Recycling reduced as COVID-19 leads to staffing shortages

Hands placing bottles in recycling bin
City officials said cutbacks to recycling services were due to staffing shortages, likely a result of workers calling out.
PHOTO: Getty Images

Garbage collection is being reduced in Philadelphia, another repercussion of the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.

No recycling will be picked up for the week beginning on Monday, as the Streets Department will be shifting to an every-other-week schedule. For the week starting April 13, residents are advised to put out their recyclables on their normal day.

Those changes will be in effect until at least May 15. Officials said the cutback was due to staffing shortages, likely a result of workers calling out.

City leaders have not revealed how many municipal employees have contracted the virus or how many have been quarantined due to exposure.

Trash pick-up will continue weekly, though the Streets Department said residents should expect some delays.

“While delivering on-time collection services remains an essential core service, residents are asked for their patience and cooperation while we work to deliver service,” the department said on its website.

Eight additional COVID-19-related deaths in Philadelphia were reported Sunday, for a total of 43. Officials said 3,189 people have been infected with the virus and announced 181 new cases.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said some testing laboratories don’t send results to the city over the weekend, so the number of new coronavirus cases is likely artificially low.

More than 830 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in hospitals in Philadelphia and Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties, according to health officials.

The city operates two testing sites—one at Citizens Bank Park and another appointment-only location in Center City—for people with common COVID-19 symptoms who are healthcare workers or 50 and older.

In addition to those working in hospitals, nursing home employees, home care workers, non-clinical staff who have direct contact with patients, behavioral health employees, and people who work in congregate settings, such as homeless shelters or prisons, are considered healthcare workers for testing purposes, the city said.

Those interested in scheduling an appointment at the Center City site can call 267-491-5870.

Gov. Tom Wolf, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health are now recommending people wear masks when they go out in public, a departure from earlier guidance.

Officials have stressed that they are not saying people should leave their homes, but that, if they have to, they should wear cloth masks. Surgical and N95 masks, which provide greater protection, are needed for healthcare workers.

“Our guidance remains: stay at home, unless you need essential goods, like food, or need some brief exercise,” Wolf said in a statement.

The CDC urged people to continue staying 6 feet away from others, and the cloth masks are mainly to prevent people with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic from passing it on to others.

In other news, the city will be shutting down Walnut Street between 13th and Juniper streets to vehicles on Monday at 5 a.m. The Holiday Inn Express on the block is being turned into a quarantine site.

Pedestrians and bicyclists will be allowed on the south side of the street, and five SEPTA bus routes will be detoured around the site.

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