Shwamont

What would normally be a bustling mid-morning scene at the Shawmont School with a lot full of cars and children out at recess was a virtual 'ghost town' Monday after the governor ordered all Pa. schools shut down for the next two weeks.

PHILADELPHIA — So you thought maybe Roxborough and the rest of the city maybe was going to skirt the worst of the coronavirus crackdowns?

Think again.

On Monday city officials announced a city-wide shutdown on all non-essential business - including a ban on dining and eating in restaurants and bars. They can do take-out and delivery, but not in-house service. The ban likely will be in effect at least through March 27. Several hours later, Gov. Tom Wolf announced a similar ban on non-essential business in place for four suburban counties was being expanded to the entire state.

"This isn't a decision that I take lightly at all," Wolf said. "It's one I'm making because medical experts believe it's the only way we can prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed."

The governor already had shut down all K-12 schools across the state. 

The new restrictions announced Monday include a halt to all non-essential city government operations.

All of the measure are being taken in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.

The ban went into effect Monday, March 16, at 5 p.m. and will last through at least March 27. A precise end date has not been determined.

Only essential commercial establishments will remain open. To allow for essential goods to be accessible to the public, the City of Philadelphia designated the following businesses as essential:

· Supermarkets and grocery stores

· Big box stores

· Pharmacies

· Discount stores, mini-markets, and non-specialized food stores

· Daycare centers

· Hardware stores

· Gas stations

· Banks

· Post Offices

· Laundromats and dry cleaners

· Veterinary clinics for domestic pets and pet stores

Also deemed essential are commercial establishments that sell any of the following: frozen products; non-specialized stores of computers, telecommunications equipment, audio and video consumer electronics, household appliances; IT and telecommunication equipment; hardware, paint, flat glass; electrical, plumbing and heating material; automotive fuel; domestic fuel; sanitary equipment; personal hygiene products medication not requiring medical prescription; medical and orthopedic equipment; optics and photography equipment; and soaps and detergents.

Food establishments may only accommodate online and phone orders for delivery and pick-up, and cannot allow dine-in service, for the duration of these restrictions.

“These new restrictions come in response to the latest data we have on COVID-19. These changes are not made lightly, and we are well aware of the potentially devastating effect they will have on the businesses and workers of Philadelphia,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Our administration is actively developing grant and loan programs aimed at business and job preservation. For now, I urge all businesses and residents to observe these restrictions so that the threat of this virus can quickly be eliminated.”

Non-essential city government operations are halted, and all  city government buildings will be closed to the public, effective Tuesday, March 17. (Staff members are still expected to report to work on Tuesday, March 17, unless otherwise instructed by their supervisor.)

Beginning Wednesday, March 18, all non-essential city workers will not need to report to work. Individual department heads are currently determining what operations are essential. Employees will be receiving additional information on their status in the next 24 hours. Essential operations will include public safety, health and human services, utilities, sanitation, and payroll.

The city and PIDC will launch a program to support Philadelphia businesses, help maintain payroll obligations, and preserve jobs impacted by the spread of COVID-19. The program will be a tiered program that aims to provide targeted support for small businesses.

The program will include a mix of new grants and zero-interest loans for Philadelphia businesses that make under $5 million in annual revenue. PIDC will continue to offer its existing lending programs for small and midsize businesses on flexible terms to provide working capital, fund contract receivables, refinance high-interest debt, and meet other needs.

The City also continues to explore additional relief options available to businesses of all sizes that are made available through the state and federal governments, as well as other sources. Additionally, the Commerce Department's Office of Business Services is available to answer questions businesses may have during this difficult time. They can be reached through the business services hotline (215-683-2100) and email (business@phila.gov).

Residents with questions can call the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline at 1-800-722-7112. The Helpline, free and available 24/7, is staffed by trained healthcare providers and is for anyone in the Greater Philadelphia area, including the public and healthcare providers, to help answer questions about COVID-19.

Residents can get COVID-19 updates sent to their phones. Text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive free alerts with information and updates from the Health Department. Information is also being updated daily on the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s webpage www.phila.gov/covid-19.

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