9:42 PM - May 17, 2020
9:42 PM - May 17, 2020

Cuomo, tested on live TV, expands testing for NY state residents

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo got tested for coronavirus on live TV Sunday as he announced all people in the state experiencing flu-like symptoms are now eligible for tests.

Any New Yorkers experiencing flu-like symptoms or those who will be returning to work as part of phased reopenings across the state can now get tested, Cuomo said.

Protesters gather near the State Capitol in Albany on Saturday calling the state to reopen the economy.
Marina Villeneuve / AP
Protesters gather near the State Capitol in Albany on Saturday calling the state to reopen the economy.

The state is expanding eligibility as it deals with a surplus of testing capacity. Cuomo said drive-thru and walk-in testing sites are performing about one-third of the 15,000 tests they’re capable of each day.

In all, the state is testing about 40,000 people per day.

—Associated Press

7:32 PM - May 17, 2020
7:32 PM - May 17, 2020

PHL COVID-19 to host fund-raiser; Patti LaBelle, Daryl Hall among performers

The PHL COVID-19 Fund has announced that it will host a variety show fund-raiser on Thursday, that will include many big-name performers with Philadelphia ties.

The one-hour event will air live at 7 p.m. on 6ABC, CBS3, NBC10, 96.5 TDY, 98.1 WOGL, B101.1, and KYW Newsradio, and stream nationwide online here at Inquirer.com and Radio.com.

Called PHL Love, the event will be headlined by Daryl Hall, Questlove, and Patti LaBelle. The show will also feature DJ Jazzy Jeff; Amos Lee; DJ Diamond Kuts & Friends; WALLO267; Jeffrey Gaines, Jay Buchanan of Rival Sons; The Geator, Jerry Blavat, and Friends; and Pastor Alyn Waller and The Enon Tabernacle Fresh Anointing.

Patti LaBelle, right, autographs a box containing peach cobbler to give to Mildred Addison while promoting her food products at the Walmart in South Philadelphia in October.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Patti LaBelle, right, autographs a box containing peach cobbler to give to Mildred Addison while promoting her food products at the Walmart in South Philadelphia in October.

The fund is a collaboration established by the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Foundation, and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. Since its founding, PHL COVID-19 has secured more than $16 million in gifts and pledges from nearly 5,000 individuals, families, foundations, businesses, and institutions.

“These past two months have been a distressing time for all of us – particularly those who are most in need and lacking food, shelter, and hope,” said John S. Middleton, managing partner of the Phillies, whose family is presenting the variety show.

—Marc Narducci

5:31 PM - May 17, 2020
5:31 PM - May 17, 2020

Philadelphians are secretly picking ‘quaranteams’ to survive the shutdown

After months quarantined at home, caring for three young children while her husband worked long hours in his home office, Andrea Ulloa de Gallois felt herself sinking, slowly, into the depths of isolation-induced depression.

Then, a friend in a similar state threw her a lifeline, via text.

It was a modest proposal: The two families could buddy up, staying in isolation except for one another. This double bubble would be exclusive — increasing risk, yes, but in what felt like a controlled fashion.

“We agreed instantly,” Ulloa de Gallois said. They discussed terms and agreed on twice-weekly meetups, in their homes or yards, without masks or other extra precautions.

The relief has been enormous. “Seeing our friends is just the mental support we all needed," she said. In particular, she’s noticed the benefits for her oldest, who is 4, and had been anxious, not sleeping or eating well. “I am always telling her, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that!’ It’s a lot of ‘no.’ So at least in this moment, I don’t have to say no. She can be a little kid with other kids again.”

— Samantha Melamed

4:36 PM - May 17, 2020
4:36 PM - May 17, 2020

Trump wants live sports back where fans are “practically standing on top of each other"

President Donald Trump, calling into a Sunday broadcast of the PGA Tour’s first live event since early March, expressed his desire for professional sports to resume as soon as possible.

“We want big, big stadiums loaded with people,” Trump told NBC’s Mike Tirico. “We want to get back to normal, where you have the big crowds and they’re practically standing on top of each other, and they’re enjoying themselves.”

Trump’s desire for live sports to resume during the pandemic has been at odds with many of his scientific advisors.

In recent weeks, Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has cautioned major sports leagues — including the NFL and NBA — that they may have to cancel their upcoming seasons if proper infection management procedures can’t be implemented to ensure player and spectator safety.

“If we let our desire to prematurely get back to normal, we can only get ourselves right back in the same hole we were in a few weeks ago,” Fauci told The New York Times. “But as a health official and a physician and a scientist, I have to say, right now, when you look at the country, we’re not ready for that yet.”

— Pranshu Verma

3:37 PM - May 17, 2020
3:37 PM - May 17, 2020

At South Jersey center for disabled adults, COVID-19 has killed 8 while infecting most residents and many staff

As the coronavirus began spreading through New Jersey, Marie Ryan knew her brother, Joe Pearson, was in more danger than most.

Pearson, 55, had suffered a severe brain injury as a teenager and now lives at the New Lisbon Developmental Center, deep in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, along with dozens of other medically fragile residents.

“I thought ... it’s going to spread like wildfire,” Ryan said. “I knew it was going to be an issue. It was kind of like I was just waiting for the phone call.”

Over the last two months, the virus has ripped through New Jersey’s five state-run residential facilities for people with developmental disabilities, killing 27 as of Friday and infecting more than a third of the 1,238 residents —including Pearson.

Many have underlying medical conditions that put them at high risk for contracting the virus. Some are nonverbal and can’t express how they feel. Some don’t have families who can advocate for them.

— Jason Laughlin, Aubrey Whelan, Dylan Purcell

2:52 PM - May 17, 2020
2:52 PM - May 17, 2020

Pennsylvania coronavirus death toll tops 4,400; positives climb to over 62,200

Pennsylvania health officials reported another 623 people have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 62,234. Another 15 people have died, increasing the state’s death toll to 4,418.

“As counties move from red to yellow, we need all Pennsylvanians to continue to follow the social distancing and mitigation efforts in place,” Health Secretary Rachel Levine said. “We must continue to protect our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians, which includes our seniors, those with underlying health issues, our health-care workers and our first responders."

Over 550 nursing homes across Pennsylvania are suffering a coronavirus outbreak, accounting for 15,447 of the state’s positive caseload and 3,057 of its deaths, officials reported.

Officials confirmed that 37 counties are in the “yellow phase” of reopening, which allows them to partially return to normal life. Twelve more will move to that status on May 22. Philadelphia and its surrounding counties will not be among them.

— Pranshu Verma

1:37 PM - May 17, 2020
1:37 PM - May 17, 2020

Protesters urge Philadelphia archdiocese to resume in-person Mass

A Pennsylvania antiabortion group protested outside the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul Sunday to urge Archbishop Nelson Pérez to resume public Masses throughout the Philadelphia area.

Parishioners carry the statue of the Virgin Mary in front of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, before an outdoor Mass at the Sister Cities Park on Sunday.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Parishioners carry the statue of the Virgin Mary in front of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, before an outdoor Mass at the Sister Cities Park on Sunday.

“The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has for 60 days deprived faithful Catholics of crucial nourishment for our souls,” the Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania said in an emailed statement. “While other U.S. Dioceses have begun this restoration, Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Pérez has de facto ceded his authority to do so to Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf.”

In-person Masses throughout the archdiocese have been suspended since March 18. The group claims this has deprived the faithful of spiritual sustenance.

“This restoration has become urgent and important for the spiritual benefit of Philadelphia Catholics,” the group said. “The receipt of the Eucharist — and not just watching others receive the Eucharist — provides necessary nourishment for the soul, just as actually eating a meal nourishes the body."

“The Archdiocese of Philadelphia shares the strong desire of the faithful for a return to the public celebration of Mass as soon as possible," Kenneth Gavin, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said in an email. "However, all of us share a responsibility for the preservation of public health. We must do our part to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The decision to suspend the public celebration of Mass was not made lightly ... While we are eager for the public celebration of Mass to resume once again, it will happen when deemed safe and with due respect for guidelines set forth by government health agencies.”

— Pranshu Verma

1:15 PM - May 17, 2020
1:15 PM - May 17, 2020

New Jersey reports over 146,000 residents positive for the coronavirus; death toll tops 10,350

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy reported Sunday another 1,272 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 146,334. Another 107 people have died from the disease, increasing the state’s death toll to 10,356.

The governor reported 3,411 people are in hospitals due to the disease, including 1,030 people in critical care and 819 who are on ventilators.

— Pranshu Verma

12:38 PM - May 17, 2020
12:38 PM - May 17, 2020

Uber requiring drivers and riders to wear masks starting Monday

Uber will require all drivers and riders to wear masks starting Monday as part of a series of measures to protect customers and employees from contracting the coronavirus.

Drivers on Uber, and its food-delivery service Uber Eats, will be required to start every shift by taking a selfie with their masks on so the ride-sharing app can verify they are following protocols.

If they are not masked, drivers will not be allowed to start their shift. This provision will remain in effect until the end of June.

Riders will also have to confirm they are masked. They will also be prohibited from riding in the front seat.

Uber will also limit UberX drivers from taking more than three passengers at a time.

The app will also include a feature allowing riders to report a driver who is not masked.

— Pranshu Verma

11:58 AM - May 17, 2020
11:58 AM - May 17, 2020

All U.S. nursing homes must start reporting coronavirus cases and deaths to feds starting Sunday

Sunday is the deadline for nursing homes nationwide to report initial information on the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in their facilities to the federal government.

All 15,000 nursing homes in the country are required to report virus statistics to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention weekly, with the first week’s data due by Sunday at midnight. The statistics will be published with the names of nursing homes by the end of May, The Washington Post reported.

The data is to be publicly posted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “so all Americans have accurate and timely information on COVID-19 in nursing homes,” the agency said in a news alert.

As the virus has spread quickly through nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other states, many have pushed for more testing and data collection.

Deaths reported at long-term care facilities account for two-thirds of the confirmed deaths related to the coronavirus in the five-county Philadelphia region, according to state data.

Last week, Pennsylvania officials recommended all care homes with confirmed cases of the virus test all residents and staff, and the state’s attorney general opened criminal investigations into the handling of the outbreak at a number of nursing homes statewide.

— Justine McDaniel

11:30 AM - May 17, 2020
11:30 AM - May 17, 2020

N.J. charter fishing and watercraft rentals resume Sunday

As the Shore economy prepares to restart in preparation for Memorial Day weekend, charter fishing and watercraft rental businesses in New Jersey are allowed to reopen effective 6 a.m. Sunday, according to an executive order signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

Businesses will be required to enforce social-distancing measures upon restarting, including limiting no more than 10 people on a vessel at once, and prohibiting the sharing of fishing equipment, bait, and gear.

“Reopening charter fishing services and watercraft rental businesses restores an extremely important component of our Shore economy," Murphy said. “The social distancing measures that we are putting in place will ensure that these businesses can sustain themselves while still adhering to public health guidance.”

Over the weekend, many Jersey Shore beaches reopened for a dry run to prepare for the upcoming holiday weekend. On May 22, Murphy will allow all state beaches to reopen as long as they can limit capacity and enforce social-distancing measures.

— Pranshu Verma

10:08 AM - May 17, 2020
10:08 AM - May 17, 2020

Obama rips U.S. coronavirus response

Former President Barack Obama on Saturday criticized U.S. leaders overseeing the nation’s response to the coronavirus, telling college graduates in an online commencement address that the pandemic shows many officials "aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”

Obama spoke on “Show Me Your Walk, HBCU Edition,” a two-hour event for students graduating from historically black colleges and universities broadcast on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. His remarks were unexpectedly political, given the venue, and touched on current events beyond the virus and its social and economic impacts.

“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” Obama said. “A lot them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”

Later Saturday, during a second televised commencement address for high school seniors, Obama panned “so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs” who do “what feels good, what's convenient, what's easy.”

“Which is why things are so screwed up,” he said.

Obama did not name President Donald Trump or any other federal or state officials in either of his appearances.

Associated Press

10:05 AM - May 17, 2020
10:05 AM - May 17, 2020

Should insurance companies pay for coronavirus shutdown losses? Philly businesses are taking them to court.

Randy and Amanda Rucker opened River Twice, their modern American BYO on Passyunk Avenue, seven months ago, hoping that his culinary talent and her business acumen would establish the restaurant as a fixture on one of Philadelphia’s most competitive restaurant corridors.

Reviews were strong. Rucker’s food found an audience. The diners streamed in.

Then came coronavirus.

River Twice, like all other restaurants in the city, was ordered to close its dining room March 16, cutting off revenue overnight. And while the Ruckers assumed that insurance would help their business survive, they were stunned to hear from their broker that their claim would likely be denied.

Lawrence Highbloom, Amanda’s father and managing member of the restaurant, likened the discovery to a “guillotine coming down.” Now, River Twice is suing its insurer.

“That’s the point of insurance, isn’t it?” Highbloom asked. “It’s not to protect you from bad decisions by the business operator. It’s to protect the business operator from circumstances beyond their control.”

— Jeremy Roebuck, Catherine Dunn

10:05 AM - May 17, 2020
10:05 AM - May 17, 2020

As Jersey Shore heads toward Memorial Day weekend: Distancing on the beach, not on the boardwalk

Three more Jersey Shore beaches reopened on Saturday in a practice run for the coming Memorial Day weekend, with families and couples generally following the rules and staying apart from others. But thousands who crowded the Ocean City boardwalk ignored social-distancing safety protocols, standing close and even brushing against one another as the Shore readied for an uncertain summer season.

The glorious weather drew surging numbers onto the boardwalk, where few wore protective masks despite official guidance, a situation likely to become more common as summer temperatures make face coverings uncomfortable.

The state does not require wearing masks at beaches and boardwalks, though Gov. Phil Murphy has urged people to cover their faces, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks in public settings where it’s difficult to maintain social distancing.

“There are too many idiots out here today,” said Trish Cowan, who drove to Ocean City from Mays Landing. “You can’t change people, and unfortunately that’s what needs to happen.”

— Jeff Gammage, Ellie Rushing, Sarah Gantz, Laura McCrystal

10:00 AM - May 17, 2020
10:00 AM - May 17, 2020

Today’s Front Page

Front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer on May 17.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer on May 17.