Philadelphia leaders on Saturday laid out their plan to provide meals and recreation to the city’s children following Gov. Tom Wolf’s order that all K-12 schools close throughout the state.
Starting Monday, families will be able to pick up breakfast and lunch at any of 30 schools in the School District of Philadelphia from 9 a.m. to noon, Superintendent William Hite said. In addition, 50 recreation sites will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to provide a meal and activities for youth under 18 years old, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said.
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“Our recreation sites are safe, welcoming places for young people, and we are committed to meeting students’ need and supporting families as this situation evolves,” Ott Lovell said.
She stressed, however, that those recreation sites will provide a “limited opportunity for play and something to do” but should not be seen as a substitute for day care.
City Managing Director Brian Abernathy added that public libraries will be closed for public services starting Sunday, but staff will still be expected to show up to work Monday.
Earlier Saturday, the city announced the set-up of of a hotline to help people as the city deals with widespread disruptions due to the coronavirus.
The free, 24/7 Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline is meant to answer coronavirus questions for people in the region. Anyone, from members of the public to health care providers, can call the hotline at 1-800-722-7112.
The hotline will be staffed by medical experts.
“Aside from washing your hands and staying away from people who are sick, one of the most important things people can do in a pandemic is to listen to trusted experts,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said in a statement.
Experts will answer questions like what the risk factors of the virus are, what to do if people think they’ve been exposed, where to find testing resources and what are the recommendations for social distancing.
News of the hotline comes one day after Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all K-12 schools closed throughout the state. Shortly before Wolf’s announcement, Philadelphia leaders – including Mayor Jim Kenney – had fumed at Wolf’s decision to close schools in neighboring Montgomery County, saying the move caused Philadelphia’s schools to have a staff shortage from people living in the county.
"Our kids were safer being in school," Kenney said Friday as he and Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy rued the potential social and economic impact of school closures.
Philadelphia subsequently closed its schools, but Wolf’s decision to shutter campuses statewide shortly thereafter rendered city leadership’s complaints moot.
As of Saturday morning, Philadelphia had four recorded cases of the novel coronavirus. The statewide total stood at 47.