-19 or call the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline at 1-800-722-7112.