Mayor Kenney to Congress: Philly Needs Critical COVID-19 Supplies and Funding Now

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

By Elle Meyers

April 16, 2020

As of Thursday, Philadelphia County has 7,684 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 134 related deaths.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is urgently requesting the federal government’s help in providing critically needed resources to help the city recover from the pandemic. 

In a April 10 letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Kenney highlighted a need for personal protective equipment, rapid testing capacity, and an allocation of funding to help mitigate the sharp decline in revenues the city has seen since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. 

“Cities and states cannot effectively address and recover from this pandemic without a robust federal partnership and response,” Kenney wrote in the letter. He explained that he is grateful for the help the federal government has provided to communities so far but “much more is needed to ensure that Philadelphians can safely survive the crisis and thrive beyond it.”

Kenney’s letter comes as experts expect the city to reach its peak number of infections this week. As of Thursday, Philadelphia County has 7,684 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 134 related deaths. 

“The numbers I’m seeing give us solid evidence that the stay-at-home recommendation is working in flattening the curve and protecting people from this infection,” Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley told the Philly Voice. “We’re just showing signs of stabilizing. We’re not on the other side of the epidemic yet.”

He explained that in order to contain the infection it’s imperative test results be accessed sooner. 

“Our greatest limit has not really been the number of [testing] sites. It’s been the number of swabs we have for collecting tests and the turnaround time for the laboratory,” Farley said. “It takes six, seven days to get results. We’re not going to be able to contain this kind of infection in the long-term with that kind of turnaround.”

Although the city’s efforts to flatten the curve and keep people healthy seem to be working, Kenney noted that reopening the area to normal life is still a long way off. 

“We’re going to inform ourselves about what other states and cities think,” Kenney said in an interview with the Philly Voice. He explained that the most important information on whether or not to begin opening up the city will come from medical professionals. “We need to be informed by medical and science people, not by anything else,” he said.

Philadelphia also exemplifies the distinct gap in morbidity between demographics. Reports indicate that the case fatality rate for Black individuals in the area is 1.3 per 10,000 people while the morbidity rate for white residents is 0.8 per 10,000. 

“Philadelphia will face unique challenges recovering from COVID-19, and it is clear that the impact of this pandemic will fall more heavily on vulnerable populations,” the mayor wrote in his letter

Another challenge Kenney highlighted in his letter to House leadership is city budgeting. Philadelphia is headed toward some severe budget cuts if it does not receive financial help from the federal government to reimburse the city after the financial losses brought on by the pandemic. 

According to reports, there is no word on the specific details for the potential budget cuts but the mayor has said a revised budget proposal will be available by the beginning of May. 

In his letter, Kenney also asked for help with housing, pension relief, and education, among other areas.

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