PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Health Department suggested new restrictions for people traveling into the area from the New York City area, which includes northern New Jersey. The message about widespread exposures from people in and around New York started last night from the White House. Because New York City is now the epicenter of the outbreak, and Philadelphia is the closest big city, the same warnings were issued here.
Philadelphia is 90 miles from New York City, where coronavirus cases have exploded. Because of the close proximity, and thousands who travel back and forth, Philadelphia is now requesting anyone from the New York metropolitan area who’s now in Philly, be in self-quarantine for 14 days.
“We want to limit as much as possible the infection among people who travel between the two places,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. “Stay inside so you’re not in contact with anyone else, if at all possible, including your family members.”
Epidemiologists say COVID-19 is extremely contagious. With New York being a close hotspot, doctors are hoping the quarantine will help control the spread of the virus.
“The fact that we are close to New York only increases the likelihood of more cases coming,” said Dr. Usama Bilal, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel.
New York is now the epicenter of the pandemic, with over 2,500 cases being diagnosed daily.
“New York City has seen a very rapid increase in cases — more than 2,500 cases confirmed a day in the city alone,” Farley said.
On a normal afternoon, hundreds of people would be returning home from their commute from New York City. But as the nearly empty 30th Street Station and nearby bus depots show, we’re in a time where nothing is normal.
The head of the White House Task Force says crowded subway cars may have accelerated the spread in New York, by riders touching contaminated metal surfaces where the virus can live for days.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say there’s an incredible amount of stress,” said Dr. Suraj Saggar, an infectious disease specialist.
Doctors in the New York region, including North Jersey, are worried about supplies.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is sounding the alarm about not having enough ventilators.
“You pick the 26,000 people who are gonna die because you only sent 400 ventilators,” Cuomo said.
Hospitals in the Philadelphia region are not facing the same dire situation that New York is now struggling through.
Local health officials are hoping to keep it that way, insisting people stay home. At the same time, they’re working to expand treatment facilities as they expect the virus to spread.
Philadelphia officials also gave updates Wednesday on negotiations with the owner of Hahnemann Hospital, which could be used to house COVID-19 patients. Those talks are still ongoing.
On Thursday, City Council will hold a hearing for an emergency budget transfer of $85 million to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
CBS3’s Stephanie Stahl and Greg Argos contributed to this report.