Watch CBS News

Philadelphia Leaders Taking New Steps In Response To Coronavirus Outbreak

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia leaders have activated the city's Emergency Operations Center amid the coronavirus outbreak, which is now a global pandemic. Sixteen Pennsylvanians are believed to now have the COVID-19 strain.

Mastery Charter School says Clymer Elementary will be closed for the rest of the week so cleaning crews can move in and disinfect. A student exhibited flu-like symptoms and that student has relatives who visited an international location with widespread coronavirus activity.

"These are challenges and finding that right balance is something we will continue to do," Philadelphia Manager Director Brian Abernathy said.

What You Need To Know: Latest Coronavirus Information From Pennsylvania, New Jersey And Delaware Health Departments

City officials are working to combat coronavirus while encouraging people to go on with their lives.

"We all have daily lives that we have to live. We need to take common-sense precautions but we also need to move about the city as well," Abernathy said.

On Wednesday, city leaders and representatives from several hospitals came together to discuss their collective efforts to combat coronavirus. They say they've been working on their response to the virus since January, but they say it will take everyone doing their part to prevent widespread infections.

"The Health Department isn't going to come to the rescue and save the day here," Dr. Steve Alles, with Philadelphia's Department of Public Health, said. "This is really going to take everybody in their professional life and their personal life to do their part to control spread here."

New Jersey Health Officials Concerned About Coronavirus Community Spread As 8 New Cases Announced

Philadelphia officials are still warning against going into large crowds with more than 5,000 people. That includes sporting events and Sunday's St. Patrick's Day parade was canceled to avoid spreading coronavirus.

City leaders launched the Emergency Operations Center to coordinate its response to the coronavirus.

Officials say they're preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

"Obviously, we don't know what's coming. We don't know what's around the corner, but I do feel like we'll be well-prepared to be flexible, nimble to address these concerns," Abernathy said.

Coronavirus In Pennsylvania: Lower Providence Township Police Officer Tests Presumed Positive For COVID-19, Officials Say

While officials are trying to tamp down mass hysteria, it's also a situation the city has dealt with before.

"It's easy to hear about things like coronavirus or influenza pandemics and think that it's out of your control and it's up to scientists in labs to come up with something," said Nancy Hill, the special projects manager at the Mutter Museum at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Workers at the Mutter Museum say the first line of defense is you.

Controlling the spread of illness is also the focus of the "Spit Means Death" exhibit at the Mutter Museum. Back in 1918, over 17,000 Philadelphians died over the course of five months from the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Coronavirus School Closings: Area Schools Closed Over COVID-19 Concerns

"Knowledge is power and you do as a solitary individual, have something that you can do to take care of your community and yourself," Hill said. "There really is as a member of society and especially if you live in an urban center, there's a lot of things that you can do to help protect not only your health but the people around you."

Changes are also coming to City Council. The council president said late Wednesday afternoon that Thursday's meeting will go on as planned, but seats will be staggered. They're also encouraging people to submit any testimony in writing.

The city says more than 15,000 people have signed up for text alerts to stay on top of the city's response. You can text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to stay informed.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.