Philadelphia health officials order non-essential businesses, restaurants to close

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UPDATED: 3:14 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia city officials have ordered non-essential government operations, restaurants and certain businesses to cease for two weeks amid concern over spreading coronavirus.
The restrictions go into effect Monday at 5 p.m. and last through at least March 27.

Mayor Jim Kenney had encouraged residents to keep patronizing local businesses as recently as Saturday, but, he said, things have changed.

“This is a situation that has no playbook. It's hour by hour, so we will monitor that and see what we have to do to adjust,” he said.

Restaurants are prohibited from offering dine-in service, but customers can still order online or by phone for delivery or pick-up.

Today we announced new restrictions on commercial activity and a halt to non-essential City operations.Closed:- Non-essential businesses- Dine-in food establishments (delivery and pick-up only)- City buildingsRead more in the press release.

— Jim Kenney (@PhillyMayor) March 16, 2020

Essential commercial establishments will remain open, including grocery stores, big box stores, pharmacies, discount stores, day care centers, hardware stores, gas stations, banks, post offices, laundromats, veterinary clinics and pet stores.

Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley said the restrictions will be enforced.

“If residents see a restaurant where people are dining inside, they can call the health department and we will send an inspector to enforce the rule,” he said.

For small businesses, Commerce Director Sylvie Gallier Howard said the city is devising a program of grants and zero-interest loans to help them stay afloat and meet payroll.

“We recognize the need to support business and workers in this unprecedented time,” she said.

“These changes are not made lightly, and we are well aware of the potentially devastating effect they will have on the businesses and workers of Philadelphia,” echoed Kenney. “Our administration is actively developing grant and loan programs aimed at business and job preservation. For now, I urge all businesses and residents to observe these restrictions so that the threat of this virus can quickly be eliminated.”

City government buildings will be closed to the public, effective Tuesday. Essential services will continue, including police, fire, utilities and sanitation.

Shortly after Kenney's announcement, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the closure of non-essential businesses across the entire state. Read the full details here.

Farley also announced a new COVID-19 case on Monday, bringing the total in Philadelphia to nine. The latest case is a man in his 20s who recently traveled abroad to an area that was “heavily affected” by the new virus.

Farley is encouraging doctors to do more testing. He said the majority of the tests will be negative, but it will allow health officials to respond to the cases out there that currently are unknown.

“We need to test more people who don't have this infection so we can identify the few people who have this infection who we're missing right now,” he added.