7:10 AM - May 8, 2020
7:10 AM - May 8, 2020

Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus coverage here

Protests against business closures that have taken place across the country are coming to Philadelphia Friday, as multiple groups plan to gather at City Hall and demand a plan to reopen the city. At least two separate groups are planning actions at City Hall at noon, including one group called “ReOpen Philadelphia,” which is planning a “gridlock rally,” or a caravan of cars that will make its way from Broad Street and Oregon Avenue north on Broad to City Hall. “People need to know when they can open their business,” said Jody Della Barba, of South Philadelphia, who helped organize the rally. “They can’t live in fear that they’re not going to have a paycheck or be able to feed their families.”

Plus, the U.S. unemployment rate hit 14.7% in April, the highest rate since the Great Depression, as 20.5 million jobs vanished in the worst monthly loss on record. The figures are stark evidence of the damage the coronavirus has done to a now-shattered economy.

12:10 AM - May 8, 2020
12:10 AM - May 8, 2020

What’s a pulse oximeter and do you need one to monitor for coronavirus?

Typically, a reading over 94 is considered healthy, while a reading under 92 is cause for concern.
Getty Images
Typically, a reading over 94 is considered healthy, while a reading under 92 is cause for concern.

As weeks and months go by without a vaccine or silver-bullet treatment for the coronavirus, we’re all looking for ways to protect our families from falling severely ill. The latest contraption to capture our attention? The pulse oximeter, to monitor your heart rate and blood oxygen level.

The devices are commonly used in hospitals to track patients’ vital signs, and doctors are finding them useful for identifying troubling developments among COVID-19 patients. They’re not a medicine cabinet staple in most households, but should they be?

We spoke with three local physicians to get the lowdown on these devices and whether you need one: Hernan Alvarado, director of respiratory therapy at Temple Health; William A. Gray, a cardiologist at Main Line Health and president of the American Heart Association’s Philadelphia chapter; and Marcus Schabacker, an intensive care specialist and CEO of the ECRI in Plymouth Meeting.

A pulse oximeter is a small device that clips onto a fingertip and measures heart rate and blood oxygen levels, both of which are tracked on a small screen. The device emits a small beam of light, and the amount of reflection or absorption of that light indicates how much oxygen is in the blood.

Heart rate and blood oxygen levels are good indicators of a patient’s stability. In hospitals, these devices are commonly used as a noninvasive way to track vital signs before, during and after surgery. Patients who use at-home oxygen to manage chronic heart or lung problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, may also use a pulse oximeter.

COVID-19 is associated with pneumonia-like symptoms, and many patients who develop severe cases of the virus experience such difficulty breathing that they must be put on a ventilator. Reports of blood oxygen levels dropping before patients realize they are in severe respiratory distress suggest that such declines could be a sign that a mild case of COVID-19 is worsening. Monitoring levels may allow for earlier intervention.

— Sarah Gantz

11:11 PM - May 7, 2020
11:11 PM - May 7, 2020

Mired in the pandemic, construction pros consider the future of their business

Heavy construction machines clear the ground in the Sharswood, where Philadelphia officials broke ground Wednesday on Phase 2 of the neighborhood’s revitalization. It will include the rehabilitation of 94 one-bedroom apartments in the senior housing tower and creation of three new streets to break up the massive block where the Blumberg housing projects once stood.
Michael Bryant
Heavy construction machines clear the ground in the Sharswood, where Philadelphia officials broke ground Wednesday on Phase 2 of the neighborhood’s revitalization. It will include the rehabilitation of 94 one-bedroom apartments in the senior housing tower and creation of three new streets to break up the massive block where the Blumberg housing projects once stood.

Just two months ago, builders were inundating Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections with plans, eager to construct and renovate apartments, rowhouses, and office buildings that would transform some neighborhoods and add density to others.

Then suddenly, the coronavirus upended the industry, which had capitalized on Philadelphia’s growing appeal and a demand for newer higher-end construction. Neighborhood changes — welcome and not — spurred growing civic participation in public meetings involving project proposals.

Now, industry professionals said Thursday, even after Pennsylvania gradually reopens (with the Philadelphia region being among the last), the future of local construction will remain in flux.

“The major question is what will things look like six to 12 months from now," said Jayne Spector, director of design at Langan, a Center City engineering and environmental consulting firm.

— Katie Park

9:43 PM - May 7, 2020
9:43 PM - May 7, 2020

Do saltwater and sunshine at the Shore kill the coronavirus? Here’s what science says.

A solitary detectorist, one who uses a metal detector, digs for treasure on the beach near the Steel pier at Atlantic City on April 1. The spread of the coronavirus in New Jersey has turned Atlantic City and the Shore into a ghost town.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
A solitary detectorist, one who uses a metal detector, digs for treasure on the beach near the Steel pier at Atlantic City on April 1. The spread of the coronavirus in New Jersey has turned Atlantic City and the Shore into a ghost town.

If you’re debating whether it’s safe to go to the New Jersey Shore, you have company. Scientists are also uncertain.

The coronavirus emerged in China barely five months ago, too recently to know for sure how it responds to baking sun, ocean breezes, salty swells, and humidity.

Nonetheless, there are some clues.

Coronavirus infections appear to spread far more easily in closed indoor environments than outdoors. Chinese researchers traced 318 outbreaks of three or more cases and found all were linked to indoor transmission; the only outdoor transmission involved two cases. Japanese researchers found the odds of indoor transmission were about 19 times greater than in the open air.

— Marie McCullough

9:13 PM - May 7, 2020
9:13 PM - May 7, 2020

Gritty parades through Delco in his first public appearance since quarantine

Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty rides atop a Rocky Run Fire Department firetruck on Thursday as he passes through Delaware County giving families a coronavirus quarantine surprise.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty rides atop a Rocky Run Fire Department firetruck on Thursday as he passes through Delaware County giving families a coronavirus quarantine surprise.

When seeing a giant orange man-beast lobbing face masks from the top of a firetruck to screaming crowds below is a harbinger of normalcy, you know you’re living in strange times.

Or in Delco.

Both were true on Thursday evening, when local eccentric Gritty — who is also the Philadelphia Flyers mascot — paraded through Delaware County in his first public appearance since the coronavirus stay-at-home orders began.

The parade of first responders from across the county wound its way through the streets of Middletown Township, passing by Linvilla Orchards, Indian Lane Elementary School, and other sites before ending its procession in front of Riddle Hospital, to honor health care workers there.

Gritty danced atop the moving firetruck, flashed peace signs to the crowds below, and soaked in the attention of his adoring fans like an orange Scrub Daddy sponge. Instead of throwing the paradeg oers candy, Gritty threw them Flyers face masks in neatly-sealed plastic packs.

— Stephanie Farr

8:47 PM - May 7, 2020
8:47 PM - May 7, 2020

Gov. Wolf extends Philly area stay-at-home order to June 4 as other parts of Pennsylvania set for partial reopening

Governor Tom Wolf speaking by video feed while Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine stands at the podium during a virtual press conference on March 20.
Commonwealth Media Services / Commonwealth Media Services
Governor Tom Wolf speaking by video feed while Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine stands at the podium during a virtual press conference on March 20.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday evening extended the commonwealth’s stay-at-home order through June 4 in Philadelphia and neighboring surburbs, while readying 24 counties in Northeast and Central Pennsylvania to move into the first phase of reopening Friday morning.

The original stay-at-home order had beenset to expire Thursday at midnight.

The counties entering the yellow phase Friday at 12:01 a.m. include: Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango, and Warren.

These areas will be permitted to reopen some businesses that were previously deemed non-life sustaining with decreased capacity. Telework is still required in the yellow phase, and childcare centers will reopen.

Restaurants and bars will still only do takeout, delivery, or curbside orders, while in-person retail shops are able to reopen, but are recommended to do curbside pickup or delivery when possible.

Indoor recreation and health and wellness facilities like gyms and hair salons must remain closed until the green phase is reached. Indoor malls, theaters, concerts, museums, zoos, playgrounds, and must remain also closed.

— Ellie Rushing

7:40 PM - May 7, 2020
7:40 PM - May 7, 2020

Greyhound to require passengers to wear face masks

The corner of 10th and Filbert Streets with the Greyhound / Peter Pan bus station, across from the Fashion District in September 2019.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
The corner of 10th and Filbert Streets with the Greyhound / Peter Pan bus station, across from the Fashion District in September 2019.

Dallas-based Greyhound Lines Inc. will require passengers to wear face coverings on its buses, starting May 13, as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

The policy is being added to what Greyhound describes as an extensive list of preventive efforts.

Greyhound drivers and employees who interact with customers already are required to wear masks during their shifts. The company said some cities and states mandate passengers to wear face coverings in public, but it’s extending the policy across its nationwide network.

— Dallas Morning News

7:20 PM - May 7, 2020
7:20 PM - May 7, 2020

Feeling pandemic stress? These easy breathing techniques can help

Try these mindful breathing exercises to help calm stress and panic during these times.
Cynthia Greer
Try these mindful breathing exercises to help calm stress and panic during these times.

With everything happening around us, it may be difficult to find that piece of calm. If your mind races, if you feel annoyed: that’s normal.

But sometimes, even under normal circumstances, you just need a minute to inhale and exhale. And in this era, anxiety and dread might be making you breathe faster.

“What we’re doing right now with COVID happening, and with the news reinforcing everything we’re seeing, and hearing Trump talk about what he’s talking about, we start subconsciously doing shallow breaths, whether we realize it or not,” said Kapil Nayar, a counselor and mindfulness expert who grew up in Moorestown, N.J.

When we panic, our bodies crave more oxygen. That’s why, on a physiological level, he explained, deep breathing and meditation can make a difference.

And they don’t have to be complicated. Nayar broke down a few straightforward approaches to help you decompress.

— Cassie Owens

7:13 PM - May 7, 2020
7:13 PM - May 7, 2020

Photos: Temple grad gets a drive-by surprise

— Steven M. Falk

6:51 PM - May 7, 2020
6:51 PM - May 7, 2020

Hersheypark preps to open in June, if health officials allow

Skyrush at Hershey Park.
Skyrush at Hershey Park.

Hersheypark is gearing up to reopen next month if permitted by Pennsylvania health officials. Whenever the park reopens, a Hershey spokesperson said, it is prepared to do so with a bevy of new safety measures, including a park and ride reservation system, to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Other new enhancements may include stricter capacity management, queue line management, specific coronavirus training for staff, the installation of touch-less hand sanitizers, more frequent sanitation, and the use of personal protective equipment, a Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company spokesperson said Thursday in a statement.

The plans remain “fluid,” he said, and the will abide by the orders and guidance of Gov. Tom Wolf and public health officials when it comes to reopening dates and safety precautions.

Six Flags Great Adventure also announced this week that all ticket-holders will have to make park reservations whenever the Jackson, N.J., park reopens.

— Erin McCarthy

6:46 PM - May 7, 2020
6:46 PM - May 7, 2020

You can still shop at these Philly-area indie bookstores during quarantine

Harrietts Bookshop in Fishtown Philadelphia, can be found along Girard Avenue featuring books and artwork from women authors, artists and activists on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020.
Tyger Williams / Staff Photographer
Harrietts Bookshop in Fishtown Philadelphia, can be found along Girard Avenue featuring books and artwork from women authors, artists and activists on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020.

Bookshops all over Pennsylvania and New Jersey are closed as non-essential businesses, but bookworms who are low on their supply of reading materials are not out of luck.

Many local, independent bookshops, in fact, are still operating virtually, offering new books and gift cards — and sometimes, even audiobooks. And if you aren’t in need of a new title but still want to support your local bookseller, some are accepting donations to keep operations running via crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe.

Here, we’ve rounded up more than a dozen Philadelphia-area indie bookshops who can still help you get your reading fix.

— Nick Vadala

6:26 PM - May 7, 2020
6:26 PM - May 7, 2020
Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty wears a face mask as he prepares to climb atop a fire engine, giving families in Delaware County a quarantine surprise on Thursday. With the help of the Rocky Run Fire Department of Media, Gritty journeyed through the county's neighborhoods, spreading Flyers cheer.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty wears a face mask as he prepares to climb atop a fire engine, giving families in Delaware County a quarantine surprise on Thursday. With the help of the Rocky Run Fire Department of Media, Gritty journeyed through the county's neighborhoods, spreading Flyers cheer.

— Tom Gralish

6:21 PM - May 7, 2020
6:21 PM - May 7, 2020

Poll: 61% of New Jersey residents know someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus

More than 300 people gathered at Camden's New Jersey Waterfront to view a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels flyover.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
More than 300 people gathered at Camden's New Jersey Waterfront to view a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels flyover.

A new Rutgers-Eagleton poll on the impact of the coronavirus on New Jersey indicates that 61% of residents know someone who has tested positive.

Among those people responding to the poll, 8% said they or someone in their household has tested positive for COVID-19.

Thirteen percent of residents said they or someone in their household experienced symptoms but had not been tested. And in that group, 31% said they tried but could not get tested.

The poll results were reported Thursday by the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University — New Brunswick.

According to the poll, 54% of residents reported one or more household members has had to work from home, 32% reported at least one person at home has been laid off, and 44% reported one or more people at home have had their work hours or pay reduced.

Among poll respondents, 38% said one or more people at home have continued going to work despite the risk of close contact with others.

One in five people say they or someone in their household has had a hard time working from home because they need to take care of someone else in the household.

The poll shows that 57% of resident say they or someone at home have had to have a medical appointment postponed or canceled, and that 24% said they have not been able to get an appointment at all.

The poll was conducted with 1,502 adults contacted from April 22 through May 2.

“There is no doubt that this pandemic is taking a personal and professional toll on a large number of New Jerseyans, as well as affecting their physical and mental health,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center, in a news release. “This is especially true for certain populations in the state, such as non-white residents, those with lower levels of education, those in lower income brackets, and those living in certain regions."

More information about the poll is available here.

— Robert Moran

6:08 PM - May 7, 2020
6:08 PM - May 7, 2020

Philly small businesses are ready to reopen. But when will the city give the go-ahead?

Evan Inatome prepares coffee for a customer in his Elixr shop at Walnut and Sydenham.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff
Evan Inatome prepares coffee for a customer in his Elixr shop at Walnut and Sydenham.

A South Philadelphia restaurateur has removed almost half her dining room tables and more than half the bar stools. The owner of four coffee shops in the city is considering expanding retail hours to make up for a future without free-spending customers camped out at tables. And an executive at a Montgomery County company that provides such automation systems as factory robotics is preparing for a potential surge in business as the coronavirus remains as threatening to human workers as ever.

All of these business leaders share a desire to reopen their establishments as quickly and safely as possible during the pandemic. And they have something else in common, too: They have no idea when they’ll actually be able to do so.

“Philly is going to be the last to open” in Pennsylvania, said Gina Rucci, who owns Popi’s Italian Restaurant by the Packer Park neighborhood of South Philadelphia. “But I’m telling every business owner I know: Start prepping now so you can immediately get back to work once the city reopens.”

— Erin Arvedlund

5:36 PM - May 7, 2020
5:36 PM - May 7, 2020

'We’re very worried about PTSD’: Villanova to study COVID-19’s long-range toll on frontline workers

Nurses work at the nurses' station inside a COVID-19 intensive care unit at Temple University Hospital's Boyer Pavilion in North Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Nurses work at the nurses' station inside a COVID-19 intensive care unit at Temple University Hospital's Boyer Pavilion in North Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

It was National Nurses Day on Wednesday; but that evening, as her neighbors stepped outside to bang their pots and pans, Maureen May’s mind was somewhere else.

She was thinking about a recent day at Temple University Hospital, where she works in the infant intensive care unit. In a blur it became clear that a mother positive for COVID-19 would need an emergency C-section. The second the baby was born, May had to take the child away from her.

“It was one of the most difficult shifts of my career,” said May, who has been a critical-care nurse for 37 years. The woman would not get to hold her baby until she tested negative for the coronavirus. It would be days.

The long-term consequences of these difficult shifts are the focus of a national study launched this week by Villanova University’s M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing. Dubbed the COVID-19 Caring About Health for All Study, or CHAMPS, local clinicians will rely on surveys to examine the long-term physical, mental and social health effects of the pandemic on up to 20,000 frontline workers over the next two decades.

Those frontline workers will include nurses like May, but also police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers and non-medical hospital workers such as receptionists, temperature screeners and custodians. “We’re very worried about post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Donna Havens, dean of the nursing college. “In many respects, some of these people may be very wounded after this experience.”

— Lisa Gartner

5:19 PM - May 7, 2020
5:19 PM - May 7, 2020

Philly-area lawmakers push to expand AmeriCorps to help trace the virus

As Pennsylvania tries to increase its capacity to trace and contain the coronavirus, two lawmakers from the Philadelphia area are pushing to create a national volunteer corps to expand those capabilities nationwide.

Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.) is leading an effort to drastically expand AmeriCorps, the national community-service program, and route new volunteers into contact tracing — which tracks who an infected person has come into contact with so those people can be encouraged to self-quarantine and stop the virus’ spread.

Coons introduced the bill Tuesday with the support of several other Democratic senators and House members, including Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, of Chester County. The plan would double the AmeriCorps workforce to 150,000 this year, and double that again next year. Coons said it would provide opportunities for young people now graduating college, and for current Peace Corps and AmeriCorps volunteers who have had their work cut short by the pandemic.

“We need up to 300,000 people to meet the demands of this moment and we’re nowhere close,” Coons said on a call with reporters. “We know we have an available, ready, highly motivated pool of young people.”

Gov. Tom Wolf rolled out a similar plan in Pennsylvania Wednesday, announcing the creation of the Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps to increase contact tracing. Experts say such tracing is critical to mitigating the spread of the virus as some states begin reopening their economies.

Coons and Houlahan hope their proposal can be part of the next major coronavirus bill in Congress, though its prospects are not yet clear.

— Jonathan Tamari

4:54 PM - May 7, 2020
4:54 PM - May 7, 2020

Philly health-care workers are giving their all treating COVID-19 patients. Where’s the love from their city?

Shelia Simmons (right) and her neighbors Anthony Warfield (left) and , Onisha Claire (arm only showing, center) step out May 6, 2020 during the Philadelphia citywide Doorway Dance Party for essential workers she is organizing. The 6:30 p.m. nightly event - coordinated by many of the same media professionals, artists and entrepreneurs behind the city’s Guinness World Record Largest Soul Train Line in 2012 - got Radio One/Urban One, which owns four stations in the Philly area, to play the Rocky theme and "Ain't No Stopping Us Now” songs back-to-back every night at 6:30 p.m.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Shelia Simmons (right) and her neighbors Anthony Warfield (left) and , Onisha Claire (arm only showing, center) step out May 6, 2020 during the Philadelphia citywide Doorway Dance Party for essential workers she is organizing. The 6:30 p.m. nightly event - coordinated by many of the same media professionals, artists and entrepreneurs behind the city’s Guinness World Record Largest Soul Train Line in 2012 - got Radio One/Urban One, which owns four stations in the Philly area, to play the Rocky theme and "Ain't No Stopping Us Now” songs back-to-back every night at 6:30 p.m.

At first, it’s hard to tell where the 7 p.m. smattering of cheers on 13th Street is coming from.

There are faint hoots, like noise from a distant game or concert, but no one is visible in any nearby windows. A banging noise tolls from above, someone rapping on a pan held out a window in the Keppoch House Apartments. On a step closer to Pine Street, two children spin noisemakers that look to be repurposed from a bygone birthday party.

The modest noise goes on for a full five minutes, then subsides. The children go back inside. On either side of that brief eruption, the eerie hush that has become Philadelphia’s norm is maintained.

The nightly celebration on 13th Street is a demonstration of support for Philadelphia’s health-care workers, but a small one relative to what’s happening elsewhere. Other cities, particularly New York City, have a routine of nightly cacophonies that echo off skyscraper canyons, expressing gratitude to the workers who put themselves at risk as they treat COVID-19 patients. In Philly, the practice is confined to a few neighborhoods, such as along 13th Street or near Washington Square, where residents of high-rise apartments have been banging pots and pans from their balconies.

Some Philadelphians are trying to make the celebratory moments more expansive.

— Jason Laughlin

4:37 PM - May 7, 2020
4:37 PM - May 7, 2020

Pa. is burning through unemployment funds, and that could mean higher taxes later

A closed off business and lone pedestrian is photographed by Broad and Chestnut street in Center City Philadelphia on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Center City life has completely changed since the arrival of coronavirus (COVID-19), with businesses shuttered and office buildings unoccupied.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
A closed off business and lone pedestrian is photographed by Broad and Chestnut street in Center City Philadelphia on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Center City life has completely changed since the arrival of coronavirus (COVID-19), with businesses shuttered and office buildings unoccupied.

Nearly 3.2 million Americans filed new unemployment claims last week, federal figures showed Thursday, as the economic destruction from the coronavirus pandemic has now impacted 33.5 million jobs nationwide in seven weeks, and states are rapidly burning through cash reserves set aside to pay out jobless benefits.

The numbers of new claims have subsided in Pennsylvania and New Jersey from the startling peaks reached in the first weeks after COVID-19 lockdown orders brought the economy to a standstill: More than 1.7 million Pennsylvanians have now filed claims, or 26% of the workforce, along with 978,000 New Jersey workers, or 21% of the workforce, according to the weekly report from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Economists expect that monthly government unemployment figures due Friday — which will explore job losses more deeply than the weekly reports — to show that erosion of jobs in April was historic. The payroll processing company ADP said on Wednesday that the private sector lost more than 20 million jobs in April, and MarketWatch expects the report to show that 22 million jobs were lost last month.

During the worst month of the Great Recession a decade ago, the nation lost 800,000 jobs.

— Andrew Maykuth

4:29 PM - May 7, 2020
4:29 PM - May 7, 2020

Montco commissioner criticizes Pa.’s coronavirus lockdown as top health official says the county is not yet ready to reopen

Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale criticized the county and state’s coronavirus response, saying that the county should reopen and that Gov. Tom Wolf “has failed” as a leader.

“We must begin the process of reopening Montgomery County,” said Gale, a Republican commissioner since 2015. “The cure, which is a lockdown, is worse than the disease itself.”

Gale said the county should separate its case numbers by community residents versus people living in long-term care facilities. He said the county should begin entering the “yellow” phase of reopening based on the number of cases among the community residents. He said the general public “knows what they need to do” to keep themselves safe.

“We don’t need a nanny-state, totalitarian government telling us what to do every step of the way,” he said. “This has gone extremely too far and we have to get back to common-sense basics. Common sense is the key medicine to combating the coronavirus.”

“He’s a poor leader. He’s failed at this,” he said of Wolf. “I hope he hears this today.”

Gale’s firm stance came after Valerie Arkoosh, a physician and the chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, announced 105 new cases of coronavirus and 14 additional deaths. The county’s total confirmed deaths stands at 393 — 83% of which are people connected to long-term care facilities — and the county’s total confirmed and probable deaths is 563.

Arkoosh took the podium again after Gale, and said the county is not ready to reopen.

“There is no amount of common sense that’s going to make [this virus] go away,” Arkoosh said. “There’s only one thing, and that’s science and data.”

“But here's the thing, we have to stay the course. We are just not quite there yet,” she said.

“This is not the time to throw our hands up in disgust and walk away.”

— Ellie Rushing

4:11 PM - May 7, 2020
4:11 PM - May 7, 2020

No pomp and circumstance on Temple’s commencement day, but lots of champagne popping and photos on campus

In graduation gowns, Kerra Masella and three fellow Temple University graduates stood on the stairs of Sullivan Hall, the school’s main administration building, a little after noon on Thursday.

Each had a bottle of champagne.

The coronavirus robbed them and other college graduates across the country of a commencement ceremony; theirs was supposed to be earlier in the morning. But there was no pomp and circumstance.

There was a pop. And a pop, pop, pop.

“I feel like that was a proper celebration,” said Masella, 22, an advertising major from Middletown, N.J., as champagne shot over the steps and they each took a healthy swig from their bottles.

— Susan Snyder

3:58 PM - May 7, 2020
3:58 PM - May 7, 2020

Nearly one-third of N.J. unemployment applicants are still waiting for benefits

Nearly one-third of New Jerseyans who have filed for unemployment benefits are still waiting for them, state officials reported Thursday. Last week, 88,326 workers filed for aid, bringing the statewide total for those seeking benefits to over 1,018,000 since mid-March. That means more than 300,000 people are waiting for aid.

“We understand completely the frustration folks have,” Murphy said. “The pain runs deep.”

To alleviate the backlog, New Jersey will bring another call center online in the “next couple of weeks” to receive and process claims, the state’s labor commissioner, Robert Asaro-Angelo, said.

— Pranshu Verma

3:45 PM - May 7, 2020
3:45 PM - May 7, 2020

Counter-protest planned near Philly ‘reopen’ rallies set for Friday

Counter-protesters from the “Refuse Fascism Philly” organization will join the fray at Philadelphia City Hall Friday, rallying against several groups advocating for the reopening of city businesses in spite of mass closures aimed at mitigating the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

According to a press release, the group will hold a “non-violent counter-protest, observing social distancing and safe practices, to stand up for the needs of humanity and demand that the Trump/Pence regime must go NOW.”

It was not clear how many counter-protesters would be in attendance. Multiple groups are planning rallies at City Hall Friday — some are small business owners in the city and workers who are sick of waiting for an unemployment check. Some also may be affiliated with the Philadelphia Proud Boys, a chapter of the self-described “Western chauvinist” organization that has been designated a hate group.

— Oona Goodin-Smith

3:11 PM - May 7, 2020
3:11 PM - May 7, 2020

Trump says he had ‘very little contact’ with valet that contracted coronavirus

President Donald Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday he had “very little contact” with a White House valet who tested positive for coronavirus, according to a pool report.

The valet, a member of the U.S. Navy, has yet to be identified, but reportedly exhibited “symptoms” Wednesday morning. Trump told reporters he was tested on both Wednesday and Thursday, and both tests were negative. The White House also said in a statement that Vice President Mike Pence tested negative.

— Rob Tornoe

3:00 PM - May 7, 2020
3:00 PM - May 7, 2020

Philadelphia Orchestra calls off Mann Center events for summer

Pianist Yijia Wang and Philadelphia Orchestra principal guest conductor Stephane Deneve at the Mann Center.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Pianist Yijia Wang and Philadelphia Orchestra principal guest conductor Stephane Deneve at the Mann Center.

Citing coronavirus and social distancing, the Mann Center and Philadelphia Orchestra have called off all of the orchestra’s concerts at the venue this summer.

The big Roots Picnic (now moved to Aug. 1), and Hoagie Nation with Hall & Oates (Sept. 4) festivals remain on venue’s schedule, although some May and June pop shows have been canceled.

The orchestra’s six-concert series, originally set to begin July 21, had been scheduled to include a side-by-side concert with the National Youth Orchestra, an evening with Leslie Odom, Jr., live performances to the movies Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the orchestra’s annual Tchaikovsky “spectacular,” and a Cirque Musica show of circus performers and live music.

With health and safety in mind, the Mann “evaluated every scenario you can imagine with the hope of being able to host the Philadelphia Orchestra for its annual summer residency at the Mann,” said Catherine M. Cahill, the Mann’s president and CEO, in a statement. “The challenge of our current situation is that there remain so many uncertainties, but what it comes down to is there is no good solution for social distancing a full orchestra ensemble on stage.”

In addition, though it is no surprise, the orchestra has canceled the rest of the 2019-20 season in Verizon Hall. It had already canceled all events through June 7, but now has scrapped its live-orchestra-to-film performances of Up June 11 to 13, postponed its June 23 concert with Phish’s Trey Anastasio until a later date, and canceled its June 25 to 27 Bugs Bunny concerts.

Peter Dobrin, Dan DeLuca

2:36 PM - May 7, 2020
2:36 PM - May 7, 2020

Pa. health official: ‘Overall, the number of new cases over time continues to go down’

Pennsylvania on Thursday reported 1,070 additional confirmed coronavirus cases, for a total of 52,915 cases, and 310 additional deaths, a jump attributed to data reconciliation between state and local health departments. The deaths occurred over the past several weeks, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said.

The daily new case tally also rose Thursday, but Levine attributed that to a “data dump” from a commercial laboratory.

“That tends to skew things,” she said. “We’re going to see what the numbers are tomorrow and over the weekend and into next week to follow trends.”

“Overall, the number of new cases over time continues to go down.”

— Erin McCarthy

2:24 PM - May 7, 2020
2:24 PM - May 7, 2020

Pa. health secretary cautions against flocking to the Jersey Shore: ‘My recommendation is not do that’

People relax on the beach at Wildwood Crest in 2013.
Ed Hille / Staff Photographer
People relax on the beach at Wildwood Crest in 2013.

While there are no formal travel restrictions for Pennsylvania residents, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said she would discourage them from flocking to reopening New Jersey beaches as the weather warms up.

“My recommendation is not to do that,” Levine said. “If you go to the Shore, I bet other people will go to the Shore and it’ll almost be impossible to practice social distancing.”

Levine and Gov. Tom Wolf have stressed the importance of voluntary compliance with stay-at-home orders and other public health guidance, and residents will not be cited for traveling within the commonwealth or out of state.

The governor had said earlier in the week that Pennsylvanians could travel at their own risk, but urged them to remember they could become sick if they behave as they did pre-pandemic or crowd beaches.

— Erin McCarthy

2:10 PM - May 7, 2020
2:10 PM - May 7, 2020

Face coverings will soon be required on Amtrak

An Amtrak passenger wearing a surgical mask at 30th Street Station.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
An Amtrak passenger wearing a surgical mask at 30th Street Station.

Amtrak riders will soon be required to wear a face mask.

Beginning Monday, the railroad service will require customers in stations, trains, and thruway buses to wear a facial covering to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Amtrak announced Thursday.

“The safety of Amtrak’s customers and employees is our top priority and requiring a facial covering is one more way we can protect everyone,” Amtrak President and CEO Bill Flynn said in a statement. “Amtrak continues to operate as an essential service for those who must travel during this public health crisis. Our services will be even more critical as our nation recovers.”

Riders are to supply their own facial coverings while service will be denied to those without one, said Amtrak spokesperson Beth Toll.

Amtrak is introducing the requirement alongside other protective measures it’s taken against the pandemic, including limiting booking, accepting cashless payments, and encouraging social distancing.

SEPTA reversed short-lived policy requiring facial coverings, but still urges riders to do so. NJ TRANSIT riders are required to wear face coverings.

— Patricia Madej

2:07 PM - May 7, 2020
2:07 PM - May 7, 2020

Kenney: Disregard for traffic laws a ‘dangerous side effect’ of Philly’s stay-at-home order

Pennsylvania State Police and highway investigate a fatal tractor trailer accident from Interstate 76 eastbound above Sweet Briar Drive on Wednesday.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Pennsylvania State Police and highway investigate a fatal tractor trailer accident from Interstate 76 eastbound above Sweet Briar Drive on Wednesday.

After Philadelphia had three traffic fatalities this week, Mayor Jim Kenney said an uptick in accidents and drivers not obeying traffic laws is a “dangerous side effect” of the city’s stay-at-home order.

“This unsafe behavior has to stop,” Kenney said. “We maintain that traffic deaths are preventable and unacceptable.”

Kenney said more people are speeding and not obeying lights or stop signs in the past several weeks, as the city’s roads are largely empty.

The city had three traffic fatalities in all of April, followed by three in the past week.

The mayor also noted an uptick in groups riding dirt bikes or ATVs. He urged residents to call 911 if they see reckless behavior on the roads.

— Laura McCrystal

2:05 PM - May 7, 2020
2:05 PM - May 7, 2020

Bucks County officials say they haven’t received a response to their request to separate nursing home coronavirus cases in reopening plans

Bucks County officials say they have not received a direct response from Gov. Tom Wolf regarding their request for the state to assess coronavirus cases in nursing homes separately from cases in the broader community.

Wolf did publicly respond Tuesday to this suggestion from Bucks and Delaware county commissioners and state lawmakers, telling reporters there will “always be a measure of subjectivity in” the reopening process.

“If we don’t take into account that there may be a higher density of long-term care facilities or congregate care areas like prisons in an area,” the governor said. “then we’re not being realistic.”

The Bucks County commissioners said they took that to mean it was possible the governor could reassess the metrics for the Philadelphia region’s reopening in the future.

“It didn’t appear to me from his comments that anybody had closed the door” on the idea of a separate assessment of community spread outside long-term care facilities, said commissioner Gene DiGirolamo. “We’re looking forward to working with the governor in the future.”

The commissioners reiterated that they were not asking for nursing-home cases to be excluded from reopening conversations. County health officials said they continue to see few community spread cases and most linked to long-term care facilities.

— Erin McCarthy

1:59 PM - May 7, 2020
1:59 PM - May 7, 2020

‘Love your moms from a distance’ this Mother’s Day, N.J. health commissioner cautions

With Mother’s Day approaching, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli on Thursday urged the state’s long term care facilities to provide socially distanced ways for families to honor their mothers in nursing homes while preventing the spread of the coronavirus in these facilities.

“Love your moms from a distance,” Persichilli said. “I understand how difficult it is to adhere to all of our restrictions, particularly those on visitation in health care facilities. But they must remain in place to protect your loved ones, the patients, the staff, and to prevent further spread of COVID-19 and save lives.”

Health officials are encouraging facilities to bring in extra staff to set up virtual visits and provide seating outside windows so families can see loved ones while social distancing.

Visitations at long term care facilities have been severely restricted since mid-March, but the virus has still spread rapidly among facilities housing New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents.

— Pranshu Verma

1:57 PM - May 7, 2020
1:57 PM - May 7, 2020

Coronavirus may lurk in semen, study finds

Researchers in China have detected coronavirus genetic material in the semen of some hospitalized men, raising the possibility that COVID-19 could be sexually transmitted.

The results of the small study, published Thursday in JAMA Network Open, differ from an even smaller study that found no evidence of coronavirus in the semen of men who had recovered from mild disease, or in the testicular sample of a patient who had died.

The new study found the virus, or fragments, in six out of 38 men hospitalized in Henan Province in Central China. The patients, ages 15 to 59, all had confirmed cases based on previous diagnostic tests. Of those with virus in their semen, four were still seriously ill, and two were recovering – although that stage was not defined.

Other researchers cautioned that the implications are unclear. The study did not try to evaluate whether the virus particles were infectious, much less whether they could be transmitted through sex.

Even if the answer is yes, men who are ill or just recovering are not likely to have much sex drive, so transmission is far more likely through respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes.

Still, Weiguo Zhao and his co-authors wrote that, “Abstinence or condom use might be considered as preventive means for these patients.”

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued a statement saying the new report “should not be a cause for alarm for couples,” but “it might be wise to avoid sexual contact with men until they are 14 days without symptoms.”

— Marie McCullough

1:45 PM - May 7, 2020
1:45 PM - May 7, 2020

Wolf: Pa. will begin to reopen more counties on Friday

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf will announce additional county reopenings on Friday, he said during a news conference Thursday.

Last week, Wolf announced that 24 counties in northern and western Pennsylvania may begin to reopen. On Friday, they will move from the state’s “red” phase to the “yellow” phase, meaning some businesses forced to shutter to mitigate the spread of the virus can begin to reopen, while still implementing social distancing.

Wolf said he would announce “more openings” on Friday, but didn’t specify where they will be concentrated.

About a dozen counties in southwestern Pennsylvania were not included in the first round of reopenings, but figures show they have reached at least one of the state’s benchmarks for reopening, in that there have been fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 people over the course of two weeks.

— Anna Orso

1:42 PM - May 7, 2020
1:42 PM - May 7, 2020

Center City District Sips is canceled for the season

Patrons mingle during a Center City Sips event at Balcony Bar at the Kimmel Center.
Center City Dis
Patrons mingle during a Center City Sips event at Balcony Bar at the Kimmel Center.

To the surprise of no one, the same coronavirus crisis that has put the kibosh on life has led to the cancellation of Center City District Sips, the popular Wednesday happy-hour promotion that would have begun its 17th season in June at a hundred or so downtown bars and restaurants.

“Sips is taking a summer vacation this year,” the organizers announced on Instagram Wednesday. It will not even return in an abbreviated version if the restriction on public gatherings is eased before Labor Day. "We will continue to find a variety of ways to support our Center City bars and restaurants now and through the summer,” a spokesperson said.

Anywhere there are crowds and alcohol, there goes controversy, and Sips has become a hot-button issue. Last year, The Inquirer invited two bar owners to debate the pros and cons.

— Michael Klein

1:34 PM - May 7, 2020
1:34 PM - May 7, 2020

New Jersey’s coronavirus hospitalizations continue to decrease

Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday that coronavirus hospitalizations in New Jersey have reached an all-time low during the pandemic.

Officials reported 4,996 people are currently hospitalized for the disease, including 1,470 in critical care. Slightly more than 1,100 residents are on ventilators.

“Having fewer than 5,000 people in hospital for COVID-19 is a milestone,” Murphy said. “It means among other things that the stress on capacity is lessening.”

In April, New Jersey saw a peak in coronavirus hospitalizations which resulted in more than 8,200 hospital admissions.

Murphy administration officials predicted hospitalizations could have reached a peak of 36,000 admissions if social distancing measures weren’t enacted. This would have overwhelmed the state’s hospital system, which has around 20,000 beds across New Jersey.

Murphy also reported another 1,827 individuals have tested positive for the disease, bringing the state’s positive caseload to 133,635. Another 254 people have died, increasing the state’s death toll to 8,801.

— Pranshu Verma

1:21 PM - May 7, 2020
1:21 PM - May 7, 2020

N.J. deploys national guard members to long-term care centers

Gov. Phil Murphy is deploying over 120 New Jersey national guard members to long-term care centers across the state to help tame the spread of the virus that has ravaged these facilities since the pandemic began.

“We don’t take this step lightly,” Murphy said at a press conference Thursday. “We take it knowing the crisis in our long term care facilities requires us to take it.”

On Wednesday, Murphy appointed two individuals — including President Barack Obama’s former deputy director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — to a task force that will assess each of the state’s long-term care facilities. They will provide recommendations to health department officials on how the homes can be better run in three weeks.

As of Thursday, 513 long-term care facilities in New Jersey are experiencing a coronavirus outbreak. They account for 24,874 of the state’s positive cases and 4,556 of its deaths.

— Pranshu Verma

1:19 PM - May 7, 2020
1:19 PM - May 7, 2020

Philadelphia’s coronavirus crisis is getting ‘better in several ways,’ health official says

An unidentified customer enters the Fishtown post office in Philadelphia, Pa. on May 7, 2020. Someone wrapped an oversized mask around the mail box and wrote thank you on it.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
An unidentified customer enters the Fishtown post office in Philadelphia, Pa. on May 7, 2020. Someone wrapped an oversized mask around the mail box and wrote thank you on it.

The coronavirus crisis in Philadelphia is getting “better in several ways,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Thursday as he reported a drop in new cases of the virus, cases in the city’s prisons and nursing homes, and hospitalizations.

The slowing of new cases is “picking up speed,” Farley said, as he reported 350 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The city’s jails were in their fourth day in a row of no new cases, Farley said, with 23 inmates currently testing positive.

Farley said the number of deaths reported per day are also on a downward trend, with 13 new deaths confirmed to be caused by the coronavirus in the past day. A total of 816 Philadelphians have died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, he said.

The number of patients hospitalized with the virus was 10% lower Thursday than it was at its peak, Farley said. As of Thursday, 911 patients with the virus were hospitalized in Philadelphia, and 1,677 were hospitalized in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Farley said.

Still, he said the city is not yet ready to reopen its economy. Farley urged residents to continue staying home and wearing masks.

“If we want to get to the point where we can safely reopen we need to just keep doing what we’re doing,” he said.

— Laura McCrystal

1:17 PM - May 7, 2020
1:17 PM - May 7, 2020

Philly’s revenue collection for April was 47% lower than this time last year

 The U.S. Navy Blue Angels (left) and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds flight demonstration squads perform a flyover in honor of health care workers across City Hall in Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels (left) and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds flight demonstration squads perform a flyover in honor of health care workers across City Hall in Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.

Philadelphia collected only about half as much revenue in April as it did during the same month in 2019, Mayor Jim Kenney announced Thursday.

The city’s $385 million in revenue collections for the month of April was 47% lower than the amount collected in April 2019, Kenney said.

“This is the first clear indicator of the local impact of COVID-19 on the city’s revenue collections,” Kenney said during a virtual news conference.

Some of the revenue decline is due to the extension of the April 15 deadline for filing the city’s business income receipts tax. That tax is now due July 15. But excluding those collections, April 2020 collections are still about 15% below April 2019.

Some of the revenue collected in April actually reflects taxes from March, during which the city was only shut down for half the month. And some impacts have not yet been accounted for; sales tax collections, for example, lag two months behind.

Some examples of revenue drops include the realty transfer tax, which netted $14.4 million compared to $41.7 million last April, and the city wage tax, which brought in $163 million compared to $177.8 million in the same month last year. The tax on soda and sweetened beverages, meanwhile, brought in slightly more money than last April. Officials said that increase, in spite of a drop in beverage sales at restaurants, movie theaters, and stadiums, was likely due to families stocking up on groceries.

Kenney proposed a new budget for the coming fiscal year to City Council last week that would fill an estimated $649 million funding hole caused by the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact. The budget includes layoffs, cuts to many departments, and tax hikes. City Council must act to pass a budget by the end of June.

“We stand ready to work with members of City Council,” Kenney said.

— Laura McCrystal

1:04 PM - May 7, 2020
1:04 PM - May 7, 2020
Jazmine Greene, walks east along Lancaster Ave with her children on Thursday afternoon May 7, 2020. Behind her is a abstract painting on plywood covering the front of 4241 Lancaster Ave telling people that pass it to "Keep Your Head Up!" ( Jazmine did not want to identify her children by name. )
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Jazmine Greene, walks east along Lancaster Ave with her children on Thursday afternoon May 7, 2020. Behind her is a abstract painting on plywood covering the front of 4241 Lancaster Ave telling people that pass it to "Keep Your Head Up!" ( Jazmine did not want to identify her children by name. )

— Alejandro A. Alvarez

12:59 PM - May 7, 2020
12:59 PM - May 7, 2020

Pennsylvania extends pause on evictions and foreclosures through July 10

A man looks out of an apartment building in Philadelphia's Fishtown section on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. The city has directed residents to stay at home except for essential activities.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
A man looks out of an apartment building in Philadelphia's Fishtown section on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. The city has directed residents to stay at home except for essential activities.

No one in Pennsylvania can be evicted or have their home foreclosed on due to inability to pay until at least July 10, officials will announce Thursday.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro are expected to announce the extension, which Wolf will institute via executive order.

The pandemic has ground economic activity in the state to a halt and more than a quarter of the workforce — 1.7 million people — have filed for unemployment benefits. Renters and homeowners alike have sounded the alarm that a housing crisis could follow once moratoria on evictions are lifted. In Philadelphia, where almost half of residents are renters, 1,700 evictions will be considered once the city moratorium is lifted and landlords are in waiting to file for thousands more.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered on halt on evictions and foreclosures through at least May 11, and some counties extended court closures past that date, effectively extending the moratorium. At the end of April, Shapiro and the Pennsylvania Apartment Association asked landlords to not begin new eviction proceedings based on nonpayment until at least July 15, but the request wasn’t legally binding.

— Anna Orso

12:39 PM - May 7, 2020
12:39 PM - May 7, 2020

Philly giving away free trees this month after coronavirus canceled events

A free TreePhilly yard tree giveaway in 2018.
Courtesy Nueva Esperanza
A free TreePhilly yard tree giveaway in 2018.

Baldcypress. Kentucky coffeetree. Pagoda dogwood.

They are just a few of the trees Philadelphia plans to offer residents for free this spring through its popular TreePhilly program. But this year’s giveaway will keep with social distancing parameters because of the coronavirus.

Officials say trees will be available at two no-contact pickup events, with door-to-door delivery available for residents in high-risk populations or who are unable to pick up a tree by vehicle. Participants must pre-register starting May 17 at Treephilly.org. Pickups are scheduled for Saturday, May 23, and Sunday, May 24. Deliveries will take place May 25 through 29.

The number of trees are limited and only available as supplies last.

— Frank Kummer

12:31 PM - May 7, 2020
12:31 PM - May 7, 2020

Philly school district families will soon have access to grief counseling, pandemic support

Students leave George Washington High School in Northeast Philadelphia after dismissal on Friday, March 13, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Students leave George Washington High School in Northeast Philadelphia after dismissal on Friday, March 13, 2020.

For Philadelphia students and families having trouble coping with the loss of months of in-person school and the trauma of a pandemic and a changing world, help is on the way.

On Monday, The Philadelphia School District and Uplift, the Center for Grieving Children, will launch the Philly HopeLine, a hotline that will connect district children and families to grief support services, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said at a news conference Thursday.

The resource comes in response to a real need in the community, said Jayme Banks, the district’s director of Trauma-Informed Practices.

“Speaking with families and students over the past few months, they’ve shared how difficult this time is for them,” said Banks. “They feel isolated, disconnected, they have worries about all of the unknowns.”

The hotline, 1-833-PHL-HOPE, will operate Monday through Friday, noon to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. It will be staffed by masters-level clinicians and available by call or text, and will not end when the school year ends for students on June 12.

— Kristen A. Graham

12:21 PM - May 7, 2020
12:21 PM - May 7, 2020

Delaware pushes back presidential primary to July 7

Delaware’s presidential primary has been rescheduled to July 7 due to the continued threat posed by COVID-19, Gov. John Carney announced Thursday.

“Delawareans have a basic, fundamental right to vote, and these changes will allow all Delaware voters to safely exercise that right,” Carney said in a statement.

Residents are being encouraged to vote by absentee ballot, and the state will mail ballots to all registered Democrats and Republicans. Voters can apply online or return an application to the Delaware Department of Elections. The state will operate at least six polling places in each county to allow voters to cast ballots in person should they choose not to vote by absentee ballot.

Residents are being encouraged to vote by absentee ballot, and the state will mail ballot applications to all registered Democrats and Republicans.

— Rob Tornoe

11:03 AM - May 7, 2020
11:03 AM - May 7, 2020

One of Trump’s personal valets tests positive for coronavirus

A member of the U.S. Navy who serves as one of President Donald Trump’s personal valets has tested positive for coronavirus, CNN reported Thursday.

The White House in a statement confirmed a member of the military working there had tested positive.

“We were recently notified by the White House Medical Unit that a member of the United States Military, who works on the White House campus, has tested positive for Coronavirus,” deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement to CNN. "The president and the vice president have since tested negative for the virus and they remain in great health.”

The name of the service member was not released by the White House. CNN reports the valet exhibited “symptoms” Wednesday morning, one day after President Trump traveled to Arizona to to visit a Honeywell mask-making plant, his first trip outside of Washington, D.C. in nearly two months.

— Rob Tornoe

10:55 AM - May 7, 2020
10:55 AM - May 7, 2020

Pa. self-employed, independent and gig workers can now backdate jobless claims to January

Vincenzo Spallino, Lyft driver, waits waits for customers at the Uber/Lyft lot in Philadelphia International Airport, Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Vincenzo Spallino, Lyft driver, waits waits for customers at the Uber/Lyft lot in Philadelphia International Airport, Wednesday, March 18, 2020.

Self-employed, independent contractors, and gig workers in Pennsylvania who have encountered a glitchy new system to file for unemployment benefits can now file claims backdated to as early as Jan. 27.

State officials launched a new website for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which was part of the federal government’s $2.2 trillion stimulus package and extended unemployment benefits to a host of workers normally not eligible.

More than 174,000 new claims have been filed through this system to date, but many encountered a now-replaced portal plagued by glitches and delays. Another 1.7 million Pennsylvanians filed for regular unemployment benefits since mid-March.

The PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits, and claimants must file certifications of unemployment weekly. Claims can be backdated to Jan. 27 or the first week a claimant was unemployed due to COVID-19, whichever of the two dates is later.

— Anna Orso

10:46 AM - May 7, 2020
10:46 AM - May 7, 2020

Neiman Marcus files for bankruptcy protection as retail reels from COVID-19 shutdowns

A sign explains that a Neiman Marcus location in Washington is closed due to the coronavirus.
Matt McClain
A sign explains that a Neiman Marcus location in Washington is closed due to the coronavirus.

Neiman Marcus, which closed all its stores in response to the coronavirus pandemic, has become the second major retailer to file for bankruptcy protection as much of the U.S. economy remains shut down.

The luxury retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Thursday in Texas. The company hopes to shed most of its $5.1 billion in debt, and isn’t planning mass closures as part of the restructuring. According to its website, Neiman Marcus has 43 stores — including a location in the King of Prussia mall — and employs about 14,000 workers.

“Like most businesses today, we are facing unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed inexorable pressure on our business,” CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck said in a statement.

Earlier this week, J.Crew Group filed for bankruptcy after temporarily closing it’s nearly 500 locations. In a court filing, the company said it is evaluating its leases and negotiating rent relief, and said permanent store closings are possible.

— Rob Tornoe

10:23 AM - May 7, 2020
10:23 AM - May 7, 2020

Philly meat worker’s family sues over COVID-19 death. Suit says JBS boosted production in early pandemic with ‘Saturday Kill.’

Enock Benjamin, a union leader at JBS Beef plant in Souderton, died of respiratory failure from Covid-19, the family said.
Benjamin family
Enock Benjamin, a union leader at JBS Beef plant in Souderton, died of respiratory failure from Covid-19, the family said.

Lawyers for Enock Benjamin’s family on Thursday sued the JBS meat giant for wrongful death and negligence over the Haitian immigrant’s death from COVID-19.

Benjamin, a 70-year-old union steward from Northeast Philadelphia worked at JBS’s Souderton slaughterhouse, and died on April 3 from respiratory failure brought on by the pandemic virus, according to the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office.

The suit, filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, says that JBS failed to protect workers with masks and other safety measures at the 1,400-employee meat-processing complex and instead tacked onto the production schedule in March a “Saturday Kill” program to satisfy demand in the “public panic purchases of ground meat.”

“By choosing profits over safety, JBS demonstrated a reckless disregard to the rights and safety of others,” the suit claims.

— Bob Fernandez

10:00 AM - May 7, 2020
10:00 AM - May 7, 2020

Stocks open up

The Nasdaq Composite moved into positive territory for the year as stocks jump on rising oil prices and hopes about the reopening of the U.S. economy.

The Nasdaq opened up 120 points, about 1.4 percent, barely edging it into positive territory for the year. Though the index is still down about 8.5% from its high of 9,817 points on Feb. 19.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged more than 300 points to open the day, about 1.3%. The S&P 500 also opened up 42 points, about 1.5%.

The optimism in the market comes as first-time jobless claims in the U.S. surpassed 33 million following a shutdown of the economy that began in mid-March to combat the spread of COVID-19. Economists predict unemployment in the U.S. will hit 16% on Friday, up from 4.4% in March.

— Rob Tornoe

9:27 AM - May 7, 2020
9:27 AM - May 7, 2020

Ex-Eagles defender mourns half-brother, a New Jersey high school principal who died of coronavirus

Former Eagles defender Vinny Curry is morning the death of his half-brother, Gerald Glisson, who died after contracting coronavirus earlier this week. He was 46.

Glisson was the principal of Eastside high School in Paterson, N.J., and spent 20 years working for the Paterson School District. In an Instagram post, Curry credited his “big brother” with helping him live his dream of playing college football and ultimately ending up in the NFL.

“I am lost, I am torn, I feel like my heart has been ripped right out of my chest,” Curry wrote. “I pray I was able to make you proud.”

Gov. Phil Murphy paid tribute to Glisson during his briefing on Tuesday, referring to him as “a giant” and “a beloved, respected presence, not to mention a role model.”

— Rob Tornoe

8:39 AM - May 7, 2020
8:39 AM - May 7, 2020

A quarter of workers in Pa. and N.J. have filed for unemployment since coronavirus started to impact the economy

A protester walks by a restaurant open for take-out business as fellow protesters gather outside the Capital Complex in Harrisburg, PA on April 20, 2020. They are calling for Gov. Wolf to reopen up the state's economy during the coronavirus outbreak.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
A protester walks by a restaurant open for take-out business as fellow protesters gather outside the Capital Complex in Harrisburg, PA on April 20, 2020. They are calling for Gov. Wolf to reopen up the state's economy during the coronavirus outbreak.

The number of new weekly jobless claims continue to subside in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but still remain at historic highs.

Nearly 97,000 Pennsylvanians filed a jobless claim in the week ending May 2 after losing their jobs or getting hours reduced due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the weekly report from the U.S. Department of Labor. That increases the state’s total first-time jobless claims in seven weeks to more than 1.7 million, or 26% of the workforce.

In New Jersey, the seven-week total has climbed to over 967,000, or roughly 23.2% of the workforce. More than 87,000 New Jersey workers filed new claims for assistance last week, according to the federal data.

— Rob Tornoe

8:34 AM - May 7, 2020
8:34 AM - May 7, 2020

COVID-19 crisis jobless toll in U.S. surpasses 33 million

About 3.2 million Americans filed for unemployment for the first time last week, increasing the seven-week total to over 33 million following a shutdown of the economy that began in the middle of March to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The unprecedented number of unemployment claims dwarfs the 8.7 million claims filed during the Great Recession, and have easily erased the 22.4 million jobs gained over the last decade.

Monthly government unemployment figures, scheduled to be released Friday, are expected to show an unprecedented number of jobs shed in April. Economists predict unemployment in the U.S. will hit 16%, up from 4.4% in March.

Payroll processing company ADP reported on Wednesday the private sector lost 20 million jobs in April, dwarfing the 800,000 jobs lost during the worst month of the 2008 recession. The leisure and hospitality sector shed 8.6 million workers last month. Trade, transportation and utilities let 3.4 million people go. Construction firms cut nearly 2.5 million jobs, while manufacturers let go of roughly 1.7 million people.

— Rob Tornoe

8:15 AM - May 7, 2020
8:15 AM - May 7, 2020

Six Flags Great Adventure will try online reservation system when it reopens

Six Flags Great Adventure's Nitro as is speeds along its track. The New Jersey theme park is planning to open a newe roller coaster in 2015. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Staff Photographer)
Staff photographer
Six Flags Great Adventure's Nitro as is speeds along its track. The New Jersey theme park is planning to open a newe roller coaster in 2015. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Staff Photographer)

Six Flags Great Adventure will roll out an online reservation system when it reopens from the coronavirus shutdown.

The Ocean County, N.J., theme park is among the first such attractions in the region to publicly announce specific social-distancing plans, which provide a glimpse into what a “new normal” could look like this summer.

All Six Flags Great Adventure and Hurricane Harbor ticket-holders, including members and those with season passes, will have to preschedule their visit to the park, according to the park’s website. The reservation system has yet to go live, and the park hasn’t announced a reopening date. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order requires it remain closed until further notice due to the pandemic.

— Erin McCarthy

7:18 AM - May 7, 2020
7:18 AM - May 7, 2020

Under fire, Frontier Airlines abandons plan to sell $39 social-distancing upgrade

A Frontier Airlines jet taxis at Trenton-Mercer County Airport.
APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer
A Frontier Airlines jet taxis at Trenton-Mercer County Airport.

Faced with widespread outrage from Democratic lawmakers, Frontier Airlines said late Wednesday it was abandoning its plan to sell passengers a $39 upgrade that would guarantee they could sit next to an empty middle seat while flying during the coronavirus outbreak.

Prominent Democrats on Capitol Hill had criticized the program, scheduled to start Friday, saying it was taking advantage of people's fear during the pandemic.

In an about face Wednesday night, Frontier Chief Executive Barry Biffle outlined the reasons for the change of course in a letter to three Democratic lawmakers that the company also shared with The Washington Post.

“We recognize the concerns raised that we are profiting from safety and this was never our intent,” Biffle wrote. “We simply wanted to provide our customers with an option for more space. However, we will rescind the seat price increase associated with the More Room product and revert to our former seat assignment pricing.”

The Washington Post

6:00 AM - May 7, 2020
6:00 AM - May 7, 2020

Let the virtual graduations commence: Coronavirus has pushed ceremonies online

Temple University's Liacouras Center would have been home to Temple University's commencement on Thursday if the coronavirus hadn't struck. Instead, it was turned into a field hospital for overflow virus patients.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Temple University's Liacouras Center would have been home to Temple University's commencement on Thursday if the coronavirus hadn't struck. Instead, it was turned into a field hospital for overflow virus patients.

It’s commencement day at Temple University.

By 7:30 a.m., the student band should be practicing inside the Liacouras Center, its doors yet to open to throngs of family and friends.

An hour later, many of the more than 10,000 graduates, savoring years of hard work that led to this moment, should be processing into the cavernous building, as loved ones click photos and wave. And by 9:30, the formal ceremony should be underway, with the singing of the alma mater and turning of tassels soon to come. Then hundreds should be flocking to signature spots on campus for photos: the Bell Tower, O’Connor Plaza with the owl, under the gates to the campus on Broad Street, on the steps of Sullivan Hall and at the balloon arches.

Instead, graduates have been invited to go to a website, Classof2020.temple.edu, set to go live at 11 a.m. On it, they can hear encouraging words prerecorded by university leaders, watch a virtual video time capsule of highlights from their four years on campus, narrated by student commencement speaker Donovan Forrest, and see hundreds of congratulatory messages from faculty, staff and others, all orchestrated by a university trying to make the best of commencement during a pandemic.

Students know what they’ve lost, but also what they still have.

— Susan Snyder

5:30 AM - May 7, 2020
5:30 AM - May 7, 2020

COVID-19 can mean agitation, delirium, and other neurologic symptoms, doctors are finding

Plastic sheeting covers the door of an exam room that was converted to treatment space for COVID-19 patients at Temple University Hospital's Boyer Pavilion in North Philadelphia.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Plastic sheeting covers the door of an exam room that was converted to treatment space for COVID-19 patients at Temple University Hospital's Boyer Pavilion in North Philadelphia.

A few weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, Danielle Weitzer began noticing that a handful of patients at Jefferson Cherry Hill Hospital who tested positive for the coronavirus were showing psychiatric symptoms, like sudden changes in behavior or personality, agitation, confusion, and delirium.

Weitzer, a psychiatry resident at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, said psychiatric symptoms generally come on gradually. But with COVID-19 patients the symptoms are "very acute, and can become very severe in a matter of days,” she said.

Scientists and researchers all over the world are scrambling to uncover more information about the coronavirus as the number of global cases climbs over three million. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently updated its list of possible COVID-19 symptoms to include chills, headache, and a sore throat, health officials have not yet included psychiatric symptoms.

Physicians now know that the virus affects the nervous system, said Joseph R. Berger, a professor of neurology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. This can cause complications in the brain for a small number of people. But he said there may be a simpler explanation for the majority of psychiatric symptoms among COVID-19 patients — a lack of oxygen in the brain due to low levels in the blood, a dangerous condition called hypoxemia. (Hypoxemia can cause hypoxia, when organs are deprived of oxygen.)

— Bethany Ao

5:00 AM - May 7, 2020
5:00 AM - May 7, 2020

Morning Roundup: As coronavirus death and case numbers decline, pressures build to reopen. Governors say not so fast.

A healthcare worker writes down the drivers information displayed on the dashboard of the car before testing for coronavirus at Dudley Grange Park, Camden, N.J., on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. East Camden has one of the largest percentages of the city’s COVID-19 cases, which prompted officials to set up a testing site there.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
A healthcare worker writes down the drivers information displayed on the dashboard of the car before testing for coronavirus at Dudley Grange Park, Camden, N.J., on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. East Camden has one of the largest percentages of the city’s COVID-19 cases, which prompted officials to set up a testing site there.

With coronavirus case numbers declining and pressures building to resume the business of life, public officials in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey reiterated on Wednesday, with comments and official pronouncements, that the crisis is far from over and that they were not about to fast-forward their reopening plans.

“We’re still in a public health emergency,” said Gov. Phil Murphy, who extended his emergency declaration, which was due to expire Wednesday, for 30 days. And on a November-like day that likely didn’t evoke beach thoughts, he was mum on Cape May County’s proposal for raising the curtain on its summer season.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he would not be swayed by planned protests against the closings, and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who announced a major contact-tracing initiative, went so far as to say that if employees don’t feel safe, they should not go to work.

Pennsylvania reported 94 additional coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday, raising the state total to 3,106, 803 of those in Philadelphia. New Jersey added 308, upping its toll to 8,549, the majority of those in the New York City area.

— Anthony R. Wood, Erin McCarthy

4:30 AM - May 7, 2020
4:30 AM - May 7, 2020

Today’s Inquirer Front Page

The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Thursday, May, 7, 2020.
Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Thursday, May, 7, 2020.