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Coronavirus cases spiking among Pa. young people; N.J. says anyone coming from Delaware should quarantine

In Philadelphia, where case rates have stabilized, the school district began a series of virtual town halls Tuesday to collect public input on how to reopen in the fall, with a plan due out next week.

Dallas Ellis, 6, runs from his sister, Ra-lee Ellis, 8, while playing in the sprayground at Seger Park on Tuesday.
Dallas Ellis, 6, runs from his sister, Ra-lee Ellis, 8, while playing in the sprayground at Seger Park on Tuesday.Read moreTYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer

The rate of coronavirus infections has remained steady in Philadelphia but increased slightly in areas of the suburbs, data indicated Tuesday, while Pennsylvania reported its highest daily case total in nearly two months. New Jersey said people coming in from Delaware should quarantine for two weeks after the First State’s case counts rose.

Despite case surges in other parts of the country — the U.S. reached an alarming single-day-record high of 55,274 cases Tuesday — Philadelphia’s rate of daily new infections has stabilized, Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said. And the city aims to “keep it that way” with restrictive measures remaining in place, he said.

“Other areas of the country are continuing to see very rapid growth,” Farley said. “These are places that opened without enforcing safety precautions like masks, and I think they’re paying the price for that now.”

The 995 new cases Pennsylvania reported Tuesday included 204 in Allegheny County, which has experienced a surge that has been linked to young people who went to bars and restaurants. Allegheny County’s infection rate is now twice as high as Philadelphia’s.

The spike in the state’s case numbers was partly due to a lag in reporting from Philadelphia, so the number includes several weeks of cases from the city. There could also have been a backlog in reporting caused by the holiday weekend, the Department of Health said in a statement.

The state is now seeing more cases in younger age groups than in the groups older than 50, the Department of Health said. Southwestern Pennsylvania has had the highest increase, with young people representing 5% of cases in April to nearly 30% so far this month.

In two weeks, Allegheny County’s rate of infection per 100,000 people has gone from 10 to 100 people, according to data analyzed by The Inquirer. Beaver and Washington Counties have also experienced large increases as the southwestern part of the state continues to see the worst current outbreak.

Chester County’s rate has dropped from 37 per 100,000 people to 29. Bucks County has increased from 20 to 32; Montgomery County from 25 to 28, and Delaware County from 23 to 32. According to city data, Philadelphia’s rate has increased slightly from 47 to 48.5.

In Southeastern Pennsylvania, about 15% of cases so far in July have occurred among young people between the ages of 19 to 24, up from just 5% in April, according to the Department of Health. Meanwhile, the rate of new cases among Philadelphians over 50 has decreased, Farley said Tuesday.

Gov. Tom Wolf suggested Pennsylvania’s requirement to wear face masks to prevent the spread of the virus is likely to continue until a vaccine becomes publicly available, PennLive reported Monday.

“I’m sort of thinking this is until we get a vaccine, but I don’t have any real formal goal there,” Wolf told reporters.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said the soonest a vaccine might be ready is the beginning of next year. On Tuesday, Maryland-based Novavax said it had a deal with the federal government to receive $1.6 billion to expedite the development of 100 million doses of a vaccine by the start of 2021. The Trump administration has invested in several companies working on vaccines.

» READ MORE: Coronavirus could be the turning point for a vaccine technology 30 years in the making

The School District of Philadelphia began a series of virtual town halls Tuesday to collect public input on how to reopen in the fall. The district will lay out its plans next week, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said at a virtual news conference Tuesday.

Bringing children back to school in the fall in shifts on alternate days was the option most favored by parents and teachers in a survey of 34,000 people by the School District.

“We are prioritizing first by our most vulnerable children and by the children who really need to be in front of a teacher,” Hite said Tuesday, adding that career and technical school students, English language learners, and students with special needs would be among the priority groups. “We’re setting other plans for essentially everyone else, but those are the categories of children we would want to see on a more regular basis, if not every day.”

» READ MORE: What Philly parents, staff said in a district survey on reopening schools

The Philadelphia Water Department and Water Revenue Bureau announced Tuesday a moratorium on water shutoffs through Aug. 31, so customers unable to pay their bills due to the economic impact of the pandemic won’t lose service.

“If you can’t pay a water bill because of the pandemic, please get in touch to see how we can help,” Commissioner Randy Hayman said in a statement. “If you can pay, please do so. Water bills are our only way to fund critical investments that ensure Philadelphia has safe, clean water.”

In New Jersey, lines were so long at state Motor Vehicle Commission agencies when they reopened for the first time Tuesday that people were spotted waiting in lawn chairs in Camden, and some offices had to close.

The commission asked people to consider waiting a week or more to visit their local agencies.

New Jersey added Delaware, Kansas, and Oklahoma to its travel quarantine on Tuesday, but Delaware’s governor said that state did not belong on the list of coronavirus hot spots.

New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut are now asking travelers from 19 states to self-quarantine for 14 days. All the states on the quarantine list have a rolling seven-day average of new cases of 10 or more people per 100,000, or a 10% positive testing rate.

Murphy said the quarantine would prevent flare-ups of the virus, which have already occurred among people who traveled out of state and brought back the illness.

But Delaware Gov. John Carney said Tuesday that he didn’t think Delaware should be grouped with the other states. As of Tuesday afternoon, Delaware’s positive test rate was 5.3%, but its per capita case rate was 13 per 100,000 people.

“We’re not, frankly, in the same ballpark as the other states identified, so I don’t think we should be singled out,” Carney said. “Certainly not by our partners in the region.”

Delaware’s increase in new cases has been driven largely by young people in beach towns in the southern part of the state. Karyl Rattay, the director of the state’s Division of Public Health, said increased testing in Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach over the last week has led to an increase in cases but has allowed the state to take “mitigation approaches” in those areas.

Inquirer graphics editor John Duchneskie contributed to this article.