Officials still urge residents to stay at home, but if you are going outside for essential needs, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Tom Farley said a mask will help keep the virus from spreading.
“My mask protects you; your mask protects me. The idea is that this infection is widespread enough that this recommendation will help protect the people around those who are wearing a mask,” he said.
He also emphasized that a simple cloth mask, pulled tightly, will suffice. Medical-grade masks should be reserved for health care workers, as they are in desperately short supply.
City Managing Director Brian Abernathy said the city ordered 500,000 masks, but the order was canceled. There’s no replacement as of yet.
“We are working consistently to identify multiple sources of PPE, so that is an ongoing and kind of top-priority mission for us,” he said.
The shortage comes as the number of coronavirus cases climbed by another 330, totalling 2,430 in Philadelphia. Nine new deaths were reported, bringing the total to 26.
Half of the city’s fatalities were residents of nursing homes — a setting where cases are starting to cluster across the city, as social distancing is difficult.
With that in mind, Abernathy said homeless shelters are reducing their densities so they can remain 6 feet apart from one another.
“We aren’t taking anyone’s health or safety lightly during this time. We have beds available. Winter beds were kept open. Capacity in Center City will be expanded by 100 beds,” he said.
Outreach teams are also screening for symptoms on the street and providing information about prevention.
Ahead of the weekend, Mayor Jim Kenney said the city is serious about enforcing the ban on public gatherings — even asking residents to call 311 if they see pick-up basketball games. As a preventative measure, the city removed rims from 50 basketball courts.
“You’re doing this for their benefit, not just being a snitch,” Kenney said.
Statewide, cases have reached 8,420, with at least 102 deaths.