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March 24, 2020

Mayor Kenney blasts President Trump for 'short-sighted' coronavirus timeline

Philadelphia opens COVID-19 quarantine site at Holiday Inn, but Hahnemann Hospital deal appears tenuous

Politics Coronavirus
Kenney Trump Covid-19 Philadelphia Department of Public Health/Facebook

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney called President Donald Trump's goal to lift coronavirus restrictions within weeks 'unacceptable,' joining public health experts who have also questioned the administration's timeline for social distancing measures.

President Donald Trump's intention to resume normal business operations in the next several weeks drew the ire of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney during the city's daily briefing on the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday. 

Late Monday night, the president indicated that he hoped to move toward reopening large parts of the economy in April. 

Trump reiterated his stance on Tuesday during a virtual "Town Hall" on FOX News, signaling his wish to get parts of the economy back up and running after Easter Sunday on April 12, a claim other White House officials questioned shortly afterward. Trump also tweeted that a balance between public health and economic needs should be feasible in that timeframe. 

Amid Philadelphia's local response to the crisis, Mayor Kenney has repeatedly called on the federal government to take decisive action to marshal medical supplies and provide economic relief for distressed citizens. He pushed back against Trump's outlook on restoring business activity during this phase of the pandemic. 

“This is unacceptable,” Kenney said. “We recognize that our stay-at-home order will create serious disruptions and economic hardships for tens of thousands of people. To lift restrictions at this time is the ultimate example of short-sightedness. While doing so may help some businesses stay afloat, the cost in lives and the cost to society will be far greater.”

Governors and local officials will maintain the power to institute stay-at-home orders and other economic restrictions based on their judgment of the evolving situation. Philadelphia plans to follow the guidance of the city's health department and other authorities on the virus, Kenney said. 

Public health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have steadily maintained the importance of robust social distancing for a period lasting longer than Trump's expedited goals. 

Hours after the president's remarks on Monday night, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Tom Inglesby, countered Trump's argument in detail in a lengthy Twitter thread

“Anyone advising the end of social distancing now, needs to fully understand what the country will look like if we do that,” Inglesby tweeted. “COVID would spread widely, rapidly, terribly, could kill potentially millions in the (year) ahead with huge social and economic impact across the country.”

Philadelphia's COVID-19 cases rise as city expands response for homeless population

Philadelphia's count of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 252 after an additional 77 individuals tested positive. Twenty-three people are currently hospitalized and 25 are known to be health care workers. 

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley urged essential businesses to follow the department's guidelines for workplace social distancing and protocols for sick employees. 

Managing Director Brian Abernathy confirmed that Philadelphia has entered an active lease with the Holiday Inn in Center City to provide a quarantine location for homeless individuals with COVID-19, as well as other displaced individuals. 

The site will function as a space for sick individuals to remain in place for 14 days, receiving food and wrap-around social services depending on their needs. Third-party providers will team up with the city to ensure that necessary services are available for those quarantined at the Holiday Inn. 

Abernathy added that the city is continuing to look into additional sites for quarantines and expanded medical capacity. 

While negotiations remain ongoing with the shuttered Hahnemann University Hospital, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said the hospital's reopening appears doubtful. 

"Hahnemann Hospital, I think would be unlikely," Levine said. "I think that it has been empty for six months. I think it would be really challenging to stand up a facility such as Hahnemann. We'll see what the health commissioner of Philadelphia, Dr. Farley wants to do, but I think that would be really unlikely given the state of the facility."

Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Eva Gladstein encourages Philadelphia residents in financial distress to seek out benefits at the local, state and federal levels. 

BenePhilly, a partnership between the City and Benefits Data Trust, is open for business through their call center at (844) 848-4376. The service can help residents learn which public benefits they may be eligible for and assist them with applications.

One-on-one financial counseling is available through Clarifi to assist with developing an emergency plan in conjunction with lenders, landlords and credit card companies. Appointments can be scheduled by calling (800) 989-2227 or registering online

“We are focused on supporting those among us who are most vulnerable,” Gladstein said. “We hope that residents know of, and make use of, these valuable resources.”

As many Philadelphia renters face mounting financial hardship, Kenney requested that landlords of all residential and commercial properties try to offer flexibility to those in need. 

"My advice, or ask, to landlords, to owners of shuttered hospitals, to those who can provide opportunities to help — be mature, be responsible, be a good citizen to help people get through this," Kenney said.