Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus updates here
Some counties in Pennsylvania are beginning the first phase of reopening and others are prepare to do so next week, but the Philadelphia area’s stay-at-home order is extended until June 4. And Pennsylvania had a robust plan to protect nursing home residents from COVID-19, but it was never fully implemented.
Roy Horn of famed duo Siegfried & Roy has died from coronavirus complications
Roy Horn of the famed Las Vegas magic and big-cat duo of Siegfried & Roy has died from coronavirus-related complications, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak confirmed Friday night on Twitter.
Sisolak posted a letter from Horn’s publicists announcing that Horn died earlier in the day at a hospital in Las Vegas. He was 75.
"Thank you, Roy, for your years of entertainment to Nevadans and visitors. May you Rest In Peace. My thoughts and prayers go out to Roy’s family and loved ones at this difficult time," Sislak wrote on Twitter.
Siegfried & Roy were world famous for their act involving exotic cats until 2003, when Horn was severely injured by a tiger during a show.
— Robert Moran
Thank you, Roy, for your years of entertainment to Nevadans and visitors. May you Rest In Peace. My thoughts and prayers go out to Roy’s family and loved ones at this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/PPJXFvviIF
Coronavirus antibody testing is now easy to get. But it’s hard to be sure what you’re getting.
Suddenly, getting a test to see if you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus and have antibodies to it is almost as easy as getting a flu test.
Vybe urgent care centers are the latest to jump on the immune-response testing bandwagon. All you need is a telemedicine consultation, a blood draw at one of the nine centers in Philadelphia or Delaware County, and several days of patience for results to come back.
But there are lots of caveats. The length of antibody protection — assuming there is some — is unknown. Scores of antibody tests, some totally unreliable, have been allowed on the market by regulators. And depending where and how you access an antibody test, you may be charged about $100, despite a new federal law designed to make coronavirus testing available with no cost-sharing.
Vybe CEO Peter Hotz readily acknowledged the uncertainties, and Vybe’s website explains some of them. “But we believe there’s a public health value in doing this to get at answers to some of those questions,” he said Friday.
To help you decide whether testing makes sense, let’s unpack the caveats.
As engineer heads to work, fearful newlyweds wonder: Why isn’t SEPTA testing employees for the coronavirus?
Dennis and Susan Lafferty of Fox Chase will soon celebrate their first wedding anniversary.
The ceremony last fall was Pennsylvania Railroad-themed, with guests’ names written in white, swirly font on placards that looked like train tickets — as homage to Dennis Lafferty’s late father, who retired after decades in the industry.
Dennis Lafferty, 56, followed in his father’s footsteps and has been a locomotive engineer on SEPTA Regional Rail since the 1990s.
But as they start their life together, he and Susan, 42, worry that Dennis’ longtime employer isn’t putting his safety first amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“He and I both feel very passionately that it took us a long time to find each other, and now we’re at a place where we have,” said Susan Lafferty, a social worker. “And this is happening.”
Gov. Tom Wolf rejects GOP subpoena for business waiver records, but releases some information online
Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday rejected a GOP subpoena for records related to the administration’s coronavirus waiver process, potentially sparking a constitutional showdown in the courts, but did release a list of which businesses received approvals to reopen amid the shutdown.
“This information should be sufficient to address your committee’s concerns,” Wolf wrote in a letter to Sen. Mike Regan (R., York), who signed the subpoena.
But the information, published online, didn’t include the criteria by which applications were considered or the reason a business was approved. The administration has not made any applications available, nor has it released a list of the applications that were denied, or those that were approved and revoked.
In total, the disclosure fell well short of what has been demanded by legislative Republicans and requested by numerous news organizations.
In the letter to Regan, Wolf cited a Commonwealth Court decision holding that former Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, was not obligated to respond to a subpoena because it would have unconstitutionally interfered with the duties of the executive branch.
“Therefore, to preserve these constitutional boundaries, my office will not be substantively responding to your subpoena,” Wolf wrote.
VP Pence’s press secretary tests positive for coronavirus
Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary has the coronavirus, the White House said Friday, making her the second person who works at the White House complex known to test positive for the virus this week.
President Donald Trump, who publicly identified the affected Pence aide, said he was “not worried” about the virus spreading in the White House. Nonetheless, officials said they were stepping up safety protocols for the complex.
Pence spokeswoman Katie Miller, who tested positive Friday, had been in recent contact with Pence but not with the president. She is married to Stephen Miller, a top Trump adviser. The White House had no immediate comment on whether Stephen Miller had been tested or if he was still working out of the White House.
Katie Miller had tested negative Thursday, a day before her positive result.
The Atlantic City area’s retail property market is more vulnerable to a coronavirus downturn than anywhere in the U.S., report says
The Atlantic City area is more susceptible to a retail real-estate downturn from the coronavirus than anywhere else in the country because of how much of its economy relies on shop and restaurant workers, according to a study released this week.
More than a third of non-farm workers in Atlantic City and its Atlantic County neighbors are employed in the retail and food-service industries, more than any other metropolitan area in the country, according to the report by Millionacres LLC, a real-estate focused division of personal-finance website Motley Fool.
The findings underline the difficulties faced by landlords in communities reliant on a retail sector that has gone largely dormant amid efforts to contain the coronavirus, according to the study’s authors, who relied on data from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis and Moody’s Analytics.
What will theme parks look like post-coronavirus shutdown? Expect park and ride reservations, enhanced cleaning
If you’re looking to scream at the top of your lungs on a speeding, looping roller coaster to de-stress from the coronavirus pandemic in the coming months, prepare for a different theme park experience than the one you may have experienced in past years.
While specific reopening and guest-safety plans have yet to be released, a few local amusement parks this week provided a glimpse into what a “new normal” might look like when restrictions are eased and they resume operations.
As Pennsylvania and New Jersey theme parks prepare to make drastic changes when state orders allow them to reopen, industry giants nationwide are grappling with the same questions. How can they keep park-goers safe and mitigate the spread of coronavirus at places that normally serve as carefree escapes? Even if parks reopen, how quickly will people feel comfortable returning?
Miss America competition postponed until next year
The Miss America competition has been postponed as a precaution to the coronavirus, the organization that runs the pageant said Friday.
The Miss America 2021 Competition was scheduled for December but has been postponed until next year, according to a press release. The Miss America Board of Directors has advised the 51 qualifying competitions across the country to also postpone.
“As Miss America 2020, a large part of my message is that science really is all around us,” Camille Schrier, who was crowned in December, said in a statement. “It is imperative that science and safety are at the forefront of our concern during this pandemic year, and it is with that in mind that I applaud the Miss America Organization’s decision to move this year’s competition to 2021.”
Schrier will continue to serve as Miss America until a successor is announced in 2021.
The organization said it is working with state organizations to amend rules and eligibility for the 2020 and 2021 competitions.
Arkoosh: Extension of Philadelphia region’s stay-at-home order necessary, data show
Amid growing tensions across the state about reopening businesses, Montgomery County saw 101 new positive cases of COVID-19 and 12 additional deaths from the pandemic, officials said Friday.
County Commissioner Valerie Arkoosh said that she understands the frustration residents are feeling, especially after Gov. Tom Wolf extended the Philadelphia region’s stay-at-home order to June 4. But, she said, the number of new daily infections in the southeastern part of the state makes such measures necessary.
“If we hang on a little bit longer, a few more weeks, and we stay the course, when we do start to relax, we will still be living with this virus, but the number of cases will be lower,” Arkoosh said.
Montgomery County has had 4,939 residents test positive for the coronavirus in the last two months, 405 of whom died. An additional 185 deaths were people who weren’t confirmed to have the virus, but showed symptoms after coming in contact with someone who did test positive.
Of the confirmed positive deaths, 82% were people living in long-term care facilities for seniors, according to Arkoosh. A team of officials from the county’s health department is making the rounds to the facilities in the county, she said, in a collaborative approach to see how they’re handling their response to the virus.
“Folks, this is really in your hands,” Arkoosh said. “I can stand here and talk for hours about why you need to stay home, but the decision lays with you.”
Delaware’s first phase of economic reopening is set to begin June 1, but the state still needs to reach various milestones to reopen safely, said Gov. John Carney on Friday.
"Flattening the curve is working. Now is not the time to let up," Carney said.
The state is making progress in slowing the infection rate, and the number of people hospitalized was below 300 on Friday, a good sign for the state's capacity to treat patients, Carney said. The state needs to see 14-day declines in hospitalizations and positive cases, have enough contact tracing and testing, and have enough personal protective equipment to reopen, the governor said.
The state is also dealing with a "really challenging situation" in Sussex County, where the state has ramped up testing of poultry workers and opened a stand-up hotel to isolate people who test positive, Carney said.
Carney said he had been listening to the concerns of business owners and was trying to take into account "that anxiety, that heartbreak" in balancing public health objectives with economic needs.
“We need a health community in order to have a healthy economy,” he said. “Folks are not gonna go to businesses that are open if they don’t feel safe in doing so, if they don’t feel like the community is healthy, if they don’t see others following social-distancing guidelines.”
The state reported 6,111 total cases, 213 deaths, and 289 people hospitalized on Friday.
Carney said officials were talking with neighboring states about reopening, and said the state would "be following what Gov. Wolf and Gov. Murphy did" as it watches cases in South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania.
He also said officials would making decisions soon about any beach reopenings.
Wolf on Philly protesters calling for businesses to reopen: ‘We can’t let that frustration let us ignore that this virus is out there’
Gov. Tom Wolf said he understands the frustrations of business owners who rallied in Philadelphia Friday to push for a quicker economic reopening but believes their feelings are misdirected.
“The frustration has to be directed at the real enemy here. It’s the virus. It’s not the regulation,” the governor said. “We can’t let that frustration let us ignore that this virus is out there. … The solution and the way to resolve that frustration is not by putting people in harm’s way.”
Pennsylvania dentists allowed to resume elective procedures
Pennsylvania dentists across the commonwealth will now be able to resume elective procedures as long as the procedures do not include aerosolization and staff have enough personal protective equipment, state health officials said Friday.
"This isn't a return to routine dentistry," Health Secretary Rachel Levine said, "but a way to ensure patients who need care can obtain it safely, for both the patient and the entire dental team."
More than half of Philadelphia’s coronavirus-related deaths have been in long-term care facilities
More than half of all coronavirus deaths in the city have been in residents of long-term care facilities, Philadelphia officials reported Friday.
There have been 875 deaths, 53% of which were residents in these facilities.
Philadelphia reported 59 new coronavirus deaths Friday, but Health Commissioner Thomas Farley warned that this doesn’t mean there was a spike in deaths. Instead, it is more reflective of when the city receives lab results back. Overall, he said, there is still a declining trend in daily deaths.
Officials also announced 470 more coronavirus cases in the city, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 17,517. There are also 1,628 people hospitalized in the region, officials said.
No additional inmates have tested positive, leaving the current total of coronavirus cases at correctional facilities at 18.
N.J. officials working on beach coronavirus guidelines: Limited parking, social distancing, and face masks
When asked about beaches reopening, Gov. Phil Murphy is viewing cooler weather as a positive. It gives the state more time to drive new coronavirus cases downward heading into the summer season, he said.
Officials are working on beach-related guidance, such as limiting capacity by cutting parking by 50%, social distancing, and wearing face masks.
Though Murphy is optimistic people will be able to use beaches by Memorial Day, he said it will depend on the actions individuals take over the next few weeks.
“The curves that we look at every day have got to continue improving. If they turn against us there is no way we can responsibly take a step like opening beaches,” he said.
And when beaches do open up, Murphy said people need to understand that it won’t be the same as summers before.
“Going to the beach will be an experience which will feel in some ways like it always has, and in some ways like it never has.”
Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show will be virtual this year
This year’s Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show won’t be happening, at least in physical form. Instead, because of the need for social distancing, the venerable art fair will happen only as a virtual event, June 5 to 7.
As usual, art will be on sale. This year features work by 141 jury-selected artists from the United States and Canada. Patrons will be able to experience special features like studio tours and art-technique demonstrations online.
This is the first time since the show began in 1928 that it won’t be gathering beneath the square’s leafy canopy, organizers say.
N.J. to begin offering coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people
Gov. Phil Murphy announced New Jersey will begin testing asymptomatic people at the testing sites at Bergen Community College and PNC Bank Arts Center.
This testing will be prioritized for healthcare workers, first responders, personnel in congregant living settings, and individuals who had been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. Officials asked that people check with their healthcare providers before getting a test.
Murphy said this is part of the state’s effort to build out testing capacity “to instill confidence that we are in front of the response and winning the fight against COVID-19.”
The percent of people testing positive also continues to decrease, with a daily percent on Monday of 28%.
Referencing his Thursday extension of the Philadelphia region’s stay-at-home order through June 4, Wolf said it was up to residents to determine when these restrictions ease.
“Ultimately, it will be up to each of us individually to make decisions that allow all of us to get through this crisis as safely and efficiently as possible,” he said. “Pennsylvanians have done a great job so far at choosing activities that reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19, and I am optimistic that we will continue on that path. So thank you again, thank you all, for your hard work.”
A 4-year-old is the youngest person in New Jersey to die of coronavirus
A four-year-old with the coronavirus and underlying conditions has died, New Jersey officials announced Friday. This is the state’s first coronavirus-related death reported for someone under 18. Officials declined to release additional information to protect the family’s privacy. Gov. Phil Murphy called the death “unfathomable.”
Murphy also reported another 1,985 people have tested positive for the disease, bringing the state’s positive caseload to 135,454. Another 162 people have died, increasing the state’s death toll to 8,952.
Murphy also announced the creation of the Governor’s Restart And Recovery Advisory Council, a group tasked with how to move forward as the spread of the coronavirus across New Jersey continues to spread.
The advisory council’s co-chairs are Secretary of Higher Education Dr. Zakiya Smith Ellis, New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan, and Choose New Jersey President and CEO Jose Lozano. The council will work on topics like social services and faith, tourism and entertainment, facilities and construction, main street, and more.
“This is a boots on the ground real world approach,” Murphy said, calling it a “smart and granular approach to recovery.”
The curve of hospitalizations, people in critical or intensive care, and those on ventilators continue to trend downwards. Officials reported Friday that there are 4,605 people hospitalized, 1,439 people in critical or intensive care, and 1,089 individuals on ventilators.
In South Jersey, there were 67 new hospitalizations and 115 discharges.
“Folks, keep doing what you’re doing,” Murphy said. “With the exception of that very very small cadre of knuckleheads we are beating any other state in the nation in terms of social distancing, staying at home.”
Delaware is expanding its statewide coronavirus testing program to conduct 80,000 tests per month, more than quadrupling the state’s current testing capacity, Gov. John Carney announced Friday.
The state purchased 200,000 saliva-based tests from a private seller and was to receive the first shipments Friday. Anyone with symptoms or known exposure to the coronavirus can be tested, along with essential workers and members of vulnerable populations, including elderly and low-income communities. The state is partnering with health systems to provide the testing.
The testing plan comes as Delaware moves toward the first phase of its economic reopening. Some small businesses were allowed to reopen Friday. Earlier this week, Carney announced universal testing for staff and residents in long-term care facilities.
Lyft, Uber to require drivers and riders to wear masks
Lyft and Uber will soon ramp up safety measures, including by requiring riders and drivers to wear masks, as parts of the country begin to reopen from the coronavirus shutdown.
Before every Lyft trip, riders and drivers will have to confirm that they are wearing a face covering and do not have symptoms consistent with the virus, Lyft said Thursday in a statement. They will do so through a check-list on the app, and if someone don’t agree to all the requirements, he or she won’t be permitted to use the service, the company said.
Drivers will also be required to frequently sanitize their hands and clean their cars, Lyft said, and roll down windows whenever possible. No passengers will be allowed to sit in the front seat to ensure proper social distancing.
Uber plans to introduce a similar plan in the coming weeks, CNN Business reported Sunday. The company is also developing technology that would determine whether a driver is masked before he or she begins accepting rides, according to CNN, and is looking into ways they could ensure riders are complying as well.
A top SBA official on why Philly small businesses should apply now for $100 billion left in coronavirus PPP loans
The Small Business Administration is working to fix some of the well-documented missteps in its effort to get money into the hands of small-business owners reeling from the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a top official said Thursday.
So far in the second round of funding, the SBA has distributed $175 billion in loans to more than 2.2 million small businesses as of May 1. The agency’s regional administrator, Steve Bulger, told The Inquirer on Thursday that there’s $100 billion more left.
Protesters rally to reopen Philadelphia businesses, closed to mitigate the spread of coronavirus
Several dozen vehicles circled Philadelphia City Hall Friday afternoon in a rally against mass business closures as a result of the pandemic.
The caravan was led north on Broad Street by a pickup truck with a Trump 2020 flag in the bed. Other cars had American flags out the windows and signs reading “Reopen PA now!” and “Working Lives Matter.”
Amid what became a chorus of honking, the cars repeatedly drove around City Hall, some encountering counter protesters aiming to stop traffic near 15th and Market streets. Dozens of police in cars and on bikes were on scene.
A handful of protesters on both sides were on foot at City Hall, though most participants remained in their vehicles.
As the caravan honked its way South toward City Hall, pedestrians looked over confused. Seeing the Trump flag flying outside the lead car, Terrance Cooper shouted back “F- Trump.”
“I got no time for that,” Cooper said. The 23-year old from West Philadelphia is out of work right now but thinks Trump has done a poor job handling the crisis.
Richard Collins, a small business advisor who lives in Center City joined the protest on behalf of the nail salons and restaurants he works with. “Thirty to forty percent will never reopen again, I mean this is crazy,” Collins said from his car.
“This is lunacy,” Mike Hess said watching the caravan pass City Hall.
The 36-year-old computer programmer is unemployed but doesn’t think Philadelphia is anywhere near close to being ready to reopen. “You can’t go to CVS and buy hand sanitizer. This is definitely Looney Tunes but I wonder who these people actually are...if they’re from Philly... it’s hard to say. Are these working people or rich business owners mad their business is going under?”
Nearby, a woman named Beverly, who said she’s a registered nurse but did not want to give her last name or the locations she works at, called the virus a hoax. “It’s no more contagious than the flu,” she said. “This is all an effort to control the population and get us used to being under martial law.”
Wolf to allow 13 more Pennsylvania counties to begin reopening
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday that 13 more of the commonwealth’s counties will be able to start taking steps to reopen.
Concentrated in the western part of the state, a spokesperson from the governor’s office said the additional counties that may begin reopening include: Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.
Last week, Wolf announced that 24 counties in northern and western Pennsylvania may begin to reopen. On Friday morning, they began moving 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.
Meanwhile, on Thursday evening, Wolf extended the stay-at-home order for Philadelphia and its neighboring suburbs through June 4.
Philadelphians who have lost income because of coronavirus can now apply for rental assistance
Philadelphians who have lost income because of the coronavirus pandemic and meet certain requirements can apply for rental assistance from the city starting Tuesday, city officials announced on Friday.
The city will use funds from the federal CARES Act, the coronavirus stimulus package, to pay for three months of rent for successful applicants. City officials estimate the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program can help at least 3,000 households. The city could extend assistance if funding permits.
The city will accept applications from Tuesday at 10 a.m. until May 16 at 5 p.m. at PHLRentAssist.org. Renters without internet access can call 3-1-1 for assistance.
Households who earned 50% or less of area median income before the pandemic hit are eligible. That’s $48,300 for a household of four. Renters are not eligible if they live in public housing, receive other government rental assistance, have unpaid rent from before April, or are in the process of being evicted.
Renters must submit proof of income, a current lease for an apartment or house in Philadelphia, a valid ID, and confirmation of loss of income.
The program also is accepting donations from individuals and corporations on its website, where renters can find more information about eligibility.
“Unprecedented job losses have placed financial pressure on both renters and landlords,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “The COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program will help thousands of Philadelphia renters and, in turn, help landlords. Keeping people in their homes is critical during this crisis.”
Chester County begins widespread coronavirus antibody testing for health-care workers, first responders
Chester County on Friday became the first county in Pennsylvania to conduct widespread coronavirus antibody testing on its health-care workers, first responders, and their immediate families.
After what county commissioners called a month of “overcoming the red tape” of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the county is opening antibody testing sites at the Chester County Public Safety Training Campus in South Coatesville and at the temporarily-closed Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square.
The popular gardens — which recently furloughed 400 part-time staff and in April lost more than $850,000 just in walk-up, nonmember admissions — will not be paid for the use of their space.
“Longwood has always been a safe refuge of beauty,” the gardens’ president and CEO Paul B. Redman said in a statement, “ and it is without any hesitation that we answer the call to serve our community by supporting this important testing effort in partnership with Chester County.”
Antibody testing is not a replacement for diagnostic testing, which determines whether someone is currently infected by the virus. Instead, it is meant to determine whether individuals already have been sickened and built up some kind of immune response. Scientists and health experts, however, have cast doubt on whether the tests are reliable.
Health Secretary Rachel Levine said the process took time because officials had to find a lab and get FDA approval for the testing, which is being done at Lehigh Valley Genomics in Bethlehem. She did not have specific details on the tests Chester County was using, but noted much is still unknown about how much protection coronavirus antibodies provide from future infection and for how long.
Chester County’s antibody testing is by appointment only, with information being sent directly to hospitals, long-term care facilities, and fire, police, and EMS departments for distribution among eligible employees.
SEPTA planning to restore some service the week of May 17
SEPTA is getting ready for the Philadelphia region’s eventual reopening with plans to restore much of its transit service later this month for essential travel.
Regular weekday and weekend service levels on most bus and trolley routes, as well as the Market-Frankford, Broad Street, and Norristown High Speed Lines will return the week of May 17, SEPTA announced Friday.
The transportation authority will also bring back front-door boarding and fare collection on buses and trolleys.
No change was announced for Regional Rail, which has suspended operations on some lines and is running on a limited “lifeline” schedule on the others.
“While we are preparing for an eventual increase in ridership, service will continue to be available for essential travel only until further notice,” SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards said in a statement. “If you do not need to get to work or access life-sustaining services, please do your part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by staying off the system.”
Gov. Murphy hopeful Shore beaches will reopen with restrictions by Memorial Day weekend
N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy expressed cautious optimism that Shore beaches will reopen, with the social-distancing restrictions of our “new normal,” by Memorial Day weekend.
“The Jersey Shore is our crown jewel, a huge economic driver,” Murphy said Friday in an interview on the Today Show. “Assuming the health curves continue to go in the right direction … we’re going to try to give some guidance to folks sooner rather than later.”
Murphy called the exact guidance “a work in progress,” but he was encouraged by residents’ “extraordinary” compliance with the restrictions in place at reopened county and state parks and on golf courses.
Beaches in Wildwood and North Wildwood open today for all activities, as long as social distancing is practiced, as do other Shore beaches like Ventnor, Avalon, and Stone Harbor, where only walking, running and fishing are permitted.
The governor said the Shore experience this summer won’t be the same as it was in previous years, and beachgoers will have to accept that. He is talking with local officials and “looking closely” at the best, safest way to reopen the Shore in coming weeks.
U.S. unemployment rate officially at its highest level since the Great Depression
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.
The losses reflect what has become a severe recession caused by sudden business shutdowns in nearly every industry. Almost all the job growth achieved during the 11-year recovery from the Great Recession has now been lost in one month.Unemployment hit 14.7% in April, the highest rate since the Depression, as the U.S. shed 20 million jobs last month from viral outbreak.
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