Kenney says Hahnemann no longer an option for use during COVID-19 pandemic

KYW Staff
March 26, 2020 - 11:36 am

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UPDATED: 2:54 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia officials reported on Thursday a significant jump in new positive results from coronavirus testing, resulting in a new count of 475 cases.

At a Thursday press conference, Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley said 18 patients are under the age of 20; 216 are between 20 and 39 years of age; 126 are between 40 and 59 years of age; and 115 are over 60.

He said 40 are known to be hospitalized, and 44 of them are health care workers.

Related: The latest coronavirus news from Pennsylvania and New Jersey

City officials announced the first — and so far, only — coronavirus-related death in the city on Wednesday, a man in his 50s with an underlying health condition.

“As the number of cases rises, the risk increases to everyone in the City of Philadelphia,” Farley added. “Each day it becomes even more important to follow our stay-at-home order.”

Farley said various models that have surfaced to predict when Philadelphia might see a surge are full of uncertainties, and social distancing remains the best defense.

Negotiations end with Hahnemann owner

Mayor Jim Kenney said that contentious negotiations with the owner of Hahnemann University Hospital over potential use of facility have come to an end.

The mayor said the city needs a location that can hold several hundred hospital beds. And while Hahnemann is vacant, it is also in disrepair. 

Owner Joel Freedman initially wanted the city to buy the building, and then to rent it for $400,000 per month, plus repairs and expenses, totaling $1 million a month, Kenney said. The city rejected both scenarios. 

Kenney said the city offered to rent at a lower rate, and to pay for upkeep that would leave the building easier to sell, but Freedman would not agree.

"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.

He said the city examined the possibility of seizing the structure through eminent domain, but process was too lengthy.

"So, we are done, and we are moving on," he said.

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

Kenney said the city will focus on finding viable sites for field hospitals, quarantine spaces and isolation spaces. The city already has one agreement with the Center City Holiday Inn, and it's working with several other property owners to help find temporary solutions to the health crisis, with a target of finding 800 quarantine rooms. 

Kenney's coronavirus spending request advances in Council

Philadelphia City Council met in person Thursday so it could advance the Kenney administration's request for $85 million to fight the coronavirus. It also added a pool of money to spend for itself.

Council's appropriations committee met first for what was billed as a "hearing" — but with only council members and staff allowed in the room, there was no one to hear from.

Instead, Chair Maria Quinones-Sanchez said, committee members had a series of phone calls with the administration about how the $85 million would be used.

"There are documents that will be available to the public that outline the issues and concerns and questions asked and the written responses," Quinones-Sanchez said.

Among the concerns was that the fund to help small businesses included those with revenue of up to $5 million a year. 

But, Councilmember Cherelle Parker noted that of the 1,760 applications the city has received since the program was announced on Monday, more than 1,000 are from businesses that make less than $500,000.

"I don't want anyone thinking that this council is voting on a bill in which the majority of the funds is not going to be geared to small businesses," Parker said.

Council amended the bill, without comment, to add $400,000 for itself. Council President Darrell Clarke said that will be used to increase awareness of the need for social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"You can go in neighborhoods around the city and clearly not see people social distancing, so we have to be a little more creative in getting our message out," Clarke said.

In a short session after the "hearing," the bill got its first reading so it can be passed next week.

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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 Pat Loeb and Eric Walter contributed to this report.