10:48 PM - May 19, 2020
10:48 PM - May 19, 2020

Producing a virtual COVID-19 benefit concert takes a deft touch. Here’s how PHLove’s organizers are pulling it off.

Daryl Hall (left) and John Oates perform during Hoagie Nation at Festival Pier.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Daryl Hall (left) and John Oates perform during Hoagie Nation at Festival Pier.

Scott Mirkin understands the challenges in running a live, hourlong variety show online, but he expects things to flow freely during PHLove, Thursday evening’s fund-raiser to benefit the PHL COVID-19 Fund.

No studio? No problem. The show will be broadcast live with the help of Mirkin’s ESM Productions in Philadelphia, which has produced Philly’s annual Welcome America festival among other blockbusters.

PHLove will stream online at Inquirer.com at 7 p.m. May 21 as well as on 6ABC, CBS3, NBC10, Fox29, CWPhilly, 96.5 TDY, 98.1 WOGL, B101.1, and KYW Newsradio. Proceeds from donations made during the show to phlcovid19fund.org will benefit the PHL COVID-19 Fund, which was formed on March 19 to help local nonprofits during the pandemic. To date, 383 Philadelphia-area nonprofits have received more than $13 million in grants, and the fund has raised more than $16 million.

— Marc Narducci

8:40 PM - May 19, 2020
8:40 PM - May 19, 2020

This Philly cop had the coronavirus and was on a ventilator for 20 days. Now, he’s sharing his story of hope.

Officer Bill Bolds with his wife, Linda, and 15-year old daughter, Tori, at their home in Townsend, Del. Bolds was among the first wave of Philly police officers to contract Covid-19, when the virus swept through the narcotics unit in March.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Officer Bill Bolds with his wife, Linda, and 15-year old daughter, Tori, at their home in Townsend, Del. Bolds was among the first wave of Philly police officers to contract Covid-19, when the virus swept through the narcotics unit in March.

Bill Bolds knows what it’s like to fight for his life.

He’s spent 25 years working narcotics on the Philadelphia police force — the kind of work that tests even a man of Bolds’ imposing size: 6-foot-8, 300 pounds.

But in late March, he was fighting something even his perilous job could not prepare him for: COVID-19. He lay in a bed too small for his frame in the intensive care unit of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The virus ravaging his lungs made every breath feel like a battle.

Bolds, 53, was one of the first Philly cops to fall ill — and among the very first COVID-19 patients admitted to HUP. He was also one of the first to go on a ventilator, the most serious intervention for COVID-19 patients.

By then, he and his wife, Linda, had read enough to know how dire the situation was. He was looking at a 20% chance of survival.

— Mike Newall

7:29 PM - May 19, 2020
7:29 PM - May 19, 2020

Kids with autism being denied an education during the pandemic, Pa. class action suit says

A federal lawsuit filed this week alleges that students with autism are illegally being denied an education during the government-ordered coronavirus school shutdown.
Jessica Griffin
A federal lawsuit filed this week alleges that students with autism are illegally being denied an education during the government-ordered coronavirus school shutdown.

Students with autism are illegally being denied an education during the government-ordered coronavirus school shutdown, a class-action lawsuit filed this week alleges.

The outcome of the lawsuit, filed this week in federal court in Philadelphia on behalf of two Bucks County children, could potentially affect thousands of disabled students.

At its heart is a claim that Gov. Tom Wolf failed to name as “life-sustaining” services that provide in-person education to nonverbal and partially verbal children with autism — kids for whom online instruction and services are ineffective.

Also named are Education Secretary Pedro Rivera and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which collectively have broken state and federal law and deprived severely disabled children of their right to a free and appropriate public education, according to the suit.

The suit comes as challenges mount against districts’ handling of special education services during the pandemic. A class-action suit was filed in Hawaii last month. In New Jersey, some districts initially asked parents to waive legal rights before special education students could receive remote special education services, but a state education department order reversed that, saying the request was illegal.

— Kristen A. Graham

6:55 PM - May 19, 2020
6:55 PM - May 19, 2020

Pa. sold nursing home testing plan as ‘universal’ and ‘radical’, but advocates say it’s optional and insufficient

Viral transfer kits, used to swab for coronavirus testing, are pictured before the opening of a new testing site at the DMV office in Camden last month. Camden County is closing the testing site at Cooper's Poynt Park on Friday and opening two new sites: one at the DMV on Mount Ephraim Avenue and one at Dudley Grange Park in East Camden.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Viral transfer kits, used to swab for coronavirus testing, are pictured before the opening of a new testing site at the DMV office in Camden last month. Camden County is closing the testing site at Cooper's Poynt Park on Friday and opening two new sites: one at the DMV on Mount Ephraim Avenue and one at Dudley Grange Park in East Camden.

Last week, under growing pressure to address the mounting death toll of seniors in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes, the Wolf administration announced a “robust universal testing strategy.”

Gov. Tom Wolf called it a “fairly radical” plan with a goal to conduct testing “once a week for everybody — employees and patients and clients.” Health Secretary Rachel Levine said the move, which marked a major reversal from the state’s previous approach, was necessary to protect a vulnerable population.

“By testing every resident and every staff member in every nursing home, we will be able to pinpoint exactly who has COVID-19, who has been exposed but [has] no symptoms,” Levine said at a news conference last Tuesday. “This effort will give us a clearer picture of the extent of outbreaks in nursing homes and a head start at stopping them.”

But a closer examination of the administration’s plan — along with interviews with senior-care advocates, lawmakers, and nursing home operators — reveals it falls short of official claims, has fueled some confusion on the ground, and would allow any nursing home to opt out of the robust testing suggested by the state.

— Aneri Pattani

6:17 PM - May 19, 2020
6:17 PM - May 19, 2020

Social distancing is particularly hard on those with eating disorders, experts say

Eating disorders are ways of coping with feelings that are out of our control, experts say. Social distancing and isolation can exacerbate disordered eating behaviors.
Getty Images
Eating disorders are ways of coping with feelings that are out of our control, experts say. Social distancing and isolation can exacerbate disordered eating behaviors.

Many people are struggling with feeling a loss of control due to the coronavirus pandemic, but those emotions can be particularly hard on people with eating disorders, experts said. The increase of depression and anxiety from social distancing and isolation can exacerbate disordered eating behaviors.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), which estimates that as many as 30 million people in the United States have a clinically significant eating disorder at one point in their lifetime, reported a 56% increase in use of its instant messaging service over the course of one week at the end of April.

— Bethany Ao

5:27 PM - May 19, 2020
5:27 PM - May 19, 2020

Cocktails-to-go are expected to be approved in Pennsylvania

Bartender Rebecca Strapp (left) and manager Angelica Preso (right) talk to customers at the sidewalk walkup at Garage on E. Passyunk Ave May 14, 2020, as they await Gov. Tom Wolf's signature on a bill that passed the state Senate allowing bars and restaurants to sell cocktails to go during the coronavirus pandemic.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Bartender Rebecca Strapp (left) and manager Angelica Preso (right) talk to customers at the sidewalk walkup at Garage on E. Passyunk Ave May 14, 2020, as they await Gov. Tom Wolf's signature on a bill that passed the state Senate allowing bars and restaurants to sell cocktails to go during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pennsylvania bars and licensed restaurants will likely be able to sell cocktails for takeout.

As Gov. Tom Wolf anticipated signing the order Wednesday, bartenders prepared to pick up their shakers after two months and went to work. Though bar stools and dining room seats must still remain empty, business owners are hoping to see an income boost for a sector of the economy imperiled by the coronavirus shutdowns.

New Jersey on Friday approved similar legislation, allowing bars to sell cocktails of up to a pint for takeout or delivery.

— Michael Klein

5:12 PM - May 19, 2020
5:12 PM - May 19, 2020

A dark milestone: More than 1,000 migrants in ICE custody now have the coronavirus

Seven-year-old Amalia Pintor holds a sign outside the ICE office during a protest, in Philadelphia, July 12, 2019, today is the Lights for Liberty international day of protest against the treatment of migrant children being held in U.S. detention facilities.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Seven-year-old Amalia Pintor holds a sign outside the ICE office during a protest, in Philadelphia, July 12, 2019, today is the Lights for Liberty international day of protest against the treatment of migrant children being held in U.S. detention facilities.

More than 1,000 undocumented immigrants detained by ICE now have the coronavirus, as the surge of infections continues to grow with each new round of testing.

That milestone represents roughly an eightfold increase from a month ago.

About half of the detainees tested by ICE have the virus, even though the enforcement agency has checked only 8% of the 27,908 immigrants it holds in jails and prisons across the country. Most of those in custody are awaiting court hearings or deportation.

Immigration lawyers and advocates warn that migrant detainees are at particular risk of catching and spreading the coronavirus, due to the tight quarters in which they’re held. It’s likely that far more detainees have the coronavirus than is known, they argue, because a small fraction of the population has been tested.

— Jeff Gammage

4:49 PM - May 19, 2020
4:49 PM - May 19, 2020

Pennsylvania real estate allowed to resume in-person operation

Pennsylvania real estate businesses and employees in “yellow” and “red” phase counties may resume in-person operation while following social distancing guidelines, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday.

“This industry impacts numerous types of businesses and Pennsylvania homebuyers who are in the process of, or considering, purchasing a home,” Wolf said in a press release. “It’s critical that these businesses, regardless of whether they are in red phase or yellow phase counties, strictly adhere to all appropriate guidelines and guidance.”

Previously, only counties in the yellow phase of the commonwealth’s reopening plan were permitted to conduct in-person real estate business.

Wolf’s new guidance particularly affects the eastern part of the state, including the Philadelphia region, which still remains in the red.

The state’s updated real estate policy limits in-person interaction to no more than two people inside a property at one time, while exercising social distancing.

Settlements, closings, and exchanges of documents are encouraged to take place electronically or by mail.

A full list of the guidelines is available here.

Earlier Tuesday, Wolf vetoed a bill which would have reopened the real estate industry statewide, saying it did not “provide enough safety protocols for the COVID-19 public health crisis.”

— Oona Goodin-Smith

4:07 PM - May 19, 2020
4:07 PM - May 19, 2020

Philly hits 20,000 coronavirus cases, but new infections continue to slide

A sign asking riders to wear a face mask hangs at the front entrance to the Philadelphia Greyhound Terminal on Thursday, May 14, 2020.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
A sign asking riders to wear a face mask hangs at the front entrance to the Philadelphia Greyhound Terminal on Thursday, May 14, 2020.

More than 20,000 Philadelphians have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, but the spread of new infections continues to slow, officials said Tuesday.

Mayor Jim Kenney called the city’s 20,132 confirmed coronavirus cases “a grim reminder many Philadelphians are still testing positive and all of us are still at risk, so stay home, stay safe, and wear a face cover when you go out.”

The number of new confirmed cases reported Tuesday, however, was only 179, aligning with recent daily tallies of around 200, Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said. A month ago, during the peak of the pandemic in Philadelphia, the city frequently reported 500 new cases per day.

“The numbers are quite encouraging,” Farley said.

Farley said nine more city residents were known to have died of the disease as of midday Tuesday, for a total of 1,049 fatalities in Philadelphia since the pandemic began.

Farley said that while it was still too soon to set a timeline for when city businesses could reopen, residents should begin preparing for life in the next phase of the coronavirus era.

“We've learned how to stay inside. The future will be going outside and wearing a mask,” he said. “Get used to wearing it because that's what the future is going to look like.”

— Sean Collins Walsh

3:29 PM - May 19, 2020
3:29 PM - May 19, 2020

Yes, Pennsylvania’s governor blocked a company that makes American flags from operating during the pandemic

An American flag on a veteran's grave.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
An American flag on a veteran's grave.

Veterans groups in Pennsylvania typically prepare for Memorial Day by placing small American flags beside the headstones where fallen service members have been laid to rest.

But when a state lawmaker from Erie County learned that the coronavirus pandemic might scuttle that sacred tradition, he posted about it on Facebook.

“Gov. Wolf is not allowing companies that distribute U.S. flags to ship out orders to be placed at veteran’s graves for Memorial Day,” state Rep. Brad Roae posted on May 11.

We wondered whether Gov. Tom Wolf had really blocked Pennsylvania-based American flag distributors from operating during the pandemic.

Roae, a Republican, did not return a call seeking comment on his Facebook post, which has now been shared more than 7,000 times. But it looks like he was right.

— Jessica Calefati

2:45 PM - May 19, 2020
2:45 PM - May 19, 2020

North Wildwood relaxes open container laws in response to to-go cocktail allowance

Now that New Jersey bars can serve people to-go cocktails, the city of North Wildwood has relaxed its open container law as people were just drinking the cocktails outside anyway, Mayor Patrick Rosenello said.

The changes to the city's alcohol ordinance allow people to consume the drinks in the vicinity of any bar or restaurant that is selling the to-go cocktails, he said. The changes were adopted at a North Wildwood council meeting Tuesday morning.

“It’s mostly in commercial districts where bars and restaurants are located,” he said. “We’re not encouraging people to gather. The action of serving to-go containers of alcohol led to the reaction of people walking down the street drinking alcohol. They’re not going to take the drink home.”

He said the city did not have the staffing levels to enforce open container laws and does not want “my cops getting into close encounters” over the to-go cocktails. He said they will be focused on dispersing any large gatherings over the Memorial Day Weekend.

“We don’t have enough cops by a factor of 20 to enforce all of these orders,” he said.

— Amy S. Rosenberg

2:41 PM - May 19, 2020
2:41 PM - May 19, 2020

Pa. health secretary doubles down on state plan to test all nursing homes for virus

Asked Tuesday to clarify conflicting statements from state officials regarding whether universal testing of Pennsylvania nursing home patients would be required and enforced, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said: “So actually, we’re going to be testing all the facilities.”

“It’s not a legally mandated testing,” she added, “but we’re going to go out, we’re going to go to those facilities. We’re going to work with them and we’re going to test every facility. It will take some time.”

— Erin McCarthy

2:24 PM - May 19, 2020
2:24 PM - May 19, 2020

Child dies of coronavirus in Pennsylvania

Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Tuesday that a child who is not a Pennsylvania resident has died from the coronavirus in the commonwealth.

She did not provide any additional information on the pediatric death, the first one publicly reported in the state.

There were 119 additional deaths reported Tuesday for a total of 4,624.

— Erin McCarthy

2:07 PM - May 19, 2020
2:07 PM - May 19, 2020

Pennsylvania hasn’t seen an anticipated surge in Medicaid and food stamp applications

Bisma Whack is a preschool teacher, with two kids, who is furloughed. Community Legal Services helped her apply for food stamps and medical assistance. She was photographed outside her Phila. home on April 24, 2020.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Bisma Whack is a preschool teacher, with two kids, who is furloughed. Community Legal Services helped her apply for food stamps and medical assistance. She was photographed outside her Phila. home on April 24, 2020.

Despite the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Pennsylvania officials said Tuesday that the state has not yet had a significant spike in applications for Medicaid, food stamps, and other benefits.

There has been a 2.2% increase in the number of people on Medicaid since February and approximately 7% increases in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), said Teresa Miller, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.

Miller said last month that other states, such as New York and New Jersey, had reported 300% increases in applications for some of those programs in March.

Pennsylvania officials had been bracing for similar spikes. But Miller said Thursday that the lack of surge in applications may be due to increased federal unemployment benefits or a lack of information about how to apply.

“There’s likely a knowledge gap regarding what help is available and how someone could qualify,” Miller said.

Other states also may have counted backlogs of applications, Miller said, and Pennsylvania does not have a backlog.

Miller said state officials are working on better outreach to individuals who may have lost work and become eligible for assistance, and are predicting that a spike in applications could come in July, when the $600 per week additional unemployment benefits, part of the federal COVID-19 stimulus package, are set to end.

— Laura McCrystal

2:05 PM - May 19, 2020
2:05 PM - May 19, 2020

Pennsylvania releases names of nursing homes with COVID-19 cases and deaths

Pennsylvania officials unveiled Tuesday a comprehensive list of long-term care facilities that have recorded coronavirus cases and deaths. The release comes after mounting pressure from lawmakers, advocates, and some relatives of nursing home residents who said they struggled to get accurate information about the status of their loved ones’ facility.

Officials, including Gov. Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine, have repeatedly pushed back on the publication of that data, including by citing old privacy laws, even as surrounding states like New Jersey have done so.

“Long-term care facility residents are among the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians with the global pandemic of COVID-19,” Levine said. “We want their families to have the latest information on what’s going on in the facilities where their loved ones reside.”

She stressed that facilities still have the responsibility to inform residents’ families of outbreaks.

She also said the data will be publicly redacted for any facility with fewer than five resident cases, staff cases, or deaths reported, in order to protect patient privacy.

“We are every day thinking about how we can help those facilities, how we can help them in different ways," Levine said. “We’re going to be testing every single resident in the facilities as well as the staff.”

— Erin McCarthy

1:55 PM - May 19, 2020
1:55 PM - May 19, 2020

Retail stores allowed to reopen in Delaware by appointment only

Retail businesses in Delaware will be allowed to reopen their doors to customers by appointment only tomorrow, Gov. John Carney announced on Tuesday.

Clothing and shoe stores, used merchandise retailers, and florists are among the businesses that are allowed to open to customers beginning at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. Stores may accept two appointments per half hour and must adhere to social distancing and cleaning guidelines.

The measure is an interim step leading up to June 1, when Delaware is planning on letting businesses and restaurants open their indoor spaces at 30% of their stated fire capacity. Restaurants and bars may also apply to expand their outdoor seating capacity leading up to next month’s reopening.

“It’s our hope that these additional steps will safely bring some relief to Delaware businesses and workers who have made real financial sacrifices during this COVID-19 crisis,” Carney said in a statement.

— Rob Tornoe

1:53 PM - May 19, 2020
1:53 PM - May 19, 2020

N.J. coronavirus critical care patient numbers drop below 1,000 for the first time since early April

Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday said another 1,055 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 149,013.

Another 162 people have died from the disease, Murphy said, increasing the state’s death toll to 10,586.

Murphy reported state hospitalizations are down 58% since the pandemic’s peak in mid-April. Currently, 3,481 residents are hospitalized due to the coronavirus, including 977 who are in critical care. This is the first time critical care numbers are below 1,000 since early April, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. Over 780 people are on ventilators.

New Jersey reported 528 facilities are suffering an outbreak of the coronavirus. Officials said 8,858 nursing home staff have tested positive, while 19,454 residents are suffering from the disease. Long term care facilities account for 4,295 of the state’s coronavirus death toll.

Persichilli noted 492 of the state’s 602 long term care facilities have attested they have testing protocols in place to screen all staff and residents for the coronavirus by May 26. The deadline for facilities to prove they can comply with the testing order is today.

— Pranshu Verma

1:30 PM - May 19, 2020
1:30 PM - May 19, 2020

Philadelphia to test all jail inmates, juveniles in detention for coronavirus

All Philadelphia jail inmates and juvenile detention residents will be tested for the coronavirus, Mayor Jim Kenney announced Tuesday.

Previously, due to testing supply limitations, only those showing symptoms were tested. Starting Wednesday over the next two weeks, all current inmates as well as those entering city jails will be tested, Kenney said.

The Juvenile Justice Services Center in West Philadelphia, where two residents had tested positive for the virus but have since recovered, will also test all youth in the facility, Kenney said.

When Montgomery County tested all of its inmates last month, officials said they found 30 times more cases of COVID-19 than were previously known.

Philadelphia’s testing policy is a change of position for the Kenney administration. In late April, Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley questioned the wisdom of testing all inmates in the city's jails.

“It isn’t clear that testing all the other people who don’t have symptoms really would have a real benefit,” Farley said. “So right now we’re trying to sort of do the testing that makes the clearest sense for infection control.”

Farley said Tuesday that he still does not know if it will have a benefit, and still does not recommend testing for people outside of congregate settings unless they have symptoms.

“This is an opportunity to see if we are missing a substantial number of cases that should be isolated that were not already isolated,” Farley said. “It’s not the test itself that prevents the spread of the virus. The virus doesn’t care if you know where it is. It’s only if that test provided information that can change your actions.”

There are currently three inmates in Philly jails testing positive for the coronavirus, Farley said. Throughout the pandemic, at least 197 city inmates have contracted the disease, and one has died.

Blanche Carney, commissioner of the Philadelphia Prisons Department, said test results for the city’s approximately 3,800 inmates would be released in early June.

— Sean Collins Walsh, Laura McCrystal

1:28 PM - May 19, 2020
1:28 PM - May 19, 2020

In-person sales at New Jersey car dealerships, bicycle shops allowed to resume Wednesday

Max Baumle of Gloucester Twp. is out riding his bike for exercise since gyms are closed and decided to swing by the tents, port-a-potties, and portable sinks still set up in the parking lot at Camden County College in Blackwood Mar. 24, 2020.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Max Baumle of Gloucester Twp. is out riding his bike for exercise since gyms are closed and decided to swing by the tents, port-a-potties, and portable sinks still set up in the parking lot at Camden County College in Blackwood Mar. 24, 2020.

Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday said in-person sales at car dealerships and bicycle shops will be able to resume effective 6 a.m. Wednesday.

“We know this is an important step for dealerships and for people who need access to transportation," Murphy said. “It is, unquestionably, another step forward on our road back.”

Murphy has enacted a series of measures over the past week to allow the state’s economy reopen. On Monday, he unveiled a three-stage plan that outlines when businesses will be able to resume activity.

The state is currently in stage one, where beaches, parks, retail stores with curbside delivery, elective surgeries and non-essential construction are allowed to resume.

Murphy said he will rely on critical public health data before deciding when the state enters stage two, where outdoor dining, indoor dining at reduced capacity, more retail stores, libraries and museums will be able to restart.

— Pranshu Verma

1:15 PM - May 19, 2020
1:15 PM - May 19, 2020

New Jersey authorizes 18,000 pharmacists to perform coronavirus tests, increasing state capacity

Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday said 18,000 pharmacists will now be authorized to perform coronavirus tests, in an effort to significantly increase the state’s testing capacity as officials plan New Jersey’s return to normal life.

“These pharmacies are run by professionals who have a deep well of trust, and a strong connection with their broader communities,” Murphy said. “These are the places where customers and residents may feel most comfortable to receive a COVID-19 test, in a place they trust, from a pharmacist they know.”

Residents will not require a prescription to get a test, and pharmacists across the states 2,200 pharmacies will be able to perform and send the FDA authorized testing swabs to labs for processing. It is unclear how long results will take to process.

In prior weeks, Murphy has noted the state must be able to double its testing capacity and perform up to 20,000 tests per day by the end of May before enacting more measures to restart the state’s economy.

— Pranshu Verma

12:38 PM - May 19, 2020
12:38 PM - May 19, 2020

Two men were issued citations while working out at a South Jersey gym defying the state’s business shutdown order

Two men were issued citations while working out at the Atilis Gym in Bellmawr Tuesday. One was taken into custody, but Bellmawr police would not confirm why.

Gym owners Frank Trumbetti said it was because the man would not give his name to officers.

About a dozen supporters remained outside the gym Tuesday afternoon, which opened Monday in defiance of a statewide business shutdown order aimed at mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. Some members of the gym exercised inside. Bellmawr police remained at the scene and asked the small groups to stand by their cars and stand six feet apart, and not congregate by the gym’s entrance.

— Ellie Rushing

12:30 PM - May 19, 2020
12:30 PM - May 19, 2020

Wolf: NASCAR races at Pocono Raceway can resume if Monroe County moves to ‘yellow’ phase of reopening

The Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 NASCAR race at the Pocono International Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., in August 2009.
Steven M. Falk
The Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 NASCAR race at the Pocono International Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., in August 2009.

On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf said scheduled NASCAR races at Pocono Raceway next month could proceed if Monroe County moved into the “yellow” phase of the state’s reopening plan.

That was an apparent reversal from earlier this month, when Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said organized sports won’t be permitted to resume until that county reaches the state’s “green” phase for reopening.

When asked about the shift during a press briefing Monday morning, Wolf said:

We’re working with lots of organizations — the NHL, the NFL, Major League Baseball, — to figure out how and when sports start again, they can do it safely. In terms of NASCAR and these others, they’re looking at competing in front of empty stands and doing all kinds of things to make sure their competitors are safe.. That they have safe accommodations for housing, that when they eat the that's done in a safe fashion, that they're practicing social distancing and wearing masks — all those those kinds of things.
The guidance again is going to be focus on making sure people are safe. And to the extent we’re not confident that people are going to be safe, I’m going to have a problem, and the administration is going to have a problem, opening back up.

— Rob Tornoe

12:25 PM - May 19, 2020
12:25 PM - May 19, 2020

Study: Daily global carbon dioxide emissions are down 17%

An empty North Broad Street in Philadelphia is photographed on Tuesday evening, March 24, 2020. A stay-at-home order has been issued due to the spread of COVID-19.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
An empty North Broad Street in Philadelphia is photographed on Tuesday evening, March 24, 2020. A stay-at-home order has been issued due to the spread of COVID-19.

A new study in the journal Nature Climate Change says daily global emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, have plunged 17% compared to a similar period last year.

However, the study by an international group of scientists, say the drop is likely only temporary. They calculated emissions for April 2020 and 2019 using a range of data.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, carbon dioxide emissions had been rising 1% per year, but with no growth in 2019.

That changed after December 30, 2019 when the coronavirus was identified. A global pandemic was declared on March 11 by the World Health Organization. Countries around the world put in place tight restrictions on air travel, businesses, and issued stay-at-home orders.

Emissions decreased on average by as much as one-quarter at the peak of the restrictions, the scientists stated. Overall, however, the decrease is about 17%. Much of the drop is attributed to the decrease in vehicular use around cities and air travel.

It’s likely some restrictions will be in place through the end of 2020 in many countries. But the scientists say how much greenhouse gas emissions rise from the low depends on future government actions. Emissions are likely to end down between 7% and 4% for the year.

— Frank Kummer

12:22 PM - May 19, 2020
12:22 PM - May 19, 2020

Pennsylvania property tax, rent rebate payments to arrive early this year

Property tax and rent rebate payments will arrive earlier than normal this year for Pennsylvania residents.

Gov. Tom Wolf and Treasurer Joe Torsella announced during a press briefing Tuesday that approximately 500,000 older homeowners, renters, and people with disabilities will receive rebates as much as six weeks early. Torsella said about 111,000 of those payments will go out today, and early payments will continue at a pace of about 60,000 a week.

“The message that we're sending to some of our most vulnerable is we hear you, understand what you're going through, and we're doing everything in our power to help,” Torsella said.

Wolf said the deadline for the program has been extended to Dec. 31, 2020. Residents who included their bank account information on their Property Tax/Rent Rebate application form will receive their rebates through direct deposit. Residents who requested a paper check to be mailed to them should expect to receive their payment in the mail.

Residents who already applied for rebates may check the status using the state's "Where’s My PA Property Tax/Rent Rebate?" tool or call 1-888-PATAXES.

— Rob Tornoe

12:20 PM - May 19, 2020
12:20 PM - May 19, 2020

Some Wawa stores allow self-serve coffee again

Signs in the Wawa in Woolwich Twp, N.J. Mar. 24, 2020 reflect the company's suspension of self-service coffee service. A Wawa associate instead will pour out the coffee for customers because of the coronavirus crisis.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Signs in the Wawa in Woolwich Twp, N.J. Mar. 24, 2020 reflect the company's suspension of self-service coffee service. A Wawa associate instead will pour out the coffee for customers because of the coronavirus crisis.

You can pour your own coffee again at some Wawa stores.

The self-service option was suspended in March to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, but in the past week 60 Wawa stores have begun to allow customers to get their own coffee and fountain drinks again, a company spokesperson said.

She did not specify which specific locations have made the change, but said they include stores in South Jersey (“near or in Cape May County”), the Reading area, Maryland, and Virginia.

While Philadelphia is not included in the list of markets, Wawa said it plans to expand self-service into other areas in the coming weeks. They said they are seeking customer and associate feedback, which has so far been positive.

There will be increased precautions in place at self-serve stations, and customers may still opt for full-service if they prefer.

— Erin McCarthy

12:16 PM - May 19, 2020
12:16 PM - May 19, 2020

Sea Isle mayor: ‘They’ve been cooped up too long. They want to get to the Shore’

Sea Isle City mayor and Cape May County freeholder Lenny Desiderio dismissed the comments of the Philly and Pa. officials about the Shore and said Tuesday people would not listen to them.

“I respect both the governor and the mayor and I gotta tell them, they’re coming to to the Shore,” Desiderio said. “They’ve been cooped up too long. They want to get to the Shore. I think they’re coming to the Shore. We have some restrictions in place. They will be here. They will have to follow our rules.”

— Amy S. Rosenberg

12:07 PM - May 19, 2020
12:07 PM - May 19, 2020

Gov. Wolf will sign bill to allow cocktails to-go in Pennsylvania

Garage bartender Rebecca Strapp talks with customer Ricky Powell, who is a bartender at BAR Philadelphia on Sansom St., at Garage's sidewalk walkup on E. Passyunk Ave May 14, 2020, as they await Gov. Tom Wolf's signature on a bill that passed the state Senate allowing bars and restaurants to sell cocktails to go during the coronavirus pandemic. Garage just reopened this week, selling beer after the owner received a pandemic relief grant.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Garage bartender Rebecca Strapp talks with customer Ricky Powell, who is a bartender at BAR Philadelphia on Sansom St., at Garage's sidewalk walkup on E. Passyunk Ave May 14, 2020, as they await Gov. Tom Wolf's signature on a bill that passed the state Senate allowing bars and restaurants to sell cocktails to go during the coronavirus pandemic. Garage just reopened this week, selling beer after the owner received a pandemic relief grant.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he will sign a bill that allows many bars and restaurants to sell mixed drinks for takeout.

The bill, which would allow mixed-drink sales by bars and restaurants that have lost more than 25% of their businesses, overwhelmingly passed in both the state House and Senate. Businesses would be temporarily permitted to serve sealed containers of mixed drinks in servings of 4 to 64 ounces before 11 p.m.

“I do plan to sign it,” Wolf said during a press briefing on Tuesday. “it was passed I think unanimously in both chambers of the General Assembly so I will sign it.”

— Rob Tornoe

11:50 AM - May 19, 2020
11:50 AM - May 19, 2020

U.S. - Canada border to remain closed to non-essential travel

In this Aug. 10, 2011 file photo, a marker in Richford, Vt., indicates the official border between the United States and Canada.
Toby Talbot / AP
In this Aug. 10, 2011 file photo, a marker in Richford, Vt., indicates the official border between the United States and Canada.

Canada and the U.S. have agreed to extend to June 21 their agreement to keep the border closed to nonessential travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday the border is a source of vulnerability, so the agreement will be extended by another 30 days. The restrictions were announced on March 18 and were extended in April.

Trudeau said Canada’s provincial leaders clearly wanted to continue the measures.

President Donald Trump has said that the U.S. and Canada are doing well in handling the pandemic. But many Canadians fear a reopening. The U.S. has more confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any country in the world, though its per capita numbers are well below many other nations.

— Associated Press

11:41 AM - May 19, 2020
11:41 AM - May 19, 2020

Unable to find a buyer amid COVID-19 crisis, Pier 1 Imports to liquidate

Home goods retailer Pier 1 Imports is planning to liquidate and close all its stores after failing to find a buyer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The company announced on Tuesday it is seeking approval in bankruptcy court to wind-down its retail operations “as soon as reasonably possible” once it is able to reopen stores closed due to coronavirus restrictions.

“This decision follows months of working to identify a buyer who would continue to operate our business going forward,” Robert Riesbeck, Pier 1’s Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the challenging retail environment has been significantly compounded by the profound impact of COVID-19, hindering our ability to secure such a buyer and requiring us to wind down.”

Pier 1 currently has over 500 locations, including Philadelphia-area stores in Springfield, King of Prussia, and Cherry Hill. Prior to closing 450 locations earlier this year, it employed roughly 18,000 people, about 4,000 of them full-timers.

— Rob Tornoe

11:22 AM - May 19, 2020
11:22 AM - May 19, 2020

Bellmawr gym cited for second time for violating state COVID-19 shutdown orders

Frank Trumbetti and Ian Smith (left) receive their first citation after opening their gym in Bellmawr, N.J., in defiance of state COVID-19 shutdown orders on Monday.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Frank Trumbetti and Ian Smith (left) receive their first citation after opening their gym in Bellmawr, N.J., in defiance of state COVID-19 shutdown orders on Monday.

The owners of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr have been issued a second citation for violating Gov. Phil Murphy’s orders closing non-essential businesses due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti, who reopened Monday in defiance of the state’s coronavirus closures, admitted members again Tuesday morning despite receiving a disorderly conduct citation yesterday. Smith and Trumbetti were issued a second disorderly conduct citation around 10:30 a.m., which summons them to Bellmawr Municipal Court in June and holds penalties of fines and up to six months jail.

They say they plan to continue operating.

Bellmawr Police Chief William Walsh confirmed the citation but declined additional comment.

Smith and Trumbetti have said they’re worried about the ramifications that Murphy has warned of, but that they need to stand up for what they say are the constitutional rights of small businesses. The owners, who question why big corporations can remain open but not small businesses, grew a massive following after making appearances on news shows like Tucker Carlson Tonight.

The reopening Monday brought a large crowd, and Tuesday morning a few dozen supporters remained in the parking lot. Supporters have raised nearly $17,000 to help pay for fines and other fees imposed by the citations.

— Ellie Rushing

10:50 AM - May 19, 2020
10:50 AM - May 19, 2020

Phillies ace Aaron Nola and Yuengling team up to raise funds for laid-off restaurant and hospitality workers

Aaron Nola, now pitching for Yuengling.
Instagram
Aaron Nola, now pitching for Yuengling.

Yuengling and Phillies ace Aaron Nola are starting a virtual fundraiser to support Pennsylvania waiters, bartenders, and other hospitality workers who’ve been impacted by the coronavirus shutdown.

Through the initiative, called “Cheers PA,” the duo said they encourage people to donate online over the next month for a chance to win a long list of Philadelphia- and Pittsburgh-sports-related prizes — including Phillies game packages, a pitching clinic with Nola, and memorabilia signed by Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and tight end Zach Ertz and Phillies players Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins.

All donations will go to the Hospitality Assistance Response of Pennsylvania, an emergency grant program sponsored by Wendy Yuengling, the chief administrative officer of her family’s D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc.

“As America’s Oldest Brewery, we have weathered many storms in our nearly 200-year history,” she said in a statement, “and we know firsthand the importance of coming together as a community to get us through these trying times.”

Donations can be made on Pledgeit and Cameo through June 19, according to Yuengling.

— Erin McCarthy

8:46 AM - May 19, 2020
8:46 AM - May 19, 2020

NFL testing new coronavirus face mask coverings

The National Football League is testing new protective coverings containing surgical material to help protect players from the coronavirus, according to the NFL Players Association’s medical director.

Thom Mayer said on The Adam Schefter Podcast Monday there will likely be a recommendation to the league that it adopt some type of breathable coverings for helmets during the upcoming season, which is still scheduled to open on Thursday, Sept. 10.

The Eagles are slated to open the season three days later against the Washington Redskins on Sunday, Sept. 13.

Mayer said he isn’t sure what the final design of the masks might be, but said they could fully cover a player’s entire face mask and be made from the same material as N95 surgical masks.

"They’ve got some prototypes,” Mayer said of Oakley, who is working with the NFL on the new coverings. “Some of them, when you first look at them, you think, ‘Gosh, no’ because you’re not used to seeing it. But they’re looking at every issue you can imagine, including when it fogs up. What do we do with that? But these guys are used to dealing with this stuff.”

— Rob Tornoe

8:26 AM - May 19, 2020
8:26 AM - May 19, 2020

Burlco farmers’ market to open Saturday with limitations

The Burlington County farmers’ market will open for the season on Saturday. But like so many summertime activities it will look different than it did in past years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The outdoor market will focus on selling fresh fruit and vegetables and pre-packaged foods, the county freeholders said, and customers and vendors must wear masks, in accordance with Gov. Phil Murphy’s orders. Customer capacity will be limited to 75 at a time, the officials said, and all are encouraged to shop and leave.

There will be no cooking demonstrations, no food samples, and no musical entertainment. “It is our hope that in the future the markets will return to normal,” Freeholder Director Felicia Hopson said in a statement, “but for now we must all work together to stay healthy.”

The market is set to take place from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through October at the county agricultural center at 500 Centerton Road in Moorestown.

— Erin McCarthy

5:30 AM - May 19, 2020
5:30 AM - May 19, 2020

Delco now has the region’s highest 14-day rate of COVID cases. It can’t reopen until that falls dramatically

Residents of Delaware County gathered in Media on May 9 to call for the county to reopen non-essential businesses. The suburban county has the highest 14-day rate of new COVID-19 cases in the Philadelphia region, and won't be eligible to lift restrictions under Gov. Tom Wolf's plan until its rate drops dramatically.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Residents of Delaware County gathered in Media on May 9 to call for the county to reopen non-essential businesses. The suburban county has the highest 14-day rate of new COVID-19 cases in the Philadelphia region, and won't be eligible to lift restrictions under Gov. Tom Wolf's plan until its rate drops dramatically.

As 12 more Pennsylvania counties prepare Friday to enter the “yellow" stage of Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to gradually lift coronavirus restrictions, the state’s southeastern corner is far from reaching a needed benchmark. And progress has been the slowest not in Philadelphia, but in its immediate neighbor to the west.

Delaware County has the highest 14-day per capita rate of residents with COVID-19 of all the counties in the Philadelphia region, according to state data.

As of Monday, Delaware County had 263 cases for every 100,000 residents over the last 14 days, slightly above Philadelphia’s 251. But Delaware County’s 14-day total of new cases has stayed steady for about a month, while those of Philadelphia and Bucks, Montgomery, and Chester Counties have dropped.

Vinny Vella and Marie McCullough

5:15 AM - May 19, 2020
5:15 AM - May 19, 2020

Restaurant closings in the Philadelphia area begin with Farmicia, Mad River, Vitarelli’s

Restaurant industry watchers have predicted rampant closings caused by the coronavirus lockdown of bars and dining rooms, and the weekend brought what appears to be the first wave of announced shutdowns as three long-running restaurants in the Philadelphia region called it quits.

“Announced” is the keyword. Many restaurants that had intended to close temporarily will not reopen, though their owners are declining to state this formally.

Meanwhile, no date for ending the lockdown of dining rooms and bars has been set, confounding some owners.

Those that announced their closings, effective immediately, are Farmicia, which opened in September 2004 on Third Street near Market in Old City; Mad River Bar & Grille, a watering hole that opened in Manayunk in November 2008; and Vitarelli’s in Cherry Hill, which opened in 1975 as a deli and grew into an Italian BYOB and catering facility.

— Michael Klein

5:00 AM - May 19, 2020
5:00 AM - May 19, 2020

Morning Roundup: ‘Don’t go to the beach,’ health official tells Philly residents; Wolf questions reopening of Shore towns

An Ocean City police truck drives along the beach as families enjoy the weather on Saturday. Officials in Pennsylvania officials are urging residents to not go to the Jersey Shore for the Memorial Day weekend because of the possibility they will encounter large crowds and contract COVID-19.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
An Ocean City police truck drives along the beach as families enjoy the weather on Saturday. Officials in Pennsylvania officials are urging residents to not go to the Jersey Shore for the Memorial Day weekend because of the possibility they will encounter large crowds and contract COVID-19.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday questioned his counterparts’ decisions to reopen beaches in two states, and Philadelphia’s top health official bluntly told residents to stay away from the Shore on Memorial Day weekend.

With the start of the unofficial summer season imminent, their pointed remarks underscored the tensions and frustrations over the pace of restoring the coronavirus-devastated economy even as virus-related death tolls continue to creep upward.

“Don’t go to the beach,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. While that likely wasn’t a message the Cape May County Tourism Department had in mind, Farley argued that public safety trumped any other consideration.

Wolf said he was nonplussed by his fellow governors’ actions. “I’m not sure why the governors of Maryland [Larry Hogan] and New Jersey [Phil Murphy] have opened their beaches," he said. "but they have.” He reiterated that he would not be modeling swimwear at a Jersey Shore beach any time soon.

While the rates of case increases continue to decline, the grim statistics constitute a horrific portrait of a pandemic. With 83 additional deaths reported on Monday, New Jersey’s toll increased to 10,435. Pennsylvania added 87, for a total of 4,505. Worldwide the virus has been blamed for over 300,000 fatalities.

Anthony R. Wood, Erin McCarthy and Pranshu Verma

4:45 AM - May 19, 2020
4:45 AM - May 19, 2020

Today’s Inquirer Front Page

The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Tuesday, May 19, 2020.
Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Tuesday, May 19, 2020.