6:00 AM - May 23, 2020
6:00 AM - May 23, 2020

Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus updates here

For the latest coronavirus updates for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, click here.

10:59 PM - May 22, 2020
10:59 PM - May 22, 2020

Coronavirus closures send Atlantic City casino profits down 65%

This June 20, 2019 photo shows people playing slot machines at the Hard Rock casino in Atlantic City N.J. The coronavirus outbreak led Atlantic City's nine casinos to their biggest monthly revenue decline ever in April 2020, down nearly 69% from a year earlier.(AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
Wayne Parry / AP
This June 20, 2019 photo shows people playing slot machines at the Hard Rock casino in Atlantic City N.J. The coronavirus outbreak led Atlantic City's nine casinos to their biggest monthly revenue decline ever in April 2020, down nearly 69% from a year earlier.(AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

Atlantic City’s casinos saw their gross operating profits fall by more than 65% in the first quarter of this year, according to figures released Friday.

The statistics cover only the first two weeks of casino closures due to the coronavirus outbreak; second-quarter earnings are sure to be worse because the casinos have been shut all of April and, so far, May, with no reopening date scheduled.

READ MORE:

— Associated Press

9:27 PM - May 22, 2020
9:27 PM - May 22, 2020

If transportation is essential, why has taking a driving test been so difficult in Pennsylvania?

Ronit Tehrani, left and Edward Kraftmann at their Driven2Drive Oaks location.Tuesday, May 19, 2020
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Ronit Tehrani, left and Edward Kraftmann at their Driven2Drive Oaks location.Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Lynda Crew, 59, wants to drive her 2018 Jeep Renegade.

She doesn’t want to take her grandkids on SEPTA, she said, and rideshare is expensive. But when Crew can get behind the wheel has been up in the air. She needs to learn how to drive first.

Crew, living in the Northeast with her daughter, scheduled lessons with Driven2Drive in late March to prepare for a driver’s test in April. As the region came to a standstill amid the coronavirus, plans were put on hold.

“When I decide to get them,” she said, “then they want to shut the world down.”

— Patricia Madej

8:20 PM - May 22, 2020
8:20 PM - May 22, 2020

Archdiocese to resume daily and Sunday Masses on June 6

Archbishop Nelson J. Perez greets representatives from Blessed Trinity Elementary School after they received chrome books from the technology team from the Archdiocese Office of Catholic Education in April.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Archbishop Nelson J. Perez greets representatives from Blessed Trinity Elementary School after they received chrome books from the technology team from the Archdiocese Office of Catholic Education in April.

Archbishop Nelson Pérez announced Friday night on Facebook that he expected the celebration of daily and Sunday Masses to resume on June 6, a Saturday.

Pérez said the “projected” reopening of Masses was based on Gov. Tom Wolf announcing earlier Friday that the five-county region of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is expected to move into the state “yellow” phase of reopening June 5.

“The administration of the Archdiocese has been working in consultation with public health officials to ensure that such a resumption takes place within the context of state approved guidelines and is actively working to provide appropriate guidance to its clergy so that all will be as prepared as possible when the public celebration of Mass begins again,” Pérez said. "All of us are eager to open the doors of Church wide for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.”

The celebration of public Mass was suspended in mid-March in response to the spreading pandemic.

Pérez noted that the churches in the archdiocese remained opened since then for private prayer and other needs at the discretion of the local pastor and with respect for guidelines from public health officials.

Protesters last Sunday urged the archdiocese to resume Masses.

— Robert Moran

7:51 PM - May 22, 2020
7:51 PM - May 22, 2020

Private buses carry people to Broadway and Florida spring training. But can they endure the pandemic?

Trans-Bridge Lines buses idled because of the pandemic.
Trans-Bridge Lines Inc.
Trans-Bridge Lines buses idled because of the pandemic.

Owners of other private bus and shuttle companies which get hundreds of millions of Americans from one place to another on charters or regular commuter runs fear what the future holds even as the economy reopens haltingly. Some bus and shuttle operators may not make it through the pandemic and those that do could be far smaller firms, executives say.

Tourism, a big source of revenue, could take months or years to recover. Commuters will be loath to ride on full buses, which will convert profitable routes to money-losers. Colleges, also a big source of revenue, are debating how and whether to open in the fall.

— Bob Fernandez

7:10 PM - May 22, 2020
7:10 PM - May 22, 2020

In New Jersey’s most rural county, many officials and business owners press to reopen

Cowtown Rodeo in Pilesgrove, New Jersey.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Cowtown Rodeo in Pilesgrove, New Jersey.

There were no tumbleweeds blowing through Salem County Wednesday morning, but a steady wind made the creeks ripple and reeds bend along the back roads. At the Cowtown Rodeo and its adjacent flea market, no bulls were bucking, no customers bartering.

In the small, historic city of Salem, where a stately 600-year-old oak tree finally fell last year, the iconic Salem Oak Diner sat closed across the street, Easter decorations still in the windows. A sign on the door said, “We hope to see you all back soon,” but residents are concerned the closure will be permanent.

That’s the way things are going in the rest of New Jersey’s most rural county, too — a steady and quiet limbo until New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy lifts COVID-19 restrictions there. Business owners and elected officials in this county of 62,300 are hoping they can get special consideration, pointing out that Salem County is very different from the rest of the densely populated state. On Wednesday night, during the monthly meeting, the board of elected freeholders passed a resolution urging Murphy to reopen the county, describing the outbreak there as “mild.”

— Jason Nark

6:56 PM - May 22, 2020
6:56 PM - May 22, 2020

South Philly residents are framing this strange era with their coronavirus-inspired window displays

Window displays are a longstanding tradition in South Philadelphia and now many reflect our coronavirus era. The home at 2211 S. 11th Street is photographed May 18, 2020.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Window displays are a longstanding tradition in South Philadelphia and now many reflect our coronavirus era. The home at 2211 S. 11th Street is photographed May 18, 2020.

Nestled among the dusty Virgin Mary statues and faded silk flowers displayed in the front windows of South Philly rowhouses, there is an elaborate painted portrait of a naked Gritty that reads: “STAY HOME! IT’S ALWAYS HAPPY HOUR AND YOU DON’T NEED PANTS!”

The artist and homeowner behind the design, Erin Turner, 40, said while she’s decorated her window for holidays before, this quarantine-and-Gritty-inspired design is her first big display.

Window displays are a longstanding tradition in South Philadelphia and now many reflect our coronavirus era. The home at 1536 S. 13th Street is photographed May 18, 2020.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Window displays are a longstanding tradition in South Philadelphia and now many reflect our coronavirus era. The home at 1536 S. 13th Street is photographed May 18, 2020.

“It brought me a lot of joy to make it, and just hearing the fun reactions from people, knowing that for this hot second they walk by this window it puts a smile on their face in this time when it’s hard to smile, it makes me happy,” Turner said.

In Philadelphia — a city of rowhouses — where front windows often serve as personal message boards and avant-garde art showcases, residents separated from the city they love and quarantined from their neighbors are creating coronavirus-themed window displays to stay connected.

— Stephanie Farr

6:13 PM - May 22, 2020
6:13 PM - May 22, 2020

Coronavirus spreads mainly between people, not via surfaces, CDC says. But nothing is certain.

A woman shows the plastic gloves she is wearing while she grocery shops on South Street in Philadelphia, March 18, 2020.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
A woman shows the plastic gloves she is wearing while she grocery shops on South Street in Philadelphia, March 18, 2020.

The federal government came a tiny bit closer this week to stating that person-to-person contact, not contaminated surfaces, is the real coronavirus infection threat.

Although still frustratingly short on certainty, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website now states, in headline-size type, “The virus spreads easily between people.”

And it adds a new heading: “The virus does not spread easily in other ways" — among them, from touching surfaces or objects.

So if you are still disinfecting every item that comes into your home, whether you continue is still up to you. But the agency still is very definite on the importance of social distancing, hand-washing, and mask wearing.

— Tom Avril

5:23 PM - May 22, 2020
5:23 PM - May 22, 2020

Reopening Pa. restaurants, hair salons, malls, gyms can only operate at 50% occupancy, new guidelines say

Milkboy, a bar-restaurant-music venue, is photographed in Center City Philadelphia on Wednesday, May 13, 2020.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Milkboy, a bar-restaurant-music venue, is photographed in Center City Philadelphia on Wednesday, May 13, 2020.

Once Pennsylvania restaurants, hair salons, malls, and gyms reopen to in-person services, they can operate only at 50% of their occupancy, according to Wolf administration guidelines.

After Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday announced the first 17 counties to move into the green phase next week — all are in north and central Pennsylvania — the administration added new guidelines to its webpage indicating that some businesses allowed to reopen in that phase will have occupancy restrictions.

In the green phase, large recreational gatherings remain restricted and restaurants and bars, as well as entertainment establishments — like casinos, theaters, and malls — may open to in-person service, but only at 50% occupancy.

The same goes for personal care services — including salons and barbershops — that must operate on an appointment-only basis.

Indoor recreation facilities, gyms, and spas can open at 50% capacity and appointments are “strongly encouraged.”

— Anna Orso

4:53 PM - May 22, 2020
4:53 PM - May 22, 2020

Kenney: Philadelphia to provide more guidance on move to ‘yellow’ phase, city ‘not yet out of the woods’

Mayor Jim Kenney puts his face mask back on after speaking at a press conference at the almost completed coronavirus facility at the Liacouras Center, in Philadelphia, April 10, 2020.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Mayor Jim Kenney puts his face mask back on after speaking at a press conference at the almost completed coronavirus facility at the Liacouras Center, in Philadelphia, April 10, 2020.

As state leaders announced Friday that the Philadelphia region will loosen some coronavirus restrictions by June 5, Mayor Jim Kenney expressed cautious hope.

“It’s clear from the Commonwealth’s action that the work of Philadelphians — complying with the Stay at Home Order, social distancing, practicing good hygiene, and wearing masks — has put us in a much safer position than we were in two months ago,” Kenney said in a statement. “We successfully flattened the curve to prevent a hospital surge, and we undoubtedly slowed the spread of COVID-19 and saved many lives. I cannot thank our residents and business owners enough for their tremendous sacrifices during this extremely challenging time.”

But, Kenney said, the hard-hit city is “not yet out of the woods.”

“The virus is still very present in our communities, and as we’ve seen, it disproportionately impacts people of color who suffer from chronic health conditions at a greater rate, making treating a COVID infection even harder,” he said.

Because the coronavirus can resurge at any time, Kenney said residents should remain vigilant and continue to wear masks, limit gatherings, work from home when possible, and “look out for one another.”

Any reopening “should be done in a safe way” and gradually under forthcoming city guidelines, said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. Officials will constantly evaluate data to examine “whether we have gone too far or the spread of the virus is picking up again,” Farley said.

The city will release further guidelines on the move to the “yellow” phase next week, Kenney said.

Philadelphia’s stay-at-home order remains in full effect until June 5.

— Oona Goodin-Smith, Laura McCrystal

4:24 PM - May 22, 2020
4:24 PM - May 22, 2020

Levine: Pennsylvania’s initial reopening metric ‘less critical’ as testing increases

As Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced that all red counties will move to the “yellow” phase of the state’s tiered reopening plan, State Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Friday that the benchmark of 50 new cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days is “less critical” as a metric as testing volume increases.

Levine said all counties entering the green phase next Friday have been able to stay in the yellow zone for at least 14 days without seeing an increase in infection rate. Guidance for best practices in green counties will be released next week, she said.

“The 17 counties going to green have been able to maintain the yellow metrics for 14 days showing they are ready to make this move to the green phase,” Levine said. “As we increase testing, a specific incidence rate such as the 50 per 100,000 is less critical now as a metric. Remember there have always been numerous metrics being used to move counties to yellow.”

“As we’ve said many times, the 50 per 100,000 … I’m not sure why that was fixed upon, that was one of many statistics that we had,” Wolf said. “We feel confident by that date, June 5, Philadelphia will be in the position that its citizens can safely move into the yellow phase.”

— Erin McCarthy

4:04 PM - May 22, 2020
4:04 PM - May 22, 2020

Wolf: Philadelphia region will move to ‘yellow’ phase, loosen some restrictions on June 5

Philadelphia and its collar counties will move to the first phase of reopening on June 5, despite not yet reaching one of Gov. Tom Wolf’s main benchmarks for reopening, the governor announced Friday, confirming an Inquirer and Spotlight PA report.

In the yellow phase, most businesses can reopen and stay-at-home orders are lifted. People can reunite with relatives and friends in small-group settings no larger than 25 people. Child-care centers can reopen with restrictions, but restaurants must stick to takeout and delivery only.

Additionally, eight other counties will move to yellow next Friday, the same day 18 counties that are currently in yellow will move to the least-restrictive green phase, in which all businesses can operate as long as they follow public-health guidelines. Restrictions on sporting events and concert venues still remain in the green phase.

The counties moving to yellow in a week are Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, and Schuylkill. The counties that will move to green that day are Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango, and Warren.

A week later, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties will move to yellow, as will Berks, Lancaster, Lackawanna, Lehigh, and Northampton.

Chester County commissioners said if residents remain cautious and follow public health guidance, the area should enter the unrestricted green phase no later than the end of June.

“This will allow every Pennsylvanian in our commonwealth to resume a more normal life without constant fear of contracting COVID-19,” Wolf said in announcing his decision, citing a declining number of patients hospitalized and on ventilators, as well as an increase in testing.

In the green phase, the governor said people still should wear masks. While bars and restaurants will reopen, there will be capacity limits. Nursing home visits will be restricted, he said, and people will be encouraged to telework if possible.

“My stay-at-home order did exactly what it intended to do," Wolf said. “It saved lives.”

— Erin McCarthy

3:59 PM - May 22, 2020
3:59 PM - May 22, 2020

Pennsylvania gives guidance for kids’ camps, playdates, team sports in the yellow phase

At the Summer of Science events, kids explore various topics through hands-on activities at their local libraries.
GlaxoSmithKline and the Franklin Institute
At the Summer of Science events, kids explore various topics through hands-on activities at their local libraries.

On Friday, Gov. Tom Wolf released guidelines about what summer programs will look like as Pennsylvania continues to reopen. The guidelines are designed to help parents begin to sketch out what their children’s summer will look like as more and we move from red, shelter-in-place mode to the cautious, but perhaps-you-can-have-a-playdate yellow phase.

So what will be allowed and what does that mean for our kids? What does camp look like? Can kids who live on the same block play with each other?

One thing is clear: even with loosening restrictions, this summer will look different. Generally, the guidance boils down to this: It’s safe for parents to think of the yellow phase like traffic light; it’s about taking it slowly. And what that looks like will depend on your risk tolerance.

— Elizabeth Wellington

3:56 PM - May 22, 2020
3:56 PM - May 22, 2020

As Trump calls for churches to reopen now, dozens of N.J. pastors threaten to sue Gov. Murphy

After the service Clementon Bible Baptist Church Pastor Andy Reese thanked supporters for coming out to the church on May 20, 2020. The Clementon Bible Baptist Church defied the shutdown order and held in-person services on Sunday and again today.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
After the service Clementon Bible Baptist Church Pastor Andy Reese thanked supporters for coming out to the church on May 20, 2020. The Clementon Bible Baptist Church defied the shutdown order and held in-person services on Sunday and again today.

As President Donald Trump on Friday called on governors to allow houses of worship to reopen this weekend, dozens of New Jersey pastors signed a message to Gov. Phil Murphy asking him to deem them “essential” and threatening a lawsuit on constitutional grounds.

And at least two South Jersey churches aren’t planning to wait for Murphy’s blessing — they’ll be open Sunday for in-person services.

Churches, synagogues and mosques in New Jersey were never deemed “nonessential.” But houses of worship have been effectively closed to services, as gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited as part of measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus. On Friday, Murphy announced groups of up to 25 people can gather outdoors, and last week established a framework for drive-up services, but he said restrictions on indoor gatherings will remain.

Most churches have livestreamed services or facilitated small groups via video conference, but some religious leaders say that’s not enough. On Friday, the Family Police Alliance of New Jersey, a Christian faith-based political organization, delivered a letter to Murphy’s office on behalf of scores of Garden State pastors threatening to file a lawsuit if churches aren’t allowed to reopen by Wednesday.

— Anna Orso

3:25 PM - May 22, 2020
3:25 PM - May 22, 2020

Should coronavirus lockdown protesters waive their medical care? Some medical ethicists think so.

ReOpen PA demonstrator holds-up her sign during a protest on the steps of the Pa. State Capital Building in Harrisburg on Friday, May 15, 2020.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
ReOpen PA demonstrator holds-up her sign during a protest on the steps of the Pa. State Capital Building in Harrisburg on Friday, May 15, 2020.

After watching footage of an anti-lockdown protest in Michigan, Dominic Sisti, a Penn Medicine medical ethicist, started imagining a disturbing scenario: Suppose he took a rule-following relative who was sick with the coronavirus to the hospital. The relative needed a ventilator, but all the machines were used up by protesters who had refused to wear masks and had attacked public health restrictions meant to protect everyone.

That led to a provocative essay in Harrisburg’s Patriot-News that lends academic weight to an idea that has been making the rounds on social media as anti-maskers have become more visible. Sisti and three fellow bioethicists — Emily Largent of Penn Medicine, Moti Gorin of Colorado State University, and Arthur Caplan at New York University — argued that protesters should voluntarily sign documents saying that they won’t accept scarce medical care if they get sick.

“We’re not arguing that hospitals should refuse to treat people,” Gorin said. “We’re saying that people should put their money where their mouth is.”

— Stacey Burling

3:07 PM - May 22, 2020
3:07 PM - May 22, 2020

Pennsylvania prisons to begin lifting lockdowns without universal testing

SCI Phoenix
SAMANTHA MELAMED / File Photograph
SCI Phoenix

Pennsylvania state prisons — which have been locked down for nearly two months, keeping most prisoners in their cells at least 23 hours a day — will begin returning to a new normal on May 26 as coronavirus infections ebb across much of the state.

“I don’t think it’s smart to keep a whole system locked down,” Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said Friday, outlining a plan that would gradually increase movement of prisoners as counties across Pennsylvania start to reopen. The plan includes quarantining new arrivals, as well as testing those being transferred or released. However, it does not include universal testing because, in Wetzel’s view, the tests can be inaccurate.

— Samantha Melamed

2:14 PM - May 22, 2020
2:14 PM - May 22, 2020

Trump demands governors allow churches to reopen ‘now’

The sign in front of Ocean City’s Holy Trinity Episcopal Church reads CHURCH CLOSED FURTHER NOTICE on May 15, 2020.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
The sign in front of Ocean City’s Holy Trinity Episcopal Church reads CHURCH CLOSED FURTHER NOTICE on May 15, 2020.

In brief remarks at the White House, President Donald Trump ordered governors to allow churches to reopen immediately, declaring them “essential places that provide essential services.”

“The governors need to do the right things and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend," Trump demanded Friday afternoon. "If they don’t do it, I will override the governors."

Trump said the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention would be issuing new guidance for allowing churches to reopen. It’s unclear how Trump could override emergency orders put in place by states’ governors. Trump left the stage without taking questions.

In Pennsylvania, churches can open their doors and hold services in counties that have reached the state’s “yellow” reopening phase, but gatherings are limited to 25 people. In New Jersey, churches are barred from holding in-person services indoors, but can hold outdoor services limited to 25 people.

On Friday, Wolf said individual church leaders in Pennsylvania made the call to close their doors to keep their communities safe.

“We never shut down the religious organizations," Wolf said. "We did however shut down liquor stores.”

"Inside — no ventilation, close contact — it’s a hard nut to crack,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said during a press briefing on Wednesday. “We are just not there yet as a public-health matter.”

Some conservative commentators, including on Fox News, have criticized other governors, including Murphy, for keeping liquor stores open as essential businesses while indoor church services were halted.

— Rob Tornoe, Erin McCarthy

2:09 PM - May 22, 2020
2:09 PM - May 22, 2020

Courts around the Philly region are inching toward a busier — and more digital — new normal

Delaware County Courthouse.
JOSE MORENO / Staff Photographer
Delaware County Courthouse.

Courts across the Philadelphia region, which have been largely shut down since the coronavirus took hold in March, are planning to resume varying levels of activity starting in June.

Many of the proceedings will be aided by phone or videoconferencing — a relative leap forward for an institution that has often been slow to embrace new technologies. Proceedings in Pennsylvania had previously been barred from being recorded on audio or video, but that dam was at least partially breached this week when the state Supreme Court, for the first time in its 298-year history, held remote oral arguments streamed on YouTube.

In coming weeks, court officials in Philadelphia are aiming to start holding preliminary hearings via videoconference, Common Pleas Court President Judge Idee C. Fox said in an interview — a key step in starting to allow criminal cases to begin to move through the system again.

— Chris Palmer, Julie Shaw

1:29 PM - May 22, 2020
1:29 PM - May 22, 2020

Sources: All Pennsylvania counties will be in ‘yellow’ coronavirus reopening phase by June 5 under Wolf administration plan

Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania speaks at a news conference at Pennsylvania Emergency Management Headquarters.
Marc Levy / AP
Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania speaks at a news conference at Pennsylvania Emergency Management Headquarters.

Pennsylvania counties still under strict coronavirus restrictions — including hard-hit Philadelphia and its suburbs — will move to the “yellow” reopening phase by June 5 at the latest, according to three sources with knowledge of the Wolf administration’s plans.

Under Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan, 49 of 67 counties are already in the yellow phase, or the first phase of reopening, in which most but not all businesses can reopen. In the yellow phase, limitations on public gatherings remain, and restaurants and bars remain closed to in-person business. Gyms, salons, malls, and movie theaters also remain closed.

A spokesperson for Wolf was not immediately available for comment. The governor is expected to speak at a news conference today at 4 p.m.

— Anna Orso, Angela Couloumbis, Chris Brennan

1:27 PM - May 22, 2020
1:27 PM - May 22, 2020

Video: Deemed essential, immigrant health-care workers worry about the future of DACA

— Lauren Schneiderman

1:21 PM - May 22, 2020
1:21 PM - May 22, 2020

Health official: Philly’s 'new normal’ will include crowd limits, barriers, masks

Kate Jacobi, from Mural Arts Philadelphia, and John Coyle, store manager install spacing decals as a part of the Space Pad Project at the Shop Rite on West Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia, Pa. on Friday, April 3, 2020. Mural Arts Philadelphia hired artists to design the pieces to encourage customers to stand at least six feet apart.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Kate Jacobi, from Mural Arts Philadelphia, and John Coyle, store manager install spacing decals as a part of the Space Pad Project at the Shop Rite on West Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia, Pa. on Friday, April 3, 2020. Mural Arts Philadelphia hired artists to design the pieces to encourage customers to stand at least six feet apart.

As Philadelphia gets closer to reopening its economy, residents should prepare for a “new normal” that includes changes to everyday life to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Friday.

Adjustments will include limits on the number of people in one indoor space together, plexiglass barriers people to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets, decals on store floors for spacing in lines, and the use of masks, Farley said.

“Whenever we reopen, however we reopen, there will be a new normal,” he said.

Farley’s warning about the new normal came as Gov. Tom Wolf was set to announce that all counties in the state would move into the first phase of reopening by June 5, according to sources familiar with the plans.

“If our case rates continue to go down there may be things that Philadelphia can do safely,” Farley said.

Mayor Jim Kenney said data should dictate when the city is ready to reopen, and said he would work with leaders of surrounding counties.

“We’d like to walk this same route together,” Kenney said.

Farley reported 309 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, bringing the city’s total number of cases to 21,009. He also reported 56 new deaths of Philadelphia residents. A total of 1,221 Philadelphians have now died after having the coronavirus.

“Overall, the trend is still down,” Farley said.

Farley said he will also consider other metrics in addition to the rate of new cases as officials make decisions on easing restrictions.

“It’s also how many hospital beds are available, for example, and how much testing we’re doing,” he said.

— Laura McCrystal

12:44 PM - May 22, 2020
12:44 PM - May 22, 2020

PPE vending machines could come to Philly as the region preps for reopening

A photo of a RapidMasks2Go mask vending machine in New York.
Courtesy RapidMasks2Go
A photo of a RapidMasks2Go mask vending machine in New York.

As the Philadelphia region wonders what life will be like after the coronavirus shutdown, a New York company says that new normal could include mask vending machines.

David Edelman, cofounder of RapidMasks2Go, has reached out to Philly officials, as first reported by Billy Penn, in hopes of bringing his creation to several city locations.

“We recognize for our cities to reopen we’re going to need these masks,” he said. “It’s not that this is your everyday mask. It’s a solution for when you’ve gone out and forgotten your cloth mask.”

These vending machines operate the same way traditional ones do, he said, but instead of buying snacks or drinks, customers can purchase KN95 masks — the Chinese standard for masks, not the medical-grade respirators used on the front lines of the pandemic.

— Erin McCarthy

12:40 PM - May 22, 2020
12:40 PM - May 22, 2020

Treasurer: New Jersey potentially facing $10 billion shortfall due to coronavirus

Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio said New Jersey is potentially facing a shortfall of nearly $10 billion through the end of June 2021 because of the coronavirus, calling this “uncharted territory.”

The Treasury Department is forecasting a 33% decline in sales tax collections from May through July over the same period of last year. In the worst sales-tax month during the Great Recession of 2008-2009, she said, there was a decline of 18.4%.

She said New Jersey will need budget tightening, more borrowing, and “much more robust” federal assistance. A budget report will be released later Friday, she said.

“It has not been easy. Our challenges like yours, are real and quite frankly they’re like nothing most of us have ever witnessed before,” she said. “It’s going to require some tough decisions.”

— Ellie Silverman

12:38 PM - May 22, 2020
12:38 PM - May 22, 2020

New Jersey FEMA coronavirus testing sites extended through end of June

New Jersey has received approval for an extension of its FEMA-partnered testing sites at Bergen Community College in Bergen County and the PNC Bank Arts Center in Monmouth County, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday. Testing is now extended through the end of June and capacity of testing will be increased, he said.

Public colleges and universities will also be receiving a total of $68.8 million in federal CARES Act funding to help cover coronavirus-related expenses, he said.

— Ellie Silverman

12:33 PM - May 22, 2020
12:33 PM - May 22, 2020

Murphy: Coronavirus hospitalizations continue to decrease in New Jersey

New hospitalizations, and patients in the hospital, in the ICU and on ventilators are all significantly down since New Jersey’s peak, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday.

New hospitalizations, as of May 21, were 151, compared to 259 discharges, Murphy reported.

“Every trend we need to see to move along our road back we are seeing. Every key indicator is down from the peak,” Murphy said. “As we enter this weekend, yes please enjoy it but don’t get complacent. keep up with your social distancing and wear a face covering please if you’re going out.”

Murphy also announced 1,394 more confirmed coronavirus cases for a total of 152,719 in the state and another 146 COVID-19 deaths, for a total of 10,985 people confirmed to have died from the coronavirus in New Jersey.

— Ellie Silverman

12:26 PM - May 22, 2020
12:26 PM - May 22, 2020

Chester County to host sessions helping businesses prepare for reopening

A small group of protestors gather outside the Chester County Courthouse at Market and High St asking for the Governor of Pennsylvania to reopen businesses on Thursday, May 14, 2020.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
A small group of protestors gather outside the Chester County Courthouse at Market and High St asking for the Governor of Pennsylvania to reopen businesses on Thursday, May 14, 2020.

Chester County will on Tuesday host the first of a series of sessions to prepare its business to reopen.

The webinar will educate business owners about potential areas of risks, county officials said, and offer suggested operational modifications to protect employees and customers.

The free session, led by Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security analyst Lucia Mullen and county commissioners, will be held at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. It can be accessed on the county website.

Among Philadelphia and its collar counties, Chester County is the closest to reaching one of Gov. Tom Wolf’s benchmarks for the initial reopening stage — having fewer than 50 new reported cases over 14 days per 100,000 residents. However, at 113, Chester County’s number is still higher than the benchmark.

The governor is expected to announce this afternoon a new batch of counties that will soon begin to reopen.

— Erin McCarthy

11:43 AM - May 22, 2020
11:43 AM - May 22, 2020

Jimmy Kimmel and Kevin Hart surprise Philly nurse with $10,000 health-care hero award

Jimmy Kimmel and Kevin Hart surprised Philadelphia nurse Natasha Lewis with $10,000 as part of the talk show host’s efforts to support health-care workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I know you do a lot of great stuff, not just during the virus, but all throughout the year,” Kimmel told Lewis, a mother of four who cares for underserved populations, including those without insurance, at a city health center in Germantown. “Well … I have a friend who I think is from your neighborhood actually.”

Hart, the comedian and North Philadelphia native, then popped in to the virtual interview, causing Lewis to break out in laughter.

“For the City of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, to have individuals like yourself and the team that you have that are doing positive things like that, that’s as dope as dope can be to me,” Hart said.

Along with the $10,000, all the nurses in Lewis’s unit will receive free food, Kimmel said, and one million burgers will be donated to the hunger-relief charity Feeding America in her name.

— Erin McCarthy

11:34 AM - May 22, 2020
11:34 AM - May 22, 2020

Pa., N.J. unemployment rates for April set new records

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate in April skyrocketed to a record 15.1% due to business restrictions put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19, according to data released on Friday.

In New Jersey, April’s unemployment rate surged to 15.3%, surpassing the previous high of 10.7% set during the energy crisis from November 1976 to January 1977.

The new jobless numbers for Pennsylvania, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are the highest on record dating back to 1976, surpassing the 12.7% unemployment rate reached back in January and February 1983. The state’s unemployment rate during the Great Recession peaked at 8.8%.

Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak said he is optimistic the unemployment rate will begin to decline as more people head back to work under the state’s reopening plan. But right now, there’s no way of knowing what to expect from May’s unemployment rate.

“I don’t know we can predict anything. More counties are opening as of today. With construction increasing, we would hope to see it go down, but I’m not ready to predict,” Oleksiak said during a conference call Friday with reporters. “This is unprecedented times we’re in.”“

Delaware’s unemployment rate for April was 14.3%.The national unemployment rate in April rose to 14.7 percent. Nevada had the country’s highest unemployment rate at 28.2%, followed by Michigan at 22.7%. All told, 43 states set new unemployment records as a result of coronavirus closures.

— Rob Tornoe

11:23 AM - May 22, 2020
11:23 AM - May 22, 2020

Atlantic City to allow non-casino hotels, motels and short-term rentals to reopen May 29

Atlantic City will allow non-casino hotels, motels, and other short-term rentals, including Airbnbs, to operate again starting Friday, May 29 as the Jersey Shore begins to reopen for the summer tourism season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We depend on all of those economic engines to drive our revenue,” Mayor Marty Small, Sr. said Friday in a video announcement. “We are a tourist destination.”

Guidelines will be distributed to the facilities regarding mandated health and safety protocols to protect employees and visitors, officials said.

While beaches in Atlantic City never closed during the pandemic, other beaches up and down the coast did and have since reopened with different timelines and restrictions. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has given the OK for beaches to open this Memorial Day weekend despite concerns, including from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, regarding crowds.

Outside Atlantic City, some other Shore towns will allow short-term rentals as soon as Tuesday and plan to open hotels and motels in June.

— Erin McCarthy

11:08 AM - May 22, 2020
11:08 AM - May 22, 2020

N.J. Gov. Murphy increases outdoor gatherings from 10 to 25 people

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday he is signing an executive order lifting the limit on outdoor gatherings from 10 to 25 people.

“If you were looking forward to gathering with your neighbors for Memorial Day cookout you may do so,” he said in a news conference. “So long as social distancing and personal responsibility remain the order of the day.”

Gov. Phil Murphy also said he will be on the boardwalk this weekend.

“Yes, I will be somewhere, weather dependent, on the boardwalk probably doing a run and strolling a little bit with my wife somewhere in the Seaside Heights Seaside Park neighborhood.”

When asked about people sharing Shore houses as beaches reopen, Murphy reiterated that the indoor gatherings are still limited to 10 people and cautioned people from expanding beyond their quarantine “bubble.”

“I would not be sitting side by side tightly indoors with someone you have not been hanging around with yet,” Murphy said.

When people do gather, Murphy said people should social distance and wear masks. Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli also shared tips for enjoying the weekend safely, including wearing masks correctly, emphasizing that masks don’t replace social distancing, and cautioned people to avoid gathering with people outside of their household.

— Ellie Silverman

10:46 AM - May 22, 2020
10:46 AM - May 22, 2020

Hydroxychloroquine linked to increased risk of death in coronavirus patients, study says

A bottle of hydroxychloroquine tablets.
David J. Phillip / AP
A bottle of hydroxychloroquine tablets.

A study of 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients across the globe found those treated with anti-malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were more likely to die or develop dangerous heart arrhythmias, according to a study published Friday in the medical journal Lancet.

Mandeep Mehra, a Harvard Medical School professor and physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who led the study, told the Washington Post in hindsight, it was “unwise” for doctors and patients to use the drugs without systematic testing.

“I wish we had had this information at the outset,” Mehra said, “as there has potentially been harm to patients.”

The study concluded the 15,000 patients who received hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine were far more likely to die or develop serious heart conditions compared to others who did not receive the drugs:

In summary, this multinational, observational, real-world study of patients with COVID-19 requiring hospitalization found that the use of a regimen containing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine (with or without a macrolide) was associated with no evidence of benefit, but instead was associated with an increase in the risk of ventricular arrhythmias and a greater hazard for in-hospital death with COVID-19. These findings suggest that these drug regimens should not be used outside of clinical trials and urgent confirmation from randomised clinical trials is needed.
Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis

President Donald Trump has promoted hydroxychloroquine as a “game changer” and urged doctors and patients to treat coronavirus infections with the drug. Trump also announced earlier this week he is currently taking hydroxychloroquine and a zinc supplement daily to prevent himself from contracting the virus despite no evidence that the drugs works as a prophylactic.

— Rob Tornoe

10:21 AM - May 22, 2020
10:21 AM - May 22, 2020

Going to the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms can be a tough call. A Penn text program makes it easier.

University of Pennsylvania Hospital has a texting "bot" to help determine which COVID patients need to go to the hospital. Photograph taken on Monday afternoon May 18, 2020.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
University of Pennsylvania Hospital has a texting "bot" to help determine which COVID patients need to go to the hospital. Photograph taken on Monday afternoon May 18, 2020.

You’ve got the dry cough. The fever. Maybe some difficulty breathing. Then the nasal swab comes back positive for the coronavirus. Is that enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room?

When cases surged early in the pandemic, many patients were counseled to stay at home, as treatments were limited. But shortness of breath is a serious symptom. At the very least, it warrants a call to your physician.

At Penn Medicine and Main Line Health, physicians are enrolling patients in a texting program to help identify who is sick enough to come in.

— Tom Avril

9:27 AM - May 22, 2020
9:27 AM - May 22, 2020

CDC warns of ‘aggressive rodent behavior’ in cities due to coronavirus shutdowns

Cities like Philadelphia that were forced to close down restaurants to combat the spread of coronavirus might be facing a new problem: aggressive rats.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rodents rely on the food and waste generated by restaurants to survive. With many restaurants remaining closed due to coronavirus restrictions, the CDC warns of a potential increase in “unusual or aggressive rodent behavior” as the rats search for new sources of food.

Residents and business owners are encouraged to seal up access to their homes or businesses, remove debris and heavy vegetation, keep garbage in tightly covered bins, and remove pet and bird food from their yards.

In Philadelphia, you can report rats to the Department of Public Health by calling 215-685-9000.

— Rob Tornoe

9:11 AM - May 22, 2020
9:11 AM - May 22, 2020

Delaware’s beaches reopening, but out-of-staters aren’t yet welcome

Delaware beaches will open at 5 p.m. Friday for exercising, sunbathing, and swimming, but the state isn’t welcoming beachgoers from out of state.

Gov. John Carney announced earlier this week that state police will be patrolling local roads heading to the beaches to enforce the state’s travel restrictions, which prohibit out-of-state residents from entering Delaware unless they work for an essential business, are caring for a family member, or there are health-care reasons.

If you’re not from Delaware and violate Carney’s emergency order, you could be charged with a criminal offense.

But officials say the main goal is education and to prevent crowds from building up at the state’s beaches during Memorial Day weekend.

“Our emphasis and goal in enforcing the orders, specifically in regards to the travel restrictions, is to achieve voluntary compliance through education and awareness,” said Col. Nathaniel McQueen Jr., superintendent of the Delaware State Police.

Out-of-state residents who have been under quarantine in Delaware for at least 14 days are permitted to use the state’s beaches.

— Rob Tornoe

8:46 AM - May 22, 2020
8:46 AM - May 22, 2020

Bell-shaped oxygen helmets look like ‘Star Trek’ but help coronavirus patients at Penn’s hospitals

Mauricio Cereda, an intensive-care specialist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Hospital, models the space-age helmet that he says can be a key tool to fight coronavirus.
Courtesy of Mauricio Cereda
Mauricio Cereda, an intensive-care specialist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Hospital, models the space-age helmet that he says can be a key tool to fight coronavirus.

At the height of Italy’s pitched battle with the coronavirus, newscast footage from an overwhelmed hospital resembled a science-fiction film. Dozens of patients, in a hallway crowded with beds and wheelchairs, were wearing strange, transparent bell-shape helmets.

“One of the obstacles to their use is that they’re weird,” said Mauricio Cereda, a proponent of the headgear and an intensive-care specialist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. “They look like something Capt. Kirk wears in Star Trek.”

Months after the coronavirus crossed the Atlantic, so have those odd plastic hoods. And increasingly, thanks in part to the efforts of physicians like Cereda, the once-alien devices are being utilized by U.S. hospitals.

— Frank Fitzpatrick

8:15 AM - May 22, 2020
8:15 AM - May 22, 2020

Fauci explains why he’s ‘cautiously optimistic’ about coronavirus vaccine results

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the early success from the Phase 1 study of a potential coronavirus vaccine being tested by biotech company Moderna and the National Institutes of Health.

“We saw neutralizing antibodies at a reasonable dose of the vaccine, and the titers [the amount of antibodies in the blood] were high enough to get us to believe if we attain that in a large number of people, you could predict that vaccine would be protective,” Fauci said during an interview on CNN Thursday night.

“So although the numbers were quite limited, it was really quite good news because it reached and went over an important hurdle in the development of vaccines,” Fauci added.

Fauci pointed out that despite working on a vaccine for HIV for decades, researchers have not been able to cross a similar milestone.

“The body doesn’t like to make broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV. With this coroanvirus, the body readily makes it,” Fauci explained. “That’s the reason why such a large proportion of people spontaneously recover from the coronavirus."

— Rob Tornoe

6:00 AM - May 22, 2020
6:00 AM - May 22, 2020

Calls to Pennsylvania’s child-abuse hotline have plunged. Some fear fewer are watching out for kids.

Abbie Newman worries about Pennsylvania’s children. As chief executive of Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center, a child-abuse support agency in Norristown, it’s practically in her job description.

But as the coronavirus shutdowns near their third month, Newman finds herself worrying even more — about what she and her colleagues aren’t being told.

“The kids are trapped at home now,” she said. “Many people are out of work, and even if employed, they’re at home and supposed to be teaching kids in addition to doing their own work. The stress is tremendous.”

ChildLine, an abuse hotline operated by the Pennsylvania’ Department of Human Services, logged 10,674 reports in April — a 50% decrease from the same month last year.

Vinny Vella, Laura McCrystal

5:45 AM - May 22, 2020
5:45 AM - May 22, 2020

Pennsylvania is combining results of different coronavirus tests. That could be a big problem.

Scenes like this at a city-run coronavirus testing site next to Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia in March grew familiar as people clamored to find out if they had the virus.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Scenes like this at a city-run coronavirus testing site next to Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia in March grew familiar as people clamored to find out if they had the virus.

Pennsylvania is blending results from two entirely different types of coronavirus tests, an approach that boosts state testing numbers but that experts say can paint a skewed picture of COVID-19 infection rates, cases, and testing capacity.

Diagnostic tests detect coronavirus genetic material in a symptomatic patient’s respiratory sample, confirming a current infection. Antibody tests, which use blood samples, detect an immune response weeks after an infection — even if the infection caused no symptoms.

While neither test is perfect, antibody tests (also called serology tests) have been shown to miss up to half of people who previously tested positive with a diagnostic test.

Marie McCullough

5:30 AM - May 22, 2020
5:30 AM - May 22, 2020

Wolf to announce more yellow counties Friday; Pa. health secretary urges residents in red counties to not go to the Shore for Memorial Day.

The Giant Wheel at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier in Ocean City, N.J., last weekend.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
The Giant Wheel at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier in Ocean City, N.J., last weekend.

Gov. Tom Wolf planned to announce a new group of counties cleared to move from the state’s red to yellow phase for reopening on Friday, and said Thursday he also hoped to name the first counties that would go from yellow to green and enter the least-restrictive phase of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Also on Thursday, Wolf signed a bill allowing cocktails to go, and his administration announced $9 million in grants to nonprofits fighting hunger, while Philadelphia worked on plans for modified summer camps and some in the Philadelphia suburbs continued to agitate for faster reopening.

On the eve of Memorial Day weekend, Health Secretary Rachel Levine asked residents in red areas, like Southeastern Pennsylvania, to not head to the Jersey Shore or other areas of Pennsylvania that are under fewer restrictions, saying the stay-at-home order means people should stay home and long trips are not recommended.

Meanwhile, New Jersey is “moving closer” to phase two of its economic restart, Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday. However, the state still has a higher rate of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths per 100,000 residents than Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut, which is delaying its return to normal life.

— Justine McDaniel, Pranshu Verma and Erin McCarthy

5:00 AM - May 22, 2020
5:00 AM - May 22, 2020

Today’s Inquirer Front Page

The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Friday, May 22, 2020.
Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Friday, May 22, 2020.