Philadelphia has its first case of coronavirus
Not much was given on the patient’s specifics, but they are an adult, currently self-quarantined, and have had contact with others.
For Philadelphia officials, the impending onslaught of COVID-19, or coronavirus, is something they’ve prepared “weeks” for, according to Mayor Jim Kenney.
On Tuesday, March 10, he, along with City Managing Director Brian Abernathy, City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley and Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel held a press conference to announce Philadelphia’s first confirmed case of the novel disease.
“Frankly, we are fortunate we did not have a case sooner, and that we’ve had adequate time to prepare, so we can mitigate the impact locally and keep more Philadelphians well,” said Kenney.
On March 6, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf made an emergency disaster declaration in response to the state’s first two cases of coronavirus in Wayne and Delaware counties.
Since then, the virus spread to eight people in Montgomery County and another in Monroe County — between Allentown and Scranton. Philadelphia’s first case brings PA’s total to 12.
Like in the other announced cases in the state, few specifics were offered about Philadelphia’s patient. They are an adult, and contracted the coronavirus coming into contact with another person confirmed to have it.
It should be noted that all cases in the state (including Philadelphia’s) are still in “presumptive positive” status, meaning the patients tested positive for COVID-19, but the results have yet to be sent to the Centers for Disease Control for confirmation.
As a result of the spread in suburban counties, many schools (even in those without a confirmed case, but confirmed exposure) closed on March 10 for deep cleaning, with some debating going online with their classes.
In Philadelphia, Health Commissioner Farley said Philadelphia is focused on two areas to mitigate impact in Philadelphia: case containment and reducing city-wide spread.
Under case containment, there are four steps officials hope to achieve.
With the first step of rapid case identification, the Public Health Department is asking for residents’ help.
The two most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a fever and dry cough. Farley asked for the public’s vigilance in recognizing them.
“We want to encourage people who have symptoms of this to contact your physician, so we can identify cases rapidly,” he said.
The second, third and fourth steps will be led by the Public Health Department and involve case isolation, contact tracing and contact quarantine.
In Philadelphia’s first confirmed case, the individual is isolated and receiving treatment at home, but did contact other people before testing positive for coronavirus.
Farley said the city is in the process of reaching out those known to have contacted the patient and getting them quarantined.
Around the country, most transmission of coronavirus has occurred through close contact in households, making outreach to most of the Philadelphia’s patient’s contacts easy to find.
However, it potentially hasn’t accounted for some of the contacts made by the patient in the timeframe they contracted the virus and started showing symptoms.
“We may not be able to find everyone, which is why we’re also taking the steps to reduce community-wide spread. We think we can find a majority,” said Farley.
Regarding the reduction of city or community-wide spread, the city has yet to officially cancel any planned large gatherings itself, but did issue a recommendation on March 10 for residents not to attend any public gatherings of more than 5,000 people.
“We do so out of an abundance of caution,” said Abernathy. “It is simply far more important at this point in time to keep residents and visitors out of large crowds of that size.”
Historically, it was a risky move considering in 1918, a WWI parade sparked the outbreak of Spanish Flu in Philadelphia and resulted in thousands of deaths.
City officials said the situation is “rapidly evolving” and Farley didn’t rule out further recommendations or more stringent rulings in the coming days.
As of now, the city is not recommending any schools be closed, but is encouraging them to start developing online approaches should they be necessary. It is also encouraging private companies in the city to relax their sick-leave policies.
As for City Council, it voted last week to authorize its Committee on Public Health and Human Services to hold hearings about coronavirus preparedness and prevention.
Council President Darrell Clarke said he and other councilmembers are dedicated to providing “appropriate messaging” regarding the coronavirus in line with that put out by the Mayor’s Office and Department of Public Health.
“Clearly, we don’t want a panic, but we are asking people to be cautious,” he said.
Some simple actions to take to prevent the coronavirus spread include:
- Washing hands often with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap is not available
- Do not touch your face with unclean hands
- Stay at least six feet away from people who are sick
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow if a tissue is not available
- Stay home and away from others if you are sick
Philadelphia residents wanting more information as the coronavirus situation progresses in the city are encouraged to text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to get text updates.