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Crews prep Liacouras Center as Philly cases mount

Emergency crews are turning Temple University's gym into surge hospital space as Philadelphia prepares for another week of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

City officials on Sunday reported 84 new coronavirus cases and four additional deaths. So far, 890 people have been infected with the virus in Philadelphia and eight have died.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said not to be encouraged by the lower number of positive tests. Two labs that process the tests do not report results to the city over the weekend. 

Five of the eight people who have died are nursing home residents, though city leaders have declined to identify any facilities where there have been cases. 

Farley said all nursing homes, if they haven't already, should ban visitors, have staff wear masks and frequently screen employees for symptoms.

"In other cities in the U.S., we have seen that nursing homes are particularly susceptible to outbreaks of COVID-19, and we're starting to see that here in Philadelphia," Farley said in a statement.

The cases also include a person in jail and an employee who works in the city's prison system, officials said Friday. 

In Pennsylvania, nearly 3,400 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 38 people have died. 

The city recently rolled out an online map showing cases by zip code. As of Sunday morning, the areas with the highest number of cases were 19143 (Kingsessing), 19147 (South Philly) and 19103 (Center City West). 

To view the map, visit www.phila.gov/COVID-19.

Firefighters and other first responders from a special task force spent the weekend transforming the Liacouras Center into a hospital overflow area

Cots, commodes, walkers and other equipment arrived Saturday from the Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Health and Human Services. The site, a collaboration between the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is being prepared to accommodate 250 people.

It's been reported that the center will be used to house overflow patients from nearby hospitals who don't have COVID-19. However, there has not been a decision on the building's use, and it could be utilized to care for coronavirus patients or as a place to relocate other patients to free up bed space for those with COVID-19. 

"We never ruled out its use for patients who test positive," said Mike Dunn, a spokesman for the mayor's office, in an email. "All of this is being done with the full cooperation of Temple University officials."

Temple is leasing the Liacouras Center, as well as the facility's garage and nearby Student Pavilion, to the city for free. 

"We're happy to do it," Temple spokesman Ray Betzner told Metro. "We're part of this fight too." 

Starting Monday, the city, in partnership with Philabundance and the Share Food Program, will begin distributing free boxes of food at 20 sites around Philadelphia.

Residents will be able to pick up the food on Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. No I.D. or proof of income is necessary, and people are limited to one box per household.

For a complete list of sites, go to phila.gov/COVID-19.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Sunday asked President Donald Trump's administration to approve a major disaster declaration in an attempt to get more federal dollars to support programs in Pennsylvania.

"The COVID-19 outbreak has taxed our commonwealth and our communities in ways that are almost incomprehensible," Wolf said in a statement.

SEPTA, which has already cut service, will no longer run the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines 24 hours a day, which it has been doing since switching all services to a Saturday schedule last week.

The subways will be closed from 1 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. to allow for extra cleaning. Ridership during those hours has been very low, a SEPTA spokesman said.



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