The region’s coronavirus surge continued to take an unrelenting toll this weekend, as officials in New Jersey on Saturday reported 4,679 new positive cases — the state’s largest single-day tally during the pandemic.
In Pennsylvania, the Department of Health reported more than 100 deaths for the fourth consecutive day and said hospitalization rates had reached a level not seen since the virus spiked in May.
The troubling indicators came as officials continued to urge Americans to stay home heading into Thanksgiving week and as schools, businesses, and other aspects of society continue to grapple with a rapidly worsening outbreak.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy wrote on Twitter. “Please take this seriously.”
Temple’s football game Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field was among the events to be impacted, as the contest against East Carolina University was delayed for nearly an hour because a player had to be tested for COVID-19. Five players were subsequently made unavailable for the game due to possible exposure revealed during contact tracing. Ultimately, a 28-3 loss was delivered to the Owls.
Late Friday night, the West Chester Area School District became the latest to announce it would switch to online-only classes for two weeks starting after Thanksgiving, citing Chester County’s climbing positivity rate. Superintendent Jim Scanlon’s note to parents revealed a level of frustration for school administrators and parents alike amid shifting conditions and expert advice.
“None of this is easy, obvious, or simple,” Scanlon wrote. “While I receive emails every day imploring me to ‘do the right thing,’ everyone’s version of what is ‘right’ is very different. Guidance changes like the wind.”
West Chester issued its decision the same day a judge in Montgomery County rejected a request by parents to stop the county’s board of health from shutting down in-person instruction at all K-12 schools for two weeks starting Monday.
Virtual classes are also coming soon to at least two South Jersey districts: Superintendents in Cherry Hill and Deptford announced Friday night they will be shifting instruction to online only beginning Nov. 30. Deptford plans to return to a hybrid model on Dec. 7, while Cherry Hill will remain online through at least the end of the calendar year.
» Here are Philly’s current COVID-19 guidelines: inquirer.com/phillyguidelines
A scaled-down Christmas Village opened for a preview in its traditional place in the shadow of City Hall on Saturday, offering a taste of what COVID-restricted life will be like this winter. New safety measures banning indoor activities at restaurants, gyms, libraries, and museums took effect Friday night — the same day a last-minute lawsuit filed by restaurateurs seeking to prevent Mayor Jim Kenney from enacting the indoor-dining ban was rejected by a federal judge.
The statistical portrait of the virus offered by state officials Saturday painted a grim picture on both sides of the Delaware River.
Pennsylvania reported 6,778 new cases and 112 deaths. The death rate has been worsening rapidly over the last several weeks: In the last four days alone, officials have reported 446 fatalities from COVID-19. If that rate continues, it will be nearly four times higher than the seven-day average reported at the beginning of November.
Hospitalizations were also leaving health officials concerned. More than 3,100 people were hospitalized Saturday, the state Department of Health said, 661 of whom were in intensive care. Most of those hospitalized were at least 65 years old.
“We have reached levels seen in May, when hospitalizations were at their highest,” the department wrote in a daily briefing.
In New Jersey, where the daily positive test count hit an all-time high, state officials reported 34 deaths Saturday. That daily count is far lower than it was in the spring, when hundreds of New Jerseyans were dying each day. But it is still nearly three times higher than the state’s daily average death rate at the beginning of the month.
Statewide, more than 2,500 people were hospitalized, the Department of Health reported Saturday. About a fifth of those patients were from South Jersey.
Nearly 500 people were in intensive care, and 232 were on ventilators, the department reported. Those totals are far lower than earlier this spring but still represent sharp increases from earlier this month.
Staff writers Marc Narducci and Maddie Hanna contributed to this article.