No More Mr. Nice Mayor: Jim Kenney, Shut This City Down

Many Philadelphians are ignoring polite calls for social distancing, even as COVID-19 cases now surpass 1,000 in the city. Drastic times call for drastic measures.

Does Philly need stricter coronavirus restrictions? Consider this social distancing fail on Friday. Photo credit: Marshall Mitchell.

Philadelphia, we are now in the four-digit club.

As of Monday, Philadelphia had officially surpassed 1,000 cases of COVID-19, with positive tests in every zip code in the city. Heading into April, the need to buckle down and gear up for the worst couldn’t be more obvious. Experts are already predicting that Philly isn’t even close to the peak of this devastating pandemic, saying that May is when the coronavirus crisis will hit its peak here.

As I’ve been taking ever more caution during this time of uncertainty (my fiancé and I have decided to only grocery shop online and no longer go outside for anything), many Philadelphians still aren’t taking this seriously. Reports are still coming in that residents continue to gather in large crowds, frolic in parks, and ignore social distancing at basketball courts. And new information from the city hammers home that the disease does not discriminate, as more African Americans were testing positive in recent days.

Yet even as recently as last Friday, some were still gathering in large crowds for take-out without a care for even minimal social distancing.

This is why we can’t have nice things. It’s obvious that despite the escalation of this deadly virus, people are not respecting courteous requests from state and local governments to stay at home. Either Philadelphians don’t understand what it means to practice social distancing or simply do not care to. None of this is okay. As irresponsible behavior continues, more and more people are put at risk of exposure.

We are now at that part of the pandemic where we should stop requesting and start enforcing. Playtime is over.

Mayor Kenney, for the good of the city and its residents, I modestly propose that you shut the city down immediately.

I’m not talking about essential businesses, as they are obviously a public necessity. However, the administration is putting too much trust in Philadelphians who aren’t doing the right thing.

The first major change needs to be closing down for public use all parks and other outdoor social spaces. As the weather begins to warm up, many of us will be even more tempted to go outside, and there’s just no way to practice social distancing when we’re all jogging on Kelly Drive at the same time. Closing social hot-spots immediately and visibly clamping down on social distancing violations will help flatten the curve. Boston is currently using a heavier hand in its parks for the same reasons.

The city should also remove all public basketball hoops and any other problematic sporting equipment in the name of enforcing social distancing. New York City just did as much in response to residents failing to take the health crisis seriously. Let’s follow suit.

When it comes to food and retail, it’s time to ban carry-out and take-out orders, and enforce delivery only. There are still a few rogue local dining spots that are allowing people to pick-up food at their storefront. This needs to be banned right now as it’s becoming virtually impossible to believe folks will truly take social distancing seriously.

Even if venues are trying their best to enforce safe practices, it feels like a liability to maintain these operations.

Stricter measures should also be implemented at grocery stores. A cap on the number of shoppers who can go into a grocery store is a good place to start. Right now, a packed market is simply another opportunity for asymptomatic coronavirus carriers to spread the virus to vulnerable Philadelphians.

And lastly, the city should call in the National Guard to help enforce such measures. Philadelphia is the second largest city on the East Coast and our confirmed cases are increasing rapidly. Last Monday, Philly had just 175 reported cases. A week later, we have more than five times that total. The city should take advantage of outside resources to help save as many lives as possible. The sooner we slow down the spread of COVID-19, the sooner Philadelphia will get back on track. It appears as though strict restrictions in Seattle, where the first American Coronavirus cases were reported, are slowing down the transmission.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. While some will argue that what I’m calling for amounts to martial law, I ask the naysayers: Would you rather our elderly and immune-compromised die as you protest for more liberty under the sun?