City announces restrictions on business activity, halt to some government operations

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Effective today, Monday, March 16, at 5 p.m., and until at March 27, only essential commercial establishments should remain open to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, city officials announced.

An exact end date for the restrictions has not been determined.

The City of Philadelphia has designated the following businesses as essential:

  • Supermarkets and grocery stores
  • Big box stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Discount stores, mini-markets and non-specialized food stores
  • Daycare centers
  • Hardware stores
  • Gas stations
  • Banks
  • Post offices
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners
  • Veterinary clinics for domestic pets and pet stores

Additional commercial establishments not impacted by the restrictions include any that sell the following: frozen products; non-specialized stores of computers, telecommunications equipment, audio and video consumer electronics, household appliances; IT and telecommunication equipment; hardware, paint, flat glass; electrical, plumbing and heating material; automotive fuel; domestic fuel; sanitary equipment; personal hygiene products medication not requiring medical prescription; medical and orthopedic equipment; optics and photography equipment; and soaps and detergents.

During the restrictions, food establishments are permitted to allow only online and phone orders for delivery and pick-up. Dine-in service is prohibited.

“These new restrictions come in response to the latest data we have on COVID-19. These changes are not made lightly, and we are well aware of the potentially devastating effect they will have on the businesses and workers of Philadelphia,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “Our administration is actively developing grant and loan programs aimed at business and job preservation. For now, I urge all businesses and residents to observe these restrictions so that the threat of this virus can quickly be eliminated.”

Effective tomorrow, March 17, all city government buildings will be closed to the public and non-essential City of Philadelphia government operations will be halted.

Starting Wednesday, March 18, all non-essential city workers will not need to report to work. Individual department heads are currently determining what operations are essential. Essential operations will include public safety, health and human services, utilities, sanitation and payroll.

On Friday afternoon, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and School District of Philadelphia announced that schools would be closed through March 27. Shortly after, Gov. Tom Wolf closed all schools across the state through that date.

In response to the outbreak and the closure of city schools, the school district announced plans to provide meal service and drop-in activity space for students over the next two weeks while schools are closed.

Up to two meals for youths are available at John H. Webster, 3400 Frankford Ave., Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Essential personnel, including a school police officer and other support staff, will be on site to distribute meals to students and families.

“We encourage any school district families interested in obtaining breakfast and lunch meals for their students to visit these meal distribution sites,” said Superintendent William Hite. “We are eager to help support families during this difficult time and urge them to take advantage of the resources provided throughout the city.”

These recreation centers and gyms will be open to youths weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with one meal per child provided at 3 p.m.:

  • Bridesburg, 4625 Richmond St.
  • Cohocksink, 2901 Cedar St.
  • McVeigh, 400-64 E. Ontario St.
  • Samuel, 2501 E. Tioga St.
  • Towey, 1832-50 N. Howard St.

“No child should go hungry because they are not in school,” Kenney said. “The city and school district will continue to do everything we can to make sure our students’ basic needs are met during this challenging time. I ask Philadelphians to continue looking out for one another by sharing resources like this with their loved ones and neighbors.”

Juniata Park Older Adult Center, 1251 E. Sedgley St., will remain open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for meal service.

All other Department of Parks and Recreation sites across the city are closed to the public.

Libraries are closed to the public, through March 29.

The city is prohibiting public gatherings of more than 1,000 people for 30 days, starting March 13. If you attend smaller events, the city recommends using common-sense practices to avoid infection — washing hands, using hand sanitizer, avoiding touching other people and maintaining a safe social distance from others.

The city health department has said it has found nine confirmed cases in Philadelphia. The city is awaiting test results from an additional 44 cases. Statewide, there are 76 confirmed cases. ••