Philly Coronavirus News: School Chaos, Forced Quarantine Now Legal, But Hey, Free Internet

The region continues to navigate through this crisis.

west philadelphia high school closed due to the coronavirus crisis

West Philadelphia High School, which was closed on Friday due to the coronavirus in Philadelphia. (Photo by Kelsey Thomas)

A roundup of Philly coronavirus news.

Coronavirus Closes All Philly Schools

With news of lots of schools in the area moving from classroom to online learning during the coronavirus crisis in Philadelphia, many have wondered: What about Philly public schools?

Well, as an illustration of just how fluid the coronavirus situation is, consider the following.

On Thursday afternoon, just after 4 p.m., Philadelphia schools superintendent William Hite announced that Philly public schools would remain open. Why? A number of factors played into the decision, he explained. There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus within the schools. Children are generally considered to be low-risk for the coronavirus. And the impact of closing schools can be huge on families who may not have access to child care, paid time off, or hot meals for their children.

But then, after 10 p.m., the school district announced that 63 schools would be closed on Friday. Why? No, not because there are coronavirus cases in those 63 schools. The district says it was forced to close those schools because of the number of teachers and staff from those schools who live in Montgomery County. And on Thursday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf asked Montgomery County residents to “refrain from non-essential travel.” So the teachers and staff can’t (or shouldn’t) travel to work.

Soon after the Philly school district announced these closures, the Mastery network of Philly charter schools announced that its schools would also be closed on Friday, also due to the Montgomery County situation.

Then, at a press conference Friday afternoon, Hite announced that all Philly public schools would be closed for two weeks starting Monday, March 16th through Friday, March 27th, during which time the schools would be deep cleaned. He specified that the closures were necessary because so many district teachers live in Montgomery and Delaware counties (2,100 and 1,000 respectively). Asked if the days would be made up, Hite said that he didn’t know, but said that students were being sent home with 10 days of work and speculated that the school year could extend through June and possibly into July. Archidiocese schools announced that they are moving to online instruction.

Coronavirus Closes All Montco Schools

Speaking of Governor Wolf’s Thursday press conference…

“In Montgomery County, we are aggressively moving to a mitigation phase, and statewide we are providing guidance to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” Wolf said.

That aggressive mitigation phase includes the closure of all schools in Montgomery County. Same goes for child daycare centers. Amtrak trains will no longer stop at the Ardmore station. Jails and nursing homes have instituted a no-visitors policy.

Wolf recommended that all “non-essential retail facilities” close their doors. And he has ordered — yes, ordered — all essential retail operations like supermarkets and gas stations to remain open.

Wolf expects that this mitigation phase will last until March 27th.

Forced Quarantine Now Legal in Philly

There are 1,000 Philly residents currently under self-imposed, fully voluntary quarantine. But the city’s board of health just voted on some new measures that will give the city the power to force quarantine on residents, should that become necessary.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Philadelphia remains at one. The Philadelphia Department of Health says that the overall coronavirus risk in Philadelphia is “low.”

Say Goodbye to Big Events for Now

Yesterday, we told you that the Wells Fargo Center had closed for the day for a deep cleaning, a day after the Sixers played what would turn out to be their last game there for a while. And we wondered: What about Friday night’s Billie Eilish concert? After all, the city had advised residents against attending events of 5,000 or more people. And the Billie Eilish concert at Wells Fargo Center was basically sold out, so that’s about 20,000 people, all jammed into one space.

Well, our question was answered on Thursday afternoon when the city announced that it was banning all events of 1,000 people or more. Technically, the word the city used was “prohibiting,” which does sound a little less drastic than “banning.” This ban is in effect for the next 30 days.

As for smaller events, the city has no issues with events of 250 or fewer people. Anywhere from 250 to 1,000 people, the city is advising residents against attending those events.

Comcast’s Coronavirus Gift

During the Philly coronavirus crisis, low-income families can get free high-speed Internet. This starts on Monday, March 16th and lasts for two months. This includes a modem and router, and there’s no contract or credit check required. Details available here.

Lush’s Coronavirus Gift

Let’s say you’re walking down Walnut Street and you feel the need to sanitize your hands. Naturally, you don’t have any hand sanitizers, because all of the shelves at CVS were empty. So what do you do?

You can wash your hands for free at Lush during the coronavirus crisis in Philly.

Lush, the cosmetic store with all those fancy soaps on the 1500 block of Walnut Street has the answer: They’re opening up the store and sinks for free hand-washing with said fancy soaps.

“This is not a sales campaign to sell more soap,” the company said in a statement. “Our soaps, our sinks and our shops will be available for anyone to use as a free service. We want to take proactive measures and continue to serve our customers with heart.”