Philly Orders People to Stay Home to Stop Coronavirus Spread

'There still were too many people not taking it serious,' Mayor Jim Kenney said

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What to Know

  • Philadelphians are being urged to stay-at-home as the new coronavirus spreads.
  • At least 175 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Philadelphia.
  • People at the greatest risk, like health care workers and people 50 and older, are urged to seek out testing, which remains limited, according to health officials.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney on Sunday issued a stay-at-home order for the entire city, his most dramatic effort yet to to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The order went into effect Monday at 8 a.m. and prohibits, with certain exceptions, public and private gatherings outside a single household, Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy said during a news conference Sunday.

NBC10's Miguel Martinez-Valle is in Rittenhouse Square where many businesses are closed Monday as Philadelphia's stay-at-home order is in effect.

On Monday afternoon, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley announced 79 new cases of COVID-19 in the city, bringing the total to at least 175 since the outbreak began.

He said that the increase in testing is in part responsible for the increase in cases. Farley urged young and otherwise-healthy people who may think they have the new coronavirus not to get tested, as there are a limited number of tests.

"Testing is becoming less valuable," Farley said Monday, while noting it is still important for certain groups.

He said the first priority is health care workers with symptoms, like a fever and shortness of breath, followed by people 50 and over who have COVID-19 symptoms.

Kenney said he was forced to issue the stay-at-home order because prior guidance, merely asking people to stay home, was not having the intended effect.

“There still were too many people not taking it serious,” Kenney said.

The order itself, though, did not list specific penalties for violators, saying only that defiance would result in "orders to cease operations and the imposition of such other remedies and penalties as provided by law."

When asked whether it would now be illegal to congregate, Kenney demurred; he said it would be in defiance of the order, but that he would be reluctant to have people arrested for violating his decree.

"This is not something that we can continue to scoff at or thumb our nose.”

Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy

Both he and Abernathy said the hope is that people will take it upon themselves to follow the order in the interest of the greater good. If authorities do encounter large groups, they will “intervene [and] remind them to go home,” Abernathy said.

“We don’t want to get into a point where we’re under martial law or anything like that, but I think everyone needs to recognize that this is serious," Abernathy said. "This is not something that we can continue to scoff at or thumb our nose."


All Philadelphia residents shall remain home or at their place of residence unless they are engaged in Essential Personal Activities, which include:

  1. obtaining essential goods or services from Essential Businesses, such as obtaining pre-ordered takeout food or beverages from restaurants, acquiring groceries, obtaining medical prescriptions or supplies, or any other products from Essential Businesses for themselves, family, household members, and pets
  2. seeking any form of medical attention, including through Essential Healthcare and Social Services Businesses and Activities, or seeking assistance from law enforcement or emergency services for themselves, family, household members, and pets
  3. caring for family members, friends, or a pet in another household, including
    delivering essential goods or obtaining emergency services and attention
  4. reporting to or performing their essential jobs related to Essential Businesses and Activities, Essential Minimum Operations, Essential Government Functions, or any other working activities permitted in this Order
  5. walking, running, cycling, operating a wheelchair, or engaging in outdoor
    activities with immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners while following Social Distancing Rules with other individuals, which includes staying six feet apart
  6. leaving the home for an educational, religious, or political reason
  7. leaving because of a reasonable fear for health or safety
  8. leaving at the direction of law enforcement or other government agency
  9. engaging in any other activities or performing tasks essential to health and safety, or to the health and safety of themselves, family, household members, or pets

    B. Individuals experiencing homelessness are exempt from this directive, but are strongly urged to obtain shelter, and City agencies and other entities are strongly urged to make such shelter available as soon as possible and to the maximum extent practicable(and to use in their operation COVID-19 risk mitigation practices recommended by the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health). Individuals whose residences are unsafe or become unsafe, such as victims of domestic violence, are permitted and urged to leave their home and stay at a safe alternative location.

The order only applies to the city of Philadelphia. The governor has not issued a statewide stay-at-home order.

Schools throughout Philadelphia and the rest of Pennsylvania are already shut down as local and state officials try to prevent new infections during what is now a pandemic afflicting multiple countries, including the U.S. The school district is operating a coronavirus hub, in multiple languages, to help students continue learning from home.

Farley has warned that the rate of infections, which is expected to continue rising, is already taxing the city’s hospitals.

On Monday, Kenney urged people to not park in loading zones or in front of fire hydrants and said that the illegally parked cars could be towed. He also announced the delay of May's Broad Street Run until October.

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