Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney issued a “stay at home” order on Sunday, dramatically escalating the fight against the coronavirus by requiring residents to stay inside except for essential trips such as those to buy food or seek medical help..
The new restrictions in the city of nearly 1.6 million take effect at 8 a.m. Monday.
“There’s no playbook for this situation, and we’re doing our best in light of the evolving health situation,” Managing Director Brian Abernathy said.
The announcement came on a day when hard-hit Montgomery County suffered its first death, a 72-year-old Abington man who had been hospitalized for several days. That raised the statewide total to three. A death also was reported in Camden County; at least 20 fatalities have been reported in New Jersey.
Meanwhile, on the day that Gov. Phil Murphy’s order banning all public gatherings in New Jersey went into effect, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said his state’s shutdown orders and restrictions might have to be extended.
And Sunday night, the Inquirer learned that officials with the governor’s office and legislative leaders had reached a deal on postponing the April 28 primary election until June 2.
“My understanding as of right now is everybody’s on the same page,” said State Rep. Garth Everett (R., Lycoming), the chair of the House State Government Committee.
In Philadelphia, Kenney’s order outlined changes that include:
City emergency restrictions will no longer end on March 27, but will continue “until further notice,” which aligns with Gov. Tom Wolf’s directive.
All public and private gatherings of any number of people that occur outside a single household are banned, except for limited exceptions outlined in the order. The work of designated “essential businesses” and “essential personnel” continues as before.
People can leave homes to care for family members, friends, or pets in another household, to deliver essential goods, and to report to a job that’s related to an essential business.
Walking into a restaurant to place an order is prohibited, but it’s acceptable to pick up food that’s been ordered online or by phone. Service from all food trucks and ice cream trucks is banned.
The order also left room to allow people who are already feeling isolated to get outside for activities such as walking, running, and cycling.
On Sunday evening, people tried to take in the news and figure out how these new restrictions would affect their lives.
Yvette Torres, who lives on the 2200 block of Saint James Place, was walking her dog Sunday night, hours after Kenney’s announcement. She said she understood city officials’ wanting to be more forceful in making residents stay home, but noted that people still will need to make trips to the grocery store, and some will have to work.
Justin Donahue, 30, was circumspect about the order’s significance.
“What’s changed, honestly?” he said, standing in the doorway of his apartment building on the same block as Torres'.
Donahue said he had self-quarantined for five days after his brother and two of his friends tested positive for the virus. He doubted that people would take the virus seriously until it personally affected more people, but added, “I’m trying to stay as positive as possible.”
The order encourages grocery stores to keep people from idling inside, and to manage the flow of customers to create social distancing. Many stores already are doing that.
At the Wegmans Food Market in Mount Laurel, yellow lines mark the floor to space out customers in checkout lines. In between serving each customer, cashiers spray and wipe the conveyor belt and the credit-card reader.
The city’s new restrictions came as the International Olympic Committee finally admitted it may need to postpone the 2020 summer games.
Delaware Gov. John Carney issued his own statewide stay-at-home order, directing all nonessential businesses to close by 8 a.m. Tuesday.
The number of confirmed U.S. cases was more than 33,000, with more than 400 deaths.
As Pennsylvania recorded its third death, state Health Secretary Rachel Levine said officials were discussing whether to issue an even stronger shelter-in-place order, but no decisions had been made. It was unclear how a shelter-in-place order would be executed. Other cities and states have defined the term differently.
“We’ll be seeing in the coming days which decisions are necessary to protect the health of Pennsylvania,” she said.
Since Saturday, 108 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Pennsylvania, raising the statewide total to 479. About 10 percent have required hospitalization. Philadelphia cases rose by 11, to 96, of which 16 are health-care workers, according to Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.
The Pennsylvania State Police announced they will begin enforcing Wolf’s order for all but “life-sustaining” businesses to close their physical operations by 8 a.m. Monday.
Col. Robert Evanchick, the police commissioner, said violators could face fines and jail time.
Troopers assisted by liquor-control officers will seek to have business owners voluntarily close and will use discretion when appropriate.
“But our message is clear,” he said. “COVID-19 is a serious health and public-safety risk that requires an extraordinary response from law enforcement and the public.”
Wolf said the state may have to further delay reopening schools and many businesses unless the spread of the coronavirus slows.
"I want to be honest with you, and what we face,” Wolf said during an early-evening briefing with reporters. “What we are trying to do here is buy time. ... We cannot overload our health system.”
He added: “If we aren’t successful, the consequences are going to be even more dire than the consequences that we are facing now.”
On Sunday, on a sidewalk in Langhorne, Bucks County, nurses from St. Mary Medical Center asked the public to donate masks and other supplies. In New Jersey, Murphy pleaded for the same, saying the state is desperate for more personal protective equipment.
He asked the White House to provide equipment from the strategic stockpile, but “they’ve given us a fraction of our ask,” the governor said.
On Sunday an additional 590 people tested positive for coronavirus in New Jersey, bringing the total number of cases to 1,914.
Murphy said Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut need the federal government to send $100 billion in direct cash assistance “to allow us to continue to fight."
Speaking to Martha Raddatz on ABC’s This Week, Murphy was asked about his top health official, Judith Persichilli, saying in an NJ.com interview that “everyone” would get the coronavirus.
“My view is we die trying” to prevent it, the governor said. “My plea with folks in New Jersey is frankly to just stay home. Unless you’re essential, unless you’re helping us in the fight, we need you at home.”