During Mayor Jim Kenney’s daily press conference, city officials said that the parking lots at Citizens Bank Park could soon begin seeing patients suspected of having contracted the virus. The hope is to have the site up and running by Friday but officials weren’t sure if they’d be able to meet that timeline as of 2 p.m. on Thursday.
“The Philadelphia Department of Health is working with partners at the State Health Department, other state partners and federal partners on a testing site down in the stadium area,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, Philadelphia Health Commissioner. “We hope to have that testing site open tomorrow afternoon. I cannot guarantee that.”
The city announced on Thursday that there have been 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Philadelphia after 10 more cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours.
Of those cases, 23 were age 20-39; 13 cases were age 40-59 and six were age 60 and higher. Officials did not say what age the remaining two cases were. Eight of the total cases were hospitalized.
There are already 14 testing sites open in Philadelphia and officials said they expect there to be 19 operating by next week, including the mobile site at the Stadium Complex.
Once it opens, the new site will follow strict criteria of who gets tested as testing kits for the coronavirus are still scarce throughout the country. Healthcare workers will be prioritized first, according to officials. Twenty of Philadelphia’s 44 cases were healthcare workers.
“Like other testing sites, this site will have criteria for who they test,” Farley said. “And the highest priority people for that testing site will be health care workers, the people we all need to serve our own health. Healthcare workers with symptoms. We don’t want healthcare workers working with this infection because we don’t want them to expose their patients.”
Health officials are recommending anyone with mild systems to stay home or call their health care provider. The city has yet to lay out official guidelines for the new testing site but but after healthcare workers are seen, the next group permitted would be those over 50 showing more severe symptoms.
“After (healthcare workers), we’ll be able to serve people who are age 50 and above who have symptoms characteristic of this,” Farley said. “There will be criteria at all times at this site and criteria will change over time but that’s how we’re going to start.”
Farley pointed to the rapid increase of cases in New York City over the past three days, reporting 196 cases on March 16. That number grew to 459 cases the following day and approximately 900 on Wednesday. There have been 3,615 positive cases, including 22 deaths in New York City as of Thursday afternoon.
Philadelphia has been registering on a smaller scale but Farley believes the city could follow the same path.
“We have to assume that this virus is spreading very rapidly through the city of Philadelphia,” Farley said. “Up until now, for many people, this has been something that is very theoretical, something you see on television. This is about to get real. We expect that many people in Philadelphia will get this infection.”