63 Philly Schools Are Closed Friday; City Bans Large Crowds

The new archbishop of Philadelphia, meanwhile, decreed that Catholics don't have to attend Sunday "until further notice," though Mass would continue to be held at parishes

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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is asking the city council for $85 million to combat the new coronavirus, and city officials announced Thursday that crowds of more than 1,000 are banned from gathering in the city.

The ban is in effect for the next 30 days, Philadelphia's top health official said. The city also recommended no gatherings of more than 250. Late Thursday, city officials announced 63 of the more than 200 public schools would not open Friday.

The schools that will be closed were determined based on the percentage of staff at those schools that live in Montgomery County, where a large outbreak of COVID-19 is occurring. The full list of school closures can be found here.

"We are clearly in for a rough patch here,” Deputy Mayor Dr. Thomas Farley said. “However, while we can’t say how this will unfold, I can say that we will manage to get through it."

Meanwhile, the new head of the Philadelphia Catholic Archdiocese, Archbishop Nelson Peréz, decreed that churchgoers did not have to attend Mass "until further notice."

"Despite the suspension of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, all regularly scheduled masses will remain open to the public for those who wish to attend," he said in a statement.

Across the city, large institutions announced they were cancelling events for the foreseeable future. The Wells Fargo Center announced it would close through at least the end of the month. The Kimmel Center said most performances are being rescheduled, and suggested patrons check the Kimmel Center website and the websites of the resident companies for the status of events.

Dr. Thomas Farley, Philadelphia's deputy mayor for health, gave an update Thursday on the city's actions to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Kenney's request earlier Thursday came days after the city confirmed its first case of the virus and follows the continued spread of COVID-19 throughout Philadelphia’s suburbs. The money would come from existing city funds in the budget's "rainy day" account.

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City Council must approve the money.

“This is being done out of an abundance of caution, given the uncertainties the City faces as a result of COVID-19. This request does not mean we are certain to spend the funds,” Kenney said in a statement. “Rather, having these funds at the ready will allow the Managing Director to quickly access additional services as conditions warrant.”

No new cases were reported by Thursday afternoon, Farley said, though he added that testing capabilities were not expansive.

In fact, he said, the city hasn't received any results from tests that have been performed in at least 36 hours.

"I know there are limits to the number of test kits that are available, and because of that the laboratory has done some prioritizing. And that is probably explaining the delays in getting results," Farley said. "I can tell you it’s been at least 36 hours, and perhaps 48 hours, since we have received any results. So it is that limitation and delay on testing that is limiting our ability to take additional containment steps."

Pennsylvania's state laboratory is handling Philadelphia's coronavirus test kits, a city health official said. He deferred questions about delays in results to the state.

On Wednesday, Philadelphia opened its Emergency Operations Center to respond to the virus. The EOC brings together various agencies under one roof as leaders coordinate the city’s response to threats.

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