The area just outside Citizens Bank Park, the baseball stadium home to the Philadelphia Phillies, could soon be used to test for the coronavirus as the city responds to the increasing spread.
Multiple tents began getting set up outside the ballpark in South Philadelphia to allow for testing on Tuesday, and Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley on Wednesday confirmed plans to convert it into a "drive-thru" testing location.
"We hope to open that site soon," Farley said. At a Thursday press conference, he said the hope was to have it up and running by Friday afternoon.
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The commissioner said Citizens Bank Park would be "one of many" locations to perform testing across the city.
Not just anyone would be tested at the sports complex; they would instead have to meet certain criteria, Farley said. The reason for limiting testing is because of a shortage of viral transport media kits, which have the swabs needed to collect test samples, he said.
People who feel like they should be tested should first contact their medical provider, Farley added.
The commissioner said that of the people infected in the city, 23 are between 20 and 39 years old, 13 are between 40 and 59 years old and six are 60 or older. Eight have been hospitalized. Farley initially said 20 of the people infected were health care workers, but corrected himself Friday and indicated that the number was actually 10.
Though some of those workers were not exposed at their jobs, their infection rates demonstrate the acute danger that they face when treating coronavirus patients, he said.
Because of that greater risk, health care workers showing symptoms like fever and a dry cough will be the first in line at the ‘drive-thru’ coronavirus testing site, Farley said.
“We don’t want health care workers working with this infection because we don’t want them to expose their patients,” he said.
People 50 and older who have symptoms will be next in line after that, though the criteria could change, the commissioner said.
Currently, there are tents at the sports complex labeled with PTF1, the abbreviation for Pennsylvania Task Force 1, which is part of a local Federal Emergency Management Agency operation.
Like other Major League Baseball stadiums, Citizens Bank Park will not be hosting games until at least mid-May after the MLB postponed Opening Day due to the coronavirus. The Phillies' ballpark has plenty of room for cars to line up, which would allow for drive-thru testing, the likes of which is already being performed by Penn Medicine and Main Line Health.
In Philadelphia, at least 44 people were infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, as of Thursday afternoon. Even more infections were recorded in neighboring counties, with cases in Pennsylvania Thursday.