Philly Mayor Kenney: I Won’t ‘Sacrifice People’s Lives’ By Reopening City Too Soon

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By Cassandra Stone

May 7, 2020

Kenney reiterated during his news conference that he will not be swayed by protestors and that setting a date for reopening isn’t realistic at the moment.

A number of groups are planning to rally in Philadelphia on Friday to call for the city to reopen after businesses were temporarily shut down during the coronavirus pandemic. Mayor Jim Kenney, however, said he is against relaxing social distancing guidelines too soon.

“We are not going to sacrifice people’s lives,” Kenney said in a virtual news conference on Wednesday. “There’s no such thing as collateral lives. They’re all human beings. They’re all part of our country, state, and city, and we’re not going to sacrifice anybody intentionally.”

Kenney also said that businesses will open once again when Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley and other medical experts say it’s safe to do so. He also noted that his position does not align with that of the White House.

“As we can see in other places, you’re starting to see spikes in Florida, I expect spikes in Georgia, and we do not want to take the position which seems to be emerging from the White House and through people like former Gov. [Chris] Christie,” Kenney said, referencing the former New Jersey governor’s remarks to CNN that the U.S. should accept more COVID-related deaths as a sacrifice to reopen the economy. 

“Of course, everybody wants to save every life they can ― but the question is, towards what end, ultimately?” Christie said during the CNN podcast earlier this week.

According to The Inquirer, protesters expected to gather at City Hall on Friday include small business owners, workers who are still waiting for their unemployment benefits, as well as people affiliated with the Philadelphia Proud Boys, a chapter of the right-wing extremist group designed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. 

Polls show that most Americans actually support the social distancing guidelines designed to protect people from contracting and spreading the coronavirus. While a little more than half of Americans (56%) are comfortable visiting grocery stores, 67% said they would be uncomfortable shopping at a clothing store and 78% said they would be uncomfortable eating at a sit-down restaurant. 

Kenney reiterated during his news conference that he will not be swayed by protestors and that setting a date for reopening isn’t realistic at the moment. 

“You can’t set a timeline,” Kenney said. “The timeline is what the virus dictates, and that’s been the case since the beginning. We certainly have target things we’d like to see happen, but unless the data indicates that it’s safe, then it’s not safe.” 

Philadelphia health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley told the Philly Voice the city is seeing progress in slowing the rate of new coronavirus infections. As of Thursday, the city reported 17,047 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 816 deaths.

“Our hospitals are seeing a little bit of a reduction in the cases that are hospitalized,” Farley said. But, he added, he can’t predict what will happen in the future.

“We’re still learning about this virus,” he said. “We’re still learning about this epidemic. The virus has more surprises in store for us. We’re just going to have to see how it goes. I understand that uncertainty is difficult for everybody. That is simply the situation we’re in, though.”

One model from the University of Pennsylvania found that reopening states too soon could lead to an additional 233,000 deaths from coronavirus. 


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