In the fallout of the Inquirer and WHYY’s uncovering of the scandal surrounding Philly Fighting COVID, a local startup that received funding from the city to provide testing and vaccination sites, city council has introduced legislation to strengthen their oversight in regard to partnerships that the city enters and individual members have shown that they are “Going to get to the bottom of this.”
Philly Fighting COVID, a foundling startup with 22 year-old CEO Andrei Noroshin at the helm, was given a handshake contract with Mayor Kenney to provide testing and vaccination centers in various sites throughout the city last winter. Since then, WHYY and the Inquirer have exposed major issues with how the non-profit operated and how the city deals with public health issues including alleged vaccine theft, incompetence, and hypocrisy within the Health Department and Kenney administration that have halted PFC vaccinations.
This storm of events has certainly made the need for action clear to the council and meetings have already been held on new plans for COVID-19 policy. According to a recent press release, Council Member Bass (8th District) said Monday that “The proposed legislation is set to address deficiencies in how the city Health Department allowed an unqualified group of non-public health professionals gain access to thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccine for distribution to city residents.” In short, it will enforce new requirements upon health partners that embody a written, public contract and that those within the contract report back to the Council and Health Department once every two weeks.
Council President Clarke spoke on behalf of the legislation, adding that “More than 105,000 people have contracted this virus in Philadelphia, and over 2,800 people have died. We have more than 1.5 million people to get vaccinated.”
Councilmember Maria Quinones Sanchez (7th) later published a further release concerned about the organizations that handle much of the financial aspects of Philly’s big public contracts: namely the Philadelphia Mental Health Care Corporation: “I’ve been raising the alarm about these types of pass-through arrangements for many years. The residents of Philadelphia demand answers. It’s now the obligation of the City Council to review what occurred and provide clarity and transparency.”
Councilmember At Large Allan Domb echoed this sentiment and spoke to the anger felt in the city by stating that: “The multiple websites, lack of coordinated data collection, and the delay in ramping up an intake portal have all led to confusion and frustration for Philadelphians.” “We continue to be in a time where every decision literally may mean the difference between life and death.” Domb’s comments from the meeting have been clipped in to a shorter segment below:
Looking forward, Domb has proposed a massive increase in drive-through vaccination sites in unused parking lots and a tax credit for buildings that renovate and replace ventilation systems with newer models that mitigate COVID-19 exposure. Councilmember At Large Helen Gym has also published a list on her Council webpage entitled “10 THINGS WE CAN DO TO MAKE VACCINE DISTRIBUTION FAIRER AND REBUILD TRUST” which details workable solutions to many of the problems Philadelphia has faced in terms of vaccination.The council will hold a public hearing Friday at 1 PM. Commissioner Farley will be present and answering the public’s questions. It is expected to be contentious and will be focused on how this travesty occurred. Looking forward, many members of the council are proposing new ideas to get Philadelphia up to speed with COVID-19 vaccination.