10:33 PM - May 20, 2020
10:33 PM - May 20, 2020

Coronavirus shutdowns are making golf courses an oasis for stir-crazy Americans eager to get out and tee up

A foursome starts a round of golf at the par-four first hole at The Golf Course at Glen Mills. Golf organizations have been issued numerous recommendations meant to ensure the health and safety of golfers and course staff.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
A foursome starts a round of golf at the par-four first hole at The Golf Course at Glen Mills. Golf organizations have been issued numerous recommendations meant to ensure the health and safety of golfers and course staff.

Across the country, Americans remain deeply divided about leaving the house for work and leisure activities, except, apparently, when it comes to golf, giving an unexpected jolt to a sport that has seen declining popularity.

It's too early to say whether the heightened demand will continue, especially in the middle of an economic recession, or how much the cost of safety protocols will affect course revenue.

But some in the golf industry are hoping that the interest in a relatively safe outdoor activity — and the expected return of the PGA Tour to television on June 11, at a time when there are few alternatives for watching live sports — could boost enthusiasm for the game.

— Washington Post

9:43 PM - May 20, 2020
9:43 PM - May 20, 2020

New coronavirus testing site at Upper Darby High School

Delaware County will open its first coronavirus testing site tomorrow at Upper Darby High School, local officials announced Wednesday.

The walk-up and drive-thru testing site, at 601 N. Lansdowne Ave. in Drexel Hill, will operate from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday of this week. It will operate on a first-come, first-serve basis while supplies last.

All residents ages 18 and up with COVID-19 symptoms or known exposure are eligible to be tested, especially those at higher risk, including residents over the age of 65 and those with preexisting health conditions, the county said in a news release.

Priority testing will be given to essential workers, including first responders, employees of health-care systems, grocery stores, and pharmacies. Testing is free, and residents are asked to wear a face covering to the site. Test results will be returned in five to seven business days, the county said.

— Ellie Rushing

8:53 PM - May 20, 2020
8:53 PM - May 20, 2020

Chalk artist brings smiles by drawing on different canvas

Stefanie Heron-Birl, former face painter now chalk drawer because of social distancing, creating a drawing on the driveway of Kate Semon's house on Allerton Road in West Chester last week. The drawing was for Radek Semon's 15th birthday.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Stefanie Heron-Birl, former face painter now chalk drawer because of social distancing, creating a drawing on the driveway of Kate Semon's house on Allerton Road in West Chester last week. The drawing was for Radek Semon's 15th birthday.

With face painting a lost art in an era of social distancing, Stefanie Heron-Birl has taken to another method for spreading colorful tidings: chalk drawing. She got the idea when a neighbor asked her to draw a birthday message on her driveway.

Now she endeavors to brighten up driveways, sidewalks, and the sides of garages with cheerful designs, mostly as a way to help locked-down folks celebrate birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and other special occasions.

— Phil Anastasia

7:53 PM - May 20, 2020
7:53 PM - May 20, 2020

Clementon church opens for service in defiance of N.J. shutdown order

Just before the church services began at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Clementon Police Chief Charles Grover tells people gathered outside the Clementon Bible Baptist Church that they are in violation of Gov. Phil Murphy’s shutdown. The chief then wished everyone a nice day and walked away with other officers. The church held in-person services in defiance of the shutdown order on Sunday and again on Wednesday.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Just before the church services began at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Clementon Police Chief Charles Grover tells people gathered outside the Clementon Bible Baptist Church that they are in violation of Gov. Phil Murphy’s shutdown. The chief then wished everyone a nice day and walked away with other officers. The church held in-person services in defiance of the shutdown order on Sunday and again on Wednesday.

A church in Clementon, Camden County, reopened for services Wednesday night in defiance of Gov. Phil Murphy’s coronavirus shutdown orders, drawing a small group of supporters and little police action as the town’s chief of police warned the group of their violation before saying “have a good night” and walked away.

Bible Baptist Church reopened again Wednesday evening after holding its first in-person service Sunday, which drew around 15 parishioners. Police warned the pastor about the executive order violation, but he said he would continue to host services on Wednesdays and Sundays.

“These officers and myself are here today for your safety,” Clementon Police Chief Charles Grover told a small group outside the church Wednesday night, according to a video from Fox29.

“I want to formally advise you, you are in violation of Governor Murphy’s executive order,” Grover said. “With that being said also, have a good night folks.”

Grover’s statements were similar to those that Bellmawr police told the owners of a gym which also reopened Monday despite shutdown directives.

Police later returned to the gym and cited members at the facility.

Andy Reese, the pastor of Bible Baptist Church, said that he believes the church should be considered an essential service, and that it is the congregation’s constitutional right to gather.

Bible Baptist Church Pastor Andy Reese talks with media members Wednesday night prior to church services.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Bible Baptist Church Pastor Andy Reese talks with media members Wednesday night prior to church services.

“This decision was not made lightly but with prayer and the understanding that the church is essential for our community,” Reese said in a statement. “We are facing days that for many people in my generation have never dealt with before. The physical, emotional, and spiritual problems have overwhelmed people to the point where people are losing hope.”

Clementon police referred a request for comment to the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, which did not immediately respond.

— Ellie Rushing

7:25 PM - May 20, 2020
7:25 PM - May 20, 2020

Philly schools chief says internet providers refuse to open their networks so students can access education during the pandemic

School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite.

Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said Wednesday that he asked Comcast and other internet providers to open their wifi networks so students could access education through their laptops, but all refused.

With no end in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hite said internet access remains a significant barrier to Philadelphia students’ education.

Free internet access is a “critical infrastructure issue,” he testified Wednesday during City Council hearings on the district’s budget, and if public schools require children to use the internet for educational purposes, that access should be free in the way that school meals are free to low-income families, he said.

— Kristen A. Graham

6:52 PM - May 20, 2020
6:52 PM - May 20, 2020

Bucks County Republican lawmakers introduce legislation to speed up reopening local business

Republican lawmakers from Bucks County have introduced legislation to speed up the reopening of local businesses despite Gov. Tom Wolf’s insistence that it is too soon.

State Rep. Frank Farry on Wednesday introduced a bill that would allow county commissioners, with advice from local health officials, to clear the way for businesses to open again.

“The state refuses to acknowledge the progress made by the Bucks County Department of Health with contact tracing, which shows limited community spread," Farry said in a news release.

House Bill 2541 has several Republican co-sponsors from Bucks County. A similar companion bill in the Senate was expected to be introduced by Sen. Tommy Tomlinson.

"I have full faith that business owners across Bucks County can operate in a safe manner following CDC guidelines, and proper social distancing procedures," Tomlinson said in the news release.

On Tuesday, Bucks County reported that it has had a total of 4,441 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 399 deaths.

— Robert Moran

6:36 PM - May 20, 2020
6:36 PM - May 20, 2020

Dermatologists weigh in on how to prevent ‘maskne’ and other face mask skin issues

"Maskne" is acne caused by wearing a face mask for long periods of time.
Getty Images
"Maskne" is acne caused by wearing a face mask for long periods of time.

Wearing masks to reduce the spread of coronavirus is still required in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for shoppers and workers at essential stores, but the practice has led to a new complaint — “maskne,” breakouts caused by wearing a mask for long periods of time.

Part of the reason why people might get maskne is because the skin experiences a lot more friction than normal in the area that’s covered, said Nazanin Saedi, director of Jefferson Laser Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatology Center.

“The real term is acne mechanica,” she said. “You see it where there’s constant rubbing on skin, like athletes who get acne from wearing helmets and pads. Similarly, masks create a moist environment where bacteria can grow. Normally the skin airs out on its own, but everything is building up under the mask.”

— Bethany Ao

5:44 PM - May 20, 2020
5:44 PM - May 20, 2020

In the Philly area, gyms have led the way in defying coronavirus shutdown orders

People gather in support of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, N.J., Monday, May 19, 2020.The gym in New Jersey reopened for business early Monday, defying a state order that shut down nonessential businesses to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
People gather in support of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, N.J., Monday, May 19, 2020.The gym in New Jersey reopened for business early Monday, defying a state order that shut down nonessential businesses to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

National news cameras were pointed at Bellmawr’s Atilis Gym that opened to crowds of supporters this week despite New Jersey’s shutdown order for nonessential businesses. The same day, another gym in Pennsylvania, 25 miles away outside Philadelphia, had opened for the first time since March, too.

Members of PWRBLD Gym in Conshohocken this week booked 90-minute time slots to work out, ensuring no more than a dozen people were in the space at once. The owners of Atilis were cited, but PWRBLD (pronounced power build) owner Collin Whitney hasn’t heard a peep from law enforcement.

While reports have sprouted up of businesses reopening in defiance of their state’s shutdown orders — a diner here; a hair salon there — gyms have led the way in the Philadelphia area, whether they flung open the doors to hoards of news cameras or quietly notified their members. Some have coordinated, and Whitney said he’s been in contact with the owners of Atilis “for weeks.”

— Anna Orso

5:25 PM - May 20, 2020
5:25 PM - May 20, 2020

Can I have a Memorial Day cookout? Who can come?

A selection of links from the Heavy Metal Sausage pop-up at In The Valley - a seasonal ramp sausage, smoky kielbasa, and spicy fennel - sizzle on the grill alongside sausages from Primal Supply.
Craig LaBan
A selection of links from the Heavy Metal Sausage pop-up at In The Valley - a seasonal ramp sausage, smoky kielbasa, and spicy fennel - sizzle on the grill alongside sausages from Primal Supply.

The Memorial Day barbecue marks the unofficial beginning of summer. It’s a tradition: An afternoon of burgers, hot dogs, potato salad and beers in honor of those who lost their lives fighting for American ideals. The days are longer. The air is warmer.

Not this year. Thanks to the coronavirus, 2020 has been a year of broken traditions: Commencement speeches are virtual, weddings are mostly postponed, and funerals have lost the comfort that comes from gathering with friends and loved ones.

— Elizabeth Wellington

4:57 PM - May 20, 2020
4:57 PM - May 20, 2020

Philly-area religious leaders adapt to reach their faithful as pandemic drags on

The coronavirus has left church pews unoccupied, synagogues and masjids empty. The pandemic hit with full force in the United States just as all Abrahamic religions were observing major holidays: Easter, Passover, and monthlong Ramadan, which ends May 23. Although the majority of states, including Pennsylvania, allow religious exemptions to social distancing, most houses of worship have closed their doors anyway, or at least limited entry. As a result, spiritual leaders have had to find new ways to keep their communities engaged and to offer them hope — from afar.

— Heather Khalifa

4:04 PM - May 20, 2020
4:04 PM - May 20, 2020

Wolf: Pennsylvania to release guidelines on whether or how pro sports can operate

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (19) makes a catch against the Dallas Cowboys on December 22, 2019, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. (Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)
Yong Kim / MCT
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (19) makes a catch against the Dallas Cowboys on December 22, 2019, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. (Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday said his administration will release guidance in “the next few days” on whether or how professional sports can operate in the commonwealth, but he said it will ultimately be up to whether individuals want to take part or be spectators — a level of confidence he said may not happen without a vaccine.

In a call with reporters, the governor said officials are working to get as many Pennsylvanians as possible back to work, including increasing diagnostic testing capacity across the commonwealth and putting into place a contact-tracing program.

But ultimately, he said, “what it’s going to take for everybody to feel safe going to a Penn State game or a basketball game is that they have some confidence that they’re not going to get sick by being in close contact with somebody else.”

“And I think that’s what it’s going to take to really get our economy back to normal,” he continued, “and personally, I’m not sure that can happen, fully, one hundred percent, until we get to a vaccine that is foolproof.”

Wolf said his administration is working with NASCAR, the NFL, the NHL, the NBA and other amateur sports groups to figure out the safest way forward.

“This is the kind of thing we’re trying to do,” he said, “is balancing life as we would like it to be with life as it has to be given the virus that’s out there.”

— Anna Orso

3:46 PM - May 20, 2020
3:46 PM - May 20, 2020

Starting next week, New Jersey residents can use SNAP benefits for online grocery orders

Starting next week, New Jersey residents enrolled in the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will be able to use their benefits to order groceries online.

SNAP recipients will be able to use their benefits card to order groceries from Amazon beginning on May 27, and order from Walmart, ShopRite and The Fresh Grocer beginning May 28.

“Online grocery shopping is another important step in our efforts to get affordable groceries to New Jerseyans during this public health emergency,” Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said in a statement Wednesday. “Having the option to order groceries online is more important than ever, as we all work together to stay-at-home as much as possible. We hope that the launch of SNAP online grocery shopping promotes equity by providing participants access to a convenient tool that many New Jerseyans are already using to comply with the stay-at-home order.”

Earlier Wednesday, Pennsylvania announced that the state’s SNAP benefits could also be used for delivery, starting in June.

— Oona Goodin-Smith

3:44 PM - May 20, 2020
3:44 PM - May 20, 2020

Montgomery County sees slight increase in coronavirus hospital admissions

Montgomery County has seen a slight increase in its hospital admissions due to coronavirus, said Dr. Val Arkoosh, chair of the county’s Board of Commissioners.

Approximately 260 Montgomery County residents are hospitalized with the coronavirus, which is an increase from the approximately 250 people who were hospitalized two days ago, Arkoosh said Wednesday. Around 24% patients are on ventilators.

Arkoosh reported 12 additional virus-related deaths Tuesday, bringing the county’s death toll up to 548. When including probable coronavirus deaths — which means the person has COVID-19 listed on their death certificate but was not officially tested — the death toll sits at 727.

Arkoosh also stressed how much the positivity rate among testing days has varied. On May 7, 8, 11, and 12, the positivity rate was below 10% each day, she said. On May 13, 14, and 15, the positivity rate was 15 to 19%.

“These two data points serve as a reminder that we remain in a situation where there is still very real risk of virus transmission in our community,” Arkoosh said.

Arkoosh also reported 111 new cases Tuesday, 17 of which are residents of a long term care facility, bringing the county’s case total up to 6,126.

— Ellie Rushing

3:42 PM - May 20, 2020
3:42 PM - May 20, 2020

Wolf: Pennsylvania bill allowing cocktails to-go has unanimous support in legislature

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. Garage just reopened this week, selling beer after the owner received a pandemic relief grant.
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. Garage just reopened this week, selling beer after the owner received a pandemic relief grant.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf plans to sign a bill this week that would allow restaurants in the commonwealth to sell cocktails to-go, a move some establishments have said would provide them a vital lifeline to survival amid the pandemic.

Wolf did not say why he’s taken days to sign the bill, which has awaited his signature since Monday. He said while he’s “not sure it’s a good idea,” it had unanimous support in the legislature and “that is something that I take into account.”

“If I were doing it myself, I might do it differently,” he said, “but there seems to be very strong support for that.”

— Anna Orso

3:40 PM - May 20, 2020
3:40 PM - May 20, 2020

Media barbershop opens in defiance of Gov. Wolf’s coronavirus shutdown orders

Frank Kavanagh, of Media, Pa., regular customer, waits outside for his appointment before entering Giovanni’s Media Barber Shop on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. “Support small businesses they need it,” Kavanagh said. “This is really hurting small business big time. I think we have to protect those who are most receptive to coronavirus.”
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
Frank Kavanagh, of Media, Pa., regular customer, waits outside for his appointment before entering Giovanni’s Media Barber Shop on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. “Support small businesses they need it,” Kavanagh said. “This is really hurting small business big time. I think we have to protect those who are most receptive to coronavirus.”

Nichole Missino opened her Media barbershop Wednesday and said she has no plans to close it again, despite state orders mandating businesses like hers remain shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The barbershop’s reopening comes as coronavirus case counts show no sign of dropping in Delaware County, even as neighboring Philadelphia and Bucks, Chester, and Montgomery counties see declines. Recent county numbers are high above Gov. Tom Wolf’s benchmark for the interim yellow phase of reopening, and Media has the second highest concentration of cases in the county. Salons aren’t allowed to open until the least-restrictive green phase.

Health officials, including Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine, say the governor’s gradual approach to economic reopening is saving lives and preventing the health-care system from becoming overwhelmed as it has been in other areas of the country. But some business owners and lawmakers say the economic toll of the months-long shutdown is dire, too, and people are capable of returning to work safely.

— Erin McCarthy

3:33 PM - May 20, 2020
3:33 PM - May 20, 2020

Health commissioner: Every Philadelphian needs to ‘get a mask and get used to wearing it’

A pedestrian wears a protective face mask out in front of the Penn Museum in Philadelphia, PA on Friday, April 03, 2020.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
A pedestrian wears a protective face mask out in front of the Penn Museum in Philadelphia, PA on Friday, April 03, 2020.

As Philadelphia gets closer to reopening, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Wednesday that every resident needs to “get a mask and get used to wearing it.”

Farley said the city had 227 new cases of COVID-19 in the past day, and said he cannot yet predict a date for reopening.

“I want to focus less on when we reopen and really start thinking about how we reopen,” he said. “Wearing a mask is going to have to become normal, expected behavior.”

Farley said that walking into a store now without a mask should be the equivalent of going in without a shirt. “It’s just something that people don’t do,” he said.

Farley said the city found 103 new coronavirus-related deaths in the past day, by reconciling lists of residents with the virus with a new batch of death certificates. While not all of those people died in the last day, he said it showed that the total number of city residents to die after having the virus, now 1,152, is higher than previously thought.

But the situation is still improving in the city, Farley said.

“That daily number [of new cases] is still falling overall so we’re clearly making progress,” he said.

Mayor Jim Kenney encouraged residents to continue following social distancing guidelines during Memorial Day weekend, and to resist the urge to hold barbecues or family gatherings.

“The last thing we want to see at this point is a holiday weekend wiping out all the progress,” Kenney said.

— Laura McCrystal

3:15 PM - May 20, 2020
3:15 PM - May 20, 2020

Food-delivery couriers say working during the coronavirus pandemic can be dehumanizing, but many have no choice

On 10th Street in Center City on a recent evening, food delivery couriers were the only people out and about.
Samantha Melamed
On 10th Street in Center City on a recent evening, food delivery couriers were the only people out and about.

Under the stay-at-home order, Philadelphia restaurants have transformed overnight into e-commerce operations, their front windows retooled into loading bays. And services like Instacart and Shipt are booming, as the appetite for grocery delivery grows larger than ever.

“People are being forced into food delivery, because there are no other jobs you can just easily walk into, even if it is paying drastically less than what you used to make,” said Angela Vogel, a member organizer of the Philadelphia Drivers’ Union.

But, with contactless delivery, the thousands of gig workers feeding that hunger are almost invisible. Who’s doing that work? How much are they paid? And what risks are they taking on?

Here’s what they told us.

Samantha Melamed

2:14 PM - May 20, 2020
2:14 PM - May 20, 2020

There will be no poker when Pennsylvania casinos reopen

The SugarHouse Casino photographed July 25, 2019.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
The SugarHouse Casino photographed July 25, 2019.

Poker players who gamble in Pennsylvania casinos and are concerned about reading a rival’s expression through an N-95 mask need not worry: Poker will be banished when casinos begin to reopen in the coming months as the state’s pandemic lockdown lifts.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on Wednesday issued minimum protocols for casino operators to follow as they reopen, which will dramatically change the gaming experience for some visitors: Patrons and employees will wear face masks, casinos will need to install lots of plexiglas and hand-sanitizer stations, and some slot machines will be disabled to enforce social distancing requirements.

— Andrew Maykuth

1:59 PM - May 20, 2020
1:59 PM - May 20, 2020

N.J. reports small rise in new coronavirus hospitalizations

Over 150,000 residents that have now tested positive for the coronavirus in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday. Another 168 have also died from the disease, increasing the state’s death toll to 10,747.

“No one deserves ever to be relegated to just a statistic, and certainly not at a time like this,” Murphy said. “We must remember that we are one diverse family and that we only rise and fall as one.”

While Murphy noted the number of residents hospitalized, in intensive care and on ventilators are all down by over 50% since the pandemic’s peak in mid-April, new hospitalizations are seeing a small rise, which is causing concern for health officials.

“New hospitalizations just talk to the evidence of ongoing spread in our communities,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.

The state reported 3,405 people are hospitalized for the disease, including 969 patients in critical care and 750 who are on ventilators.

There are 529 facilities suffering an outbreak of the coronavirus, accounting for 28,603 of the state’s positives and 4,349 of its deaths.

Overnight, 1,670 residents tested positive for the coronavirus, Murphy said, bringing the statewide positive caseload to 150,399.

Pranshu Verma

1:27 PM - May 20, 2020
1:27 PM - May 20, 2020

65 COVID-19 cases among 16 residents, and other glaring errors in Pa. nursing home data

Screen capture, PA Secretary of Health Rachel Levine during a news conference about COVID-19 with Gov. Tom Wolf and and a sign language interpreter, on March 17, 2020.
PA Emergency Management Agency
Screen capture, PA Secretary of Health Rachel Levine during a news conference about COVID-19 with Gov. Tom Wolf and and a sign language interpreter, on March 17, 2020.

Elwyn Harmony Hall is a Delaware County personal care home for adults with a high need for behavioral health care. It has a total capacity of 16 residents.

But if you believe the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Harmony Hall had 65 residents who had tested positive for COVID-19. That’s according to the long-sought data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state’s long-term care facilities that state officials released on Wednesday.

In reality, the total number of COVID-19 cases across all of Elwyn’s behavioral health facilities has been 18, the nonprofit’s chief of staff Rex Carney said. “Clearly the spreadsheet from the state is inaccurate,” he said.

— Harold Brubaker

1:22 PM - May 20, 2020
1:22 PM - May 20, 2020

It would cost $440 million to test all U.S. nursing homes just once, says health care advocacy group

It will cost about $440 million to test every nursing home resident and staff member in the U.S. just once for the coronavirus, according to a national nursing and assisted living care advocacy organization.

Regionally, it would cost $1.3 million in Delaware, $13.6 million in New Jersey, and $22 million in Pennsylvania, said the estimated breakdown by the American Health Care Association and National Center of Assisted Living.

According to the organization: Delaware has 46 nursing homes and would need to administer 8,935 tests; New Jersey has 363 nursing homes and would need 90,725 tests; and Pennsylvania has 695 nursing homes and would need 148,197 tests.

The estimate for each test is $150. The data do not include cost to test residents and staff at assisted living and other long term care facilities. Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf has advocated weekly nursing home testing, but there is no cost or funding estimate for it.

The AHCA/NCAL is prodding Congress and state governments for money they say is needed to test nearly 3 million people.

“For months now, we have been advocating for expanded and priority testing in nursing homes to protect our residents and caregivers, but this is a significant undertaking and cost for nursing homes to shoulder on their own,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL, said in a statement.

He continued: “That’s why we have asked HHS to grant our request for a $10 billion emergency relief to help fund expedited testing and the additional staffing needed to respond to this unprecedented health crisis.”

The organization estimates that a CDC recommendation to test all nursing home staff weekly would cost $1 billion a month.

The nonprofit American Health Care Association represents long term care providers and represents 14,000 assisted living, nursing, developmentally-disabled and subacute care facilities. The National Center for Assisted Living is a separate “voice” for assisted living within the American Health Care Association.

Frank Kummer

1:17 PM - May 20, 2020
1:17 PM - May 20, 2020

N.J. residents can now get tested for coronavirus at select Walmart stores

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday that state residents can get tested for the coronavirus at seven Walmart locations across the state beginning Friday, in an effort to increase the state’s testing capacity as officials plan its return to normal life.

“More testing creates more data,” Murphy said, “and more data allows us to take more steps forward.”

Residents will have to self administer the tests, which will take two days to process, Murphy said. They will be available at drive through locations in Walmart stores across the state, including in Burlington and Mount Laurel.

Testing will be available by appointment only and three days a week, weather permitting.

Testing capacity is a critical component to Murphy’s reopening plan. New Jersey must be able to conduct 20,000 tests per day by the end of May to continue on its path towards reopening.

— Pranshu Verma

1:10 PM - May 20, 2020
1:10 PM - May 20, 2020

Pennsylvania distributes $51 million to help child care providers reopen

Pennsylvania will distribute $51 million in funding to nearly 7,000 child care centers across the commonwealth, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday.

The money — part of the $106 million Pennsylvania received for child care through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act — is intended to assist licensed providers prepare to open for business as counties move to the “yellow” phase of the state’s reopening plan.

Philadelphia child care providers will receive $11,146,700 — the largest single-county sum statewide. Montgomery County will receive $3,587,200; Delaware County $2,603,800; and Bucks County $2,359,600.

“Child care providers are the backbone of our economy in many ways,” Wolf said in a statement. “Without their work, children would miss out on an introduction to education that helps them throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, and parents and guardians may have to stay home or not pursue education themselves. I cannot understate how valuable this work is to local communities and the commonwealth as a whole, and as Pennsylvania reopens, we need a robust and healthy child care system.”

— Oona Goodin-Smith

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

Progress reported for coronavirus vaccines from Jefferson and Wistar, skepticism about Moderna

(left to right) Faraz Zaidi, project manager, and Daniel Park, Penn graduate student, do a western blot analysis to compare different versions of the Coronavirus vaccine at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, Pa., on Friday, February 7, 2020.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
(left to right) Faraz Zaidi, project manager, and Daniel Park, Penn graduate student, do a western blot analysis to compare different versions of the Coronavirus vaccine at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, Pa., on Friday, February 7, 2020.

Around the world, more than 100 coronavirus vaccine candidates are in development, as the need for a pandemic panacea grows ever more desperate.

Here are updates from three promising experimental immunizations — two with Philadelphia roots.

— Marie McCullough

12:09 PM - May 20, 2020
12:09 PM - May 20, 2020

Pennsylvania SNAP benefits can soon be used for grocery delivery

Pennsylvanians who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can soon use them to get their groceries delivered.

The commonwealth has been approved by the federal government for a pilot program that will allow residents to use their SNAP benefits for the service through certain retailers, state officials announced Wednesday. The state still has to make system changes to allow for online SNAP payments, they said, so the service likely won’t be up and running until early June.

"Many people have been purchasing groceries online to facilitate social distancing, but SNAP recipients were not able to do so due to federal restrictions on SNAP and ecommerce,” Pennsylvania Department of Human Service Secretary Teresa Miller said in a statement. “In most cases, SNAP recipients do not have flexibility to use online purchasing for grocery delivery or curbside pick-up, potentially putting health and safety at risk during this health crisis.”

— Erin McCarthy

11:56 AM - May 20, 2020
11:56 AM - May 20, 2020

Masks, plastic barriers and social distancing enforcement will be required when Pa. casinos reopen under state guidelines

Tobias Morales disinfects gaming machines in preparation for the reopening of Lucky Star Casino after a temporary shutdown due to coronavirus concerns in Concho, Okla. Pennsylvania casinos will have to step up cleaning and install plexiglass barriers between slot machines to be able to reopen.
Sue Ogrocki / AP
Tobias Morales disinfects gaming machines in preparation for the reopening of Lucky Star Casino after a temporary shutdown due to coronavirus concerns in Concho, Okla. Pennsylvania casinos will have to step up cleaning and install plexiglass barriers between slot machines to be able to reopen.

Pennsylvania’s casinos received guidance Wednesday on how they can safely reopen from the coronavirus shutdown when given the green light by Gov. Tom Wolf.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released a 10-page document that laid out requirements the venues must meet before opening their doors to the public again once their county goes into the green phase.

Patrons will be required to wear masks, discouraged from wearing hats, and observed by casino staff for signs of illness, according to the guidelines. A six-foot social distance will be enforced between people on the casino floor, and casinos may have to adjust occupancy rates to ensure this distance can be maintained.

Plexiglass barriers will have to be installed between slot machines, which will be frequently wiped down, according to the guidelines, and all patrons and staff at table games must keep their masks on and maintain a safe distance between each other.

Employees must receive coronavirus training, and appoint a Pandemic Safety Officer to whom colleagues can report confirmed cases of the coronavirus, as well as questions and concerns.

The requirements apply to the commonwealth’s 12 casinos, which include Harrah’s in Chester, Parx in Bensalem, Valley Forge Casino and Resort in King of Prussia, and Rivers Casino (formerly Sugar House) in Philadelphia. The casinos will have to send the board confirmation that they have met these requirements before reopening.

— Erin McCarthy

10:45 AM - May 20, 2020
10:45 AM - May 20, 2020

Six Flags Great Adventure sets May 30 as opening day for its safari attraction

In this undated file photo, visitors in a Jeep encounter a giraffe during their drive through Wild Safari at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, N.J. After operating a guided "off-road" truck tour, the attraction is returning to individual vehicle drive through tours due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this undated file photo, visitors in a Jeep encounter a giraffe during their drive through Wild Safari at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, N.J. After operating a guided "off-road" truck tour, the attraction is returning to individual vehicle drive through tours due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Six Flags Great Adventure’s safari attraction will reopen Saturday May 30 as a revamped drive-through experience, in accordance with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s COVID-19 crisis orders.

The Jackson Township park announced the change last week but didn’t initially set an opening date. Six Flags Great Adventure’s theme park and water park remain closed, awaiting further instruction from the state about safe reopening.

The self-guided safari tour will feature new health and safety measures, Six Flags said Wednesday in a statement. All guests will have to make online reservations in advance (beginning at 10 a.m. May 27), the park said, and they will have no contact with staff during their visit except through closed car windows. Anyone who violates the social-distancing rules will be ejected, Six Flags said, and possibly prosecuted.

— Erin McCarthy

9:12 AM - May 20, 2020
9:12 AM - May 20, 2020

‘Don’t Be a Knucklehead’ Gov. Murphy catchphrase to become T-shirt

You’ll soon be able to sport a “Don’t Be a Knucklehead” T-shirt if you want to encourage social distancing during your summertime outings.

The New Jersey Democratic State Committee is launching the sale in a nod to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who habitually uses the term “knucklehead” to describe people who aren’t following public health guidelines in the Garden State.

The shirts won’t go on sale until next month, but the committee is asking people to vote online now for their favorite “Don’t Be a Knucklehead” design.

The choices include a highway alert sign, a New Jersey license plate, a green “Welcome to New Jersey” road sign, and the packaging for Taylor Pork Roll. The winning design will be announced June 1. Proceeds from the sale will go to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, which supports vulnerable residents with medical and financial needs during the coronavirus outbreak.

— Erin McCarthy

8:40 AM - May 20, 2020
8:40 AM - May 20, 2020

Study finds steep falloff in child vaccination rates amid the COVID-19 pandemic

As pediatricians continue to urge parents not to delay their children’s well visits over coronavirus fears, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study indicates there’s been a steep drop in the number of children getting needed vaccines for preventable diseases during the pandemic.

In Michigan, up-to-date vaccinations declined for all age groups, according to the study, but the drop-off was particularly steep for babies five months old or younger. Fewer than half of children in that age group are up-to-date on vaccinations this month, the researchers found, compared to two-thirds of them pre-pandemic.

Angela Shen, a Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia research scientist who co-authored the study, told the New York Times it likely has broader implications for the entire country.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine, who has a background in pediatrics, earlier this month echoed the concerns of her fellow medical professionals and encouraged Pennsylvania parents not to put off immunizations.

“Vaccines are a great way to protect yourself and protect your family from dangerous, life-threatening diseases,” she said. “We want to make sure we don’t have a secondary health crisis because of a delay in vaccinations. These are very real threats.”

— Erin McCarthy

6:00 AM - May 20, 2020
6:00 AM - May 20, 2020

The owner of Hahnemann hospital says he’s not the coronavirus villain you think he is

A pedestrian walks by the vandalized home in Philadelphia of Joel Freeman, owner of Hahnemann Hospital building, in early April.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
A pedestrian walks by the vandalized home in Philadelphia of Joel Freeman, owner of Hahnemann Hospital building, in early April.

For Philadelphia activists looking for a villain, Joel Freedman fits the profile.

The private equity owner of the Hahnemann University Hospital building drew an angry Bernie Sanders to the City of Brotherly Love after the safety-net hospital filed for bankruptcy last July.

But by March, when city officials and the California businessman started talking about using the shuttered facility for Philadelphia’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, the outrage and vitriol aimed at Freedman over the hospital closure had died down.

Then Freedman offered the hospital for rent at $410,000 per month — plus $400,000 to $500,000 in building operating expenses. Mayor Jim Kenney, who didn’t like the offer, accused Freeman of “trying to make a buck” out of the pandemic, even as city officials say they knew early on that the building was not suitable for overflow hospital beds in the event of a surge in critically ill COVID-19 patients.

Freedman, who has barely spoken to the media in over a year, told The Inquirer in an interview that he would have lost $600,000 a month if the city had taken his offer. And with $100 million in debt secured by the Hahnemann property, he said, he did not have a lot of flexibility in what he could do with the facility.

— Harold Brubaker

5:30 AM - May 20, 2020
5:30 AM - May 20, 2020

What’s a cat cafe to do during the coronavirus pandemic? Here’s how Philly’s are coping.

A cat takes a snooze at Le Cat Cafe in pre-pandemic times.
Courtesy Le Cat Cafe
A cat takes a snooze at Le Cat Cafe in pre-pandemic times.

For nearly a week in March, 14-year-old Sweetie was the last cat standing at Kawaii Kitty Cafe. Her 11 comrades had already found homes for the coronavirus quarantine. She waited.

Day and night, she roamed the small Queen Village feline lounge, which would be hosting coffee-drinking, cat-loving visitors if not for the pandemic that was rapidly shutting down the city outside its windows.

“She was definitely enjoying having her own apartment,” owner Kristin Eissler said. Within a few days, Sweetie was adopted, joining the growing number of pets who have received homes amid the crisis. Now, the cafe sits empty and quiet.

For nearly a week in March, 14-year-old Sweetie was the last cat standing at Kawaii Kitty Cafe. Her 11 comrades had already found homes for the coronavirus quarantine. She waited.

Day and night, she roamed the small Queen Village feline lounge, which would be hosting coffee-drinking, cat-loving visitors if not for the pandemic that was rapidly shutting down the city outside its windows.

While both Le Cat Cafe and Kawaii Kitty Cafe are closed, they’ve had no trouble finding homes, at least temporary ones, for their usual residents. They’re continuing with fosters and adoptions, by appointment only and with limited contact.

— Erin McCarthy

5:00 AM - May 20, 2020
5:00 AM - May 20, 2020

Coronavirus trends are ‘quite encouraging’ in Philly as N.J. allows in-person car sales, bike service to resume

The number of New Jersey coronavirus patients in critical care dropped below 1,000 for the first time since early April, and progress in slowing the spread of the virus also strengthened in Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Wolf cleared the real estate industry to resume in-person activity statewide, including in counties that have not yet moved into the first phase of reopening.

Pennsylvania also revealed new data Tuesday on coronavirus cases and deaths in long-term-care facilities, and reported the state’s first confirmed pediatric death. A child who was not a Pennsylvania resident died of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth, said Health Secretary Rachel Levine, who reported 119 deaths Tuesday, bringing the state’s total to 4,624, and 610 newly confirmed cases, meaning 63,666 Pennsylvanians have tested positive in total.

“We do consider this a very positive trend,” Levine said of the Commonwealth’s decreasing new case counts. “We have been successful in terms of continuing to bend … the curve.”

The numbers “are quite encouraging” in Philadelphia, too, said Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.

In New Jersey, the governor reported 1,055 new positive tests for a statewide total of 149,013, and 162 deaths for a confirmed death toll of 10,586.

— Justine McDaniel, Erin McCarthy and Pranshu Verma

4:30 AM - May 20, 2020
4:30 AM - May 20, 2020

Today’s Inquirer Front Page

The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Wednesday, May 20, 2020