Philly Coronavirus News: SEPTA and Amtrak Slump, Colleges Lock Down, To Cancel or Not to Cancel

The region continues to navigate through this crisis.

man wearing a face mask on a septa train during the philadelphia coronavirus scare

A SEPTA rider attempting to take coronavirus precautions on the Market-Frankford El earlier this week. (Photo by Fabiola Cineas)

Update: Thanks to the coronavirus, the City of Philadelphia has now banned all events expecting 1,000 or more people and is advising residents against attending events of 250 to 1,000 people. Click here for the full story.

The Latest Philly Coronavirus Numbers

Confirmed cases in Philadelphia: 1. Number of Philly residents under investigation for possible coronavirus: 39. That number was 17 on Wednesday.

Statewide, there have been a total of 196 people under investigation for coronavirus. 100 of those people came up negative. 21 are either positive or presumed positive. The rest are still waiting to find out the results.

Who’s Riding SEPTA and Amtrak In the Coronavirus Era?

The anecdotal evidence is clear: SEPTA and Amtrak are suffering from a ridership decline.

Philly Mag has heard from many riders who say that trains, trolleys, and buses aren’t nearly as full as normal. In some cases, they are quite empty, say riders.

SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch confirms a dip in ridership amid the coronavirus crisis. Busch says that they don’t have enough data yet to determine how bad the problem is or which lines are most affected.

An Amtrak official wasn’t able to provide Philly-specific information at this time. But they said that nationally speaking, future bookings are down by 50 percent and cancelations are up 300 percent. Ouch.

We spoke with Amtrak employees and shop workers at 30th Street Station, and the general consensus is that business is way off.

30th Street Station amid the coronavirus in Philadelphia

30th Street Station in Philadelphia, photographed on Wednesday, March 11th amid growing concerns over the coronavirus in Philadelphia. (Photo by Lindsay Bowen)

On Wednesday, an employee at the Nutbox at 30th Street Station compared the business that day to what they would normally see on the weekend. A cashier at the usually busy Saxbys said that business at the cafe was very slow and added that some customers have gotten angry with employees for the way they’ve been touching drink lids. (Note that not everybody thinks you should be concerned about getting the coronavirus in a Philly restaurant, bar or cafe.)

If you’re wondering what a major decline in public transportation ridership could mean for the future, you should definitely take a dive into this Vice article.

Big College Changes Amid the Coronavirus Crisis

On Tuesday, West Chester University announced that the school was moving all of its courses online and canceling all on-campus classes. By Wednesday night, nearly every major college and university in the region had done the same thing or said that they were planning to make the move soon.

Schools and students are currently trying to figure out just how the hell all of this will play out. As if getting a college education weren’t already stressful enough.

To Cancel or Not to Cancel?

That is the question being faced by countless institutions and organizations in the area.

The Sixers had that decision made for them, now that the NBA has suspended the season for the entire league.

The Wells Fargo Center has postponed Thursday night’s Dan + Shay performance and is conducting a deep cleaning of the arena, one day after the Sixers game there. As of Thursday morning, the huge Billie Eilish show was still scheduled to take place at Wells Fargo Center on Friday night. The city has advised residents to avoid gatherings of 5,000 or more people. The number of fans expected at the Billie Eilish concert? Oh, about 20,000 or so.

Some big gatherings at the Pennsylvania Convention Center have canceled, meaning tens of thousands fewer people attending them, staying in hotels, eating at restaurants, etc. Others haven’t canceled. At least not yet.

And it’s not just big companies that have decisions to make. One local mom told us that she’s trying to decide whether to postpone her daughter’s wedding, which is supposed to happen later this month at a Center City hotel. Weddings. Birthday parties. Class reunions. Where does it end?

With reporting by Lindsay Bowen.