Any return to normality in Pennsylvania was postponed indefinitely Monday, as Gov. Tom Wolf extended his orders to close all schools and nonessential businesses until further notice, with the numbers of coronavirus cases and related fatalities continuing to swell in the region and the nation.
New Jersey’s death toll reached 198, including that of an Army National Guardsman; Pennsylvania’s was 52. At least 35 people have died in the Philadelphia region, including the first fatality in Chester County.
And the virus claimed another victim: the venerable Devon Horse Show and Country Fair.
Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey were preparing for what they fear will be a surge in cases that could overwhelm hospital capacities.
But during an oppressive run of gloomy days when the sun itself has seemed to be self-isolating, the states did offer at least slivers of optimism, saying continued social distancing could stave off a hospital capacity crisis.
Based on projections from Penn Medicine, New Jersey officials said that hospitals in the state won’t be at capacity for another month, thanks to social distancing.
Wolf said that while some models see a potential for serious bed shortages, others “are now very optimistic and say Pennsylvania will not be overwhelmed.” He said that if people stick with the protocols, “we’re not going to overwhelm the health-care system.”
To that end, Wolf served up more tough medicine for the state’s residents. In addition to the indefinite closings of schools and businesses, Wolf expanded his stay-at-home order until at least April 30. It now covers 26 counties, including Philadelphia and its four neighbors.
“I know this isn’t easy to hear," he said, "but if we want to save lives, we must continue to distance ourselves from each other.”
Over 140,000 positive cases have been logged nationally, but on the day that the White House granted Pennsylvania’s request for a major-disaster declaration, President Donald Trump said Monday that he was unlikely to issue a national stay-at-home order.
Pennsylvania’s total passed 4,000 on Monday, and Philadelphia’s 1,000. SEPTA reported that two “customer-facing” employees had tested positive, as has a Target employee in Bucks County, and three correctional officers as the virus spreads among people still working outside the home.
Statewide, more than 385 people have been hospitalized as a result of the virus, half of them 65 and over. Wolf said that predicting when a surge might occur would be shooting at a “moving target.”
In New Jersey, over 16,500 cases have been reported, and the Garden State is getting some experienced reinforcements. Over 3,600 retired health workers have responded to Murphy’s summons to volunteer in the fight against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal is restricting the sale of two prescription drugs that have seen a surge in demand since Trump touted them as possible treatments for the coronavirus.
Murphy said the state’s priority is to get more ventilators. Hours earlier on Monday, Murphy reported that the state would be getting 300 of them from the national stockpile of emergency supplies, and health officials were hoping to get an additional 2,000.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that from 1,500 to 2,000 beds should be added to the state’s capacity in a few weeks, while dormitories and hotels are being considered to handle low-risk patients.
In Philadelphia, the arena floor of Temple University’s cavernous Liacouras Center has been transformed into a field hospital, lined with about 200 beds below banners touting Temple accomplishments. City officials say they hope those beds will never be used.
The economic fallout from the pandemic has hit Macy’s, which has 12 department stores in the region. The company announced on Monday that it will furlough most of its 130,000 employees, although they will continue to receive health-care benefits at least through May.
Macy’s said it hoped to bring back the workers when this is all over. The stores have been closed since March 18.
And just when you thought that nothing else was left to cancel, the Devon Horse Show announced it would not hold its 124th event, which was scheduled to start on May 21. In a statement show organizers said the only other time the show was canceled was for a three-year period during World War II.
At least some business is resuming in New Jersey, however.
Murphy said gun stores will reopen as of 8 a.m. Tuesday, as they have been defined as an “essential” business by federal officials. Sales will be conducted by appointment only.
“It wouldn’t have been my definition,” Murphy said, “but that is the definition on the federal level.” He added that auto dealerships will now be able to conduct online or remote car sales in New Jersey. Realtors can show houses, but only on a one-to-one basis; open houses are still prohibited.
Some hurting businesses in Philadelphia’s University City area look to be getting some help from the University of Pennsylvania. Penn announced Monday that it would provide $4 million in emergency financial assistance to eligible employees, third-party contract workers and independently owned small-business owners in the neighborhood.
The William Penn Foundation approved $6.6 million to area arts and culture groups, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, and an additional $5 million for early education and care programs.
And on Monday the city and Philabundance, which received a major donation from the 76ers’ managing partners, announced that residents could pick up free food at 20 different sites.
The 20,000 packages would be limited to one per household, and each should contain enough food to last five days. Mayor Jim Kenney said the boxes would feed about 160,000 people.
Staff writers Mensah M. Dean, Peter Dobrin, Oona Goodin-Smith, Ellie Rushing, Susan Snyder, Allison Steele, Rob Tornoe, Sean Walsh, and Aubrey Whelan contributed to this article.