Kenney says Temple's Liacouras Center to prep hospital bed space for COVID-19 patients

Officials announce 2 new COVID-19 deaths in Philadelphia

KYW Staff
March 27, 2020 - 1:49 pm

UPDATED: 3:51 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — At his daily press update on Friday, Mayor Jim Kenney announced an agreement between the city and Temple University to use space at the Liacouras Center on campus for hospital bed capacity, if city hospitals are strained beyond their limits in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mayor said materials and supplies will begin moving into the center over the next few days. The city has also secured use of the nearby Pavilion and a parking garage for a staging area — all at no cost.

“We’re truly Temple proud,” Kenney said. “They did not hesitate when called, and I am very grateful for the assistance and leadership as we fight this epidemic.”

He added that the search for spaces for quarantine, isolation and hospital space will go on. The space is not yet needed, despite steadily rising increases in the number of cases.

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The announcement follows Kenney's terse disclosure a day before that the city's exploration of Hahnemann University Hospital as a potential overflow facility had ended.

At Thursday's press conference, Kenney had described a series of contentious negotiations with building owner Joel Freedman. "In the midst of a public health crisis, with the numbers of positive cases increasing daily, we simply do not have the time to continue a lengthy negotiation," Kenney said. "So, we are done, and we are moving on."

A spokesman for Freedman said he's ready to re-engage if the situation ever changes.

New cases in Philadelphia

The city's Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley on Friday described what he called "continuing growth" of the virus' footprint in Philadelphia, saying there are confirmed cases of coronavirus transmission in every ZIP code in the city.

"The message is that coronavirus is everywhere," he said.

Farley reported two new deaths in the city — one confirmed, and one "probable." Both patients were women in their 70s who had underlying medical conditions, and one of them had been living at a nursing home that reported an outbreak.

“It just really emphasizes the risk to nursing home residents,” said Farley. “These are the most vulnerable people in this epidemic right now.”

Farley also confirmed cases involving an employee of the Philadelphia Department of Prisons and one inmate, though he would not provide any other details.

As of midday Friday, health officials had compiled 154 new positive results from coronavirus testing, resulting in a new citywide count of 637 cases. To date, three people in Philadelphia have died from the virus.

Farley said those 154 positive results came from a set of 990 tests.

Fifty patients are known to have been hospitalized, and 54 of them are health care workers, he said.

The city said it’s seeing better compliance with its stay-at-home order, but it has sent inspectors out with cease-and-desist orders for non-essential businesses that continue to operate.

FEMA site at Glenn Mills Schools

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is setting up a medical site at the former Glen Mills Schools in Delaware County.

The current plan is to use the site for overflow from area hospitals. Patients who are not being treated for COVID-19 would be transferred to the Glen Mills site for continuing care, said Christopher Spriggs, acting director at the Glen Mills Schools.

He said FEMA trucks might arrive as soon as Friday and begin setting up operations in the 85,000-square-foot recreation center on site.

Money for nonprofits 'on the frontline'

In an audibly brighter mood, Kenney also announced that the PHL COVID-19 Fund had raised $8.25 million in a matter of nine days. 

The fund is led by the city, the Philadelphia Foundation, and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. Money raised goes to nonprofits on the frontline of the pandemic.

More than 700 people had personally made donations in amounts ranging from $25 to $150,000, Kenney said.

Loaner laptops for Philly students

The School District of Philadelphia is moving ahead with plans to buy thousands of laptops for students, so that they can be taught online during the coronavirus closure. 

The school board unanimously approved spending up to $11 million to buy 50,000 Chromebooks to connect students at home with their teachers online. 

"The plan provides a Chromebook to every district student who needs one for learning at home. It makes digital content available to retain and learn skills with the support of a teacher,” said Superintendent William Hite.

Hite said the Chromebooks would be distributed at schools and loaned to students during the week of April 6, with teachers beginning to teach with tools including Google Classroom the following week. 

The district is also working with the city to find low-cost or free internet access for families who need it.

Wawa stops made-to-order food in Philly stores

Wawa stores in Philadelphia are suspending made-to-order food service in all of its city locations in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

For now, customers must forgo the touchscreens at all 42 Philly Wawa locations. The company said in-store ordering for hoagies and other items is on hold as of 5 a.m. Friday. 

"This change in our Philadelphia City stores will enable us to move people through the store faster and keeping their interactions brief, while further encouraging the practice of social distancing," the company said in an official statement.

Wawa already suspended self-serve coffee and fountain drinks and is in the process of installing face shields at checkout counters.

Wawa says stores will still have prepackaged food, and they are trying to expand their hot and cold to-go food offerings, including pre-made Italian and turkey hoagies.

Delivery is still an option. Wawa says customers can still order through the company's mobile app, and the food will be made and sent out from one of four stores in the city that have been designated to handle delivery orders, with Grubhub, DoorDash and UberEats.

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

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KYW Newsradio's Mike Denardo, Mike Dougherty, Tim Jimenez, Pat Loeb and Eric Walter contributed to this report.