Philly cases continue downward trend; city salvages summer youth programs

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia continues its downward trend in the number of new COVID-19 cases.

Philadelphia reported 370 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to 16,410. While the numbers fluctuate a bit day to day, Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley said the trend is steady.

“Clearly Philadelphia is on the downslope of the epidemic,” he noted.

The downward trend is also apparent in group settings, where there have been clusters since the outbreak started.

“Our jail cluster is at the lowest point that we’ve been on for a while,” said Farley. “We currently have 29 active cases in the jail — that’s no new positives since (Monday), and six others who’ve recovered and been removed from isolation.”

Nursing homes continue to see the largest number of deaths, but the fatality rate is trending downward, too. City officials announced another 17 deaths Tuesday, bringing the citywide total to 743.

At the same time, the city has expanded testing because of better access to supplies. Farley said 1,500 to 2,000 people a day get tested in the city. He’d like to get that number up to 5,000 or even 10,000, so that when the number of new cases gets low enough, the city can start contact tracing, which would allow the city to reopen without causing a spike in new cases. 

The mayor added the city is working with nearby counties on a regional plan for reopening.

“Try to have their contacts be quarantined and then that stops the chain of transmission,” he explained. “If that doesn’t work 100% of the time but even half the time, that cuts off an awful lot of spread, and it permits situations to take place without getting an overall increase in cases.”

Farley said staying home continues to be the best way to keep bringing the numbers down to a level where the city can reopen without a spike. 

In keeping with that, the city is moving more services online, including 128 after-school programs for students as part of its Out-of-School Time initiative, as well as all 7,000 slots in its summer WorkReady program.

“They will be using both digital and virtual experiences to build skills and prepare young people for success in the workplaces of the future,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.

The Out-of-School Time program will provide online after-school activities like educational games, lessons and academic support for enrolled K-12 grade students. 

The WorkReady program offers youth an opportunity to learn about various careers, financial literacy and brand identity. The city continues to be the largest employer in the program. 

Kenney said spending money on WorkReady, amid deep budget cuts, is consistent with the city’s priority of education.

“We want to make sure that our young people are included in these recovery efforts,” said Cynthia Figueroa, deputy mayor for the Philadelphia Office of Children and Families. “Investing in summer experiences will help lift our communities and City beyond this pandemic.”

For more resources regarding COVID-19, visit phila.gov/covid-19 or call the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline at 1-800-722-7112.