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April 20, 2020

Philly's Liacouras Center field hospital admits first COVID-19 patients

Small business relief fund awards grants, loans to more than 1,100 applicants

Illness Coronavirus
Liacouras Patients COVID-19 Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The Liacouras Center in North Philadelphia is operating as a surge hospital facility for COVID-19 patients who are on their way to recovery but need additional care before they can safely go home.

The field hospital set up at Temple University's Liacouras Center accepted its first COVID-19 patients on Monday as hospitals in the city face heightened demand for beds during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

For weeks, Philadelphia has been preparing the North Philadelphia arena to serve as a COVID-19 "step-down" site where patients on their way to recovery can receive care before they are cleared to return home.

Staffed by a mix of volunteer and contracted health care workers, the COVID Surge Facility currently has capacity for about 180 patients, but can expand based on additional need.

“We’ve seen a consistent increase in admissions to area hospitals because of the virus,” Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. “We continue to work closely with hospitals in the Philadelphia area to ensure that all patients receive quality care. It’s become clear that treating some patients at the CSF Liacouras Center will help these hospitals continue to do that."

Last week, Farley said some hospitals in the Philadelphia region are near capacity for intensive care unit patients. Remaining availability of both regular and ICU hospital beds across Southeastern Pennsylvania stood at about 30% each as of Monday afternoon, about the same as the past week.

In recent weeks, city officials said they hoped use of the Liacouras Center wouldn't become necessary, but that it would be available in case of need. 

City hospitals currently are treating 923 patients with COVID-19, while hospitals in the region have about 1,737 patients in their care.

Philadelphia announced 339 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the city's total to 9,553. Another five fatalities increased Philadelphia's total to 370, among whom 193 were nursing home residents. Because lab results have been arriving in uneven batches, Farley believes both the new cases and deaths are possibly lower than they should be.

The city will be closely watching the number of new cases reported each day over the coming week to try to gauge whether there is measurable progress in stopping the spread of the infection.

City Managing Director Brian Abernathy said the Liacouras Center is expected to take in at least half a dozen or more patients in the coming days.

Philadelphia details first round of COVID-19 small business relief

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney celebrated the distribution of $9.2 million in grants and loans as part of the city's COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund.

“Philadelphia’s small businesses are the backbone of our city’s economy, and they have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis,” Kenney said. “These grants and loans will provide a much-needed lifeline to some of them. Through this targeted program, we’re able to spread limited resources to help a diverse group of more than 1,100 businesses in neighborhoods all across the city.”

In the fund's first round, 1,145 small businesses received financial assistance to help maintain payroll obligations and preserve jobs impacted by the pandemic.

More than 7,300 applications were received for the first round of relief funding. Criteria were weighted based on revenue loss, industry impact from COVID-19, location in low-to-moderate income areas, or high poverty areas, and commitment to retaining employees for as long as possible.

About 50% of the businesses that received relief are located in low-to-moderate income census tracts. About 80% of applicants provided demographic information. Among this large group, about 60% of awards went to minority-owned businesses, while 34% went to woman-owned businesses.

Philadelphia is expected to release a full list of the businesses that received awards in the coming two weeks.

The deadline for the second round of applications closed on April 15, with about $3 million remaining to disburse. Decisions on this next round of awards for approximately 600 additional businesses are expected in two weeks.

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