9:00 PM - May 26, 2020
9:00 PM - May 26, 2020

Coronavirus budget cuts are a threat to the November election, Philly elections chief warns

Philadelphia City Commissioner Lisa Deeley (bottom right) and Deputy Commissioner Nick Custodio (top left) testify at a budget hearing before City Council, including Council President Darrell L. Clarke (bottom left).
Philadelphia City Council
Philadelphia City Commissioner Lisa Deeley (bottom right) and Deputy Commissioner Nick Custodio (top left) testify at a budget hearing before City Council, including Council President Darrell L. Clarke (bottom left).

Proposed coronavirus-related budget cuts in Philadelphia could jeopardize the city’s ability to properly conduct the November presidential election, its top elections official said Tuesday, delivering a stark warning as she pleaded for more money.

“Quite frankly, with the current budget that we have going on right now, we would be in danger of not being able to have the November election,” Lisa Deeley, chair of the Philadelphia city commissioners, told members of City Council during a budget hearing.

— Jonathan Lai and Laura McCrystal

7:45 PM - May 26, 2020
7:45 PM - May 26, 2020

Philly boosts coronavirus testing access for city residents who need it most

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley at Tuesday's press conference.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley at Tuesday's press conference.

Philadelphia is testing about 1,700 people a day for COVID-19, but getting ahead of the virus will take more like 5,000 tests a day, said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley on Tuesday.

The city took a step toward that goal with a new testing center at Berks and 20th Streets in North Philadelphia, which had its official opening Tuesday. It’s designed to improve access for African American and low-income residents. For a variety of reasons, both groups are at higher risk for COVID-19′s worst effects.

“It’s one of many neighborhoods in the city with those characteristics,” Farley said. “We need to have increased access.”

The testing center is in the 19121 zip code, which has Philadelphia’s second-lowest median household income, according to city data, and has reported 391 positive COVID-19 tests and 15 deaths as of Tuesday.

— Jason Laughlin

7:30 PM - May 26, 2020
7:30 PM - May 26, 2020

Merck joins the race to develop coronavirus vaccines and therapies

Merck's corporate headquarters are in Kenilworth, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Seth Wenig / AP
Merck's corporate headquarters are in Kenilworth, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Merck, a global leader in vaccine development, is joining the frenzied rush to vanquish the coronavirus, announcing Tuesday that it is working on two vaccine candidates and a potential drug therapy.

Merck, which is headquartered in New Jersey and has several facilities in Pennsylvania, is backing two vaccines that involve genetically engineering an inactivated virus as a vehicle to deliver proteins that provoke an immune response to the coronavirus.

Merck has acquired Vienna-based Themis, which is using a weakened strain of the measles virus as the delivery vehicle. Merck is also partnering with IAVI, a nonprofit research organization, on a coronavirus vaccine that uses VSV (vesicular stomatitis virus) as the delivery vehicle. VSV is the same technology on which Merck’s Ebola vaccine is built.

Both experimental immunizations are completing testing in animals, and should begin human testing later this year, Merck said in news releases.

— Marie McCullough

6:55 PM - May 26, 2020
6:55 PM - May 26, 2020

Facing nearly $5 billion shortfall, Pa. lawmakers plan to pass short-term budget

With the true financial fallout from the coronavirus still unknown, and the prospects for recovery uncertain, the Pennsylvania legislature is on track this week to approve a temporary, five-month spending plan that does not raise taxes and keeps funding level for all state departments.

The move comes as a new independent analysis predicts the state will lose nearly $5 billion in revenue through June of next year, setting the stage for a larger fight in the fall over how to finish the budget.

Republicans who control both chambers said approving a temporary budget will allow officials to get a clearer picture of the strain placed on Pennsylvania’s finances by the state’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Democrats in both chambers, as well as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, have signaled that they agree with the unorthodox plan to pass the budget in waves, which will allow the state to meet a July 1 deadline for passing a spending plan while buying some time to figure out how deeply revenues will be impacted.

— Angela Couloumbis of Spotlight PA and Charlotte Keith

6:10 PM - May 26, 2020
6:10 PM - May 26, 2020

NHL announces vague plans to resume season; training camps won’t start until July 1 at earliest

Flyers' Jakub Voracek and Bruins' Patrice Bergeron try for the puck during the March 10 game.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Flyers' Jakub Voracek and Bruins' Patrice Bergeron try for the puck during the March 10 game.

Nearly 11 weeks after the NHL suspended its season because of the coronavirus outbreak, Commissioner Gary Bettman gave a fuzzy outline on the league’s return-to-play plan Tuesday.

Bettman was vague on most aspects of the plan, and he did not give precise dates on when voluntary small-group workouts could begin, or when three-week training camps would start, or when the season would resume.

The season was suspended March 12.

Bettman confirmed what was already known: Small-group workouts will begin in early June, and a 24-team tournament will be used when the season restarts. After a play-in round, 16 teams will compete for the Stanley Cup.

— Sam Carchidi

6:00 PM - May 26, 2020
6:00 PM - May 26, 2020

Sources: Two top officials at a Pa. veterans nursing home hit by 37 coronavirus deaths are suspended amid an investigation

The state-run Southeastern Veterans' Center in Chester County suffered a devastating outbreak of coronavirus cases in spring 2020 that took dozens of lives.
PA Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs
The state-run Southeastern Veterans' Center in Chester County suffered a devastating outbreak of coronavirus cases in spring 2020 that took dozens of lives.

The head of the state-run Southeastern Veterans’ Center and a senior staffer there were placed on indefinite suspension Tuesday amid an investigation into operations at the nursing home where dozens have died from the coronavirus, according to a state senator and sources at the Chester County facility.

Rohan Blackwood, the center’s commandant, and Deborah Mullane, the director of nursing, were asked to turn in their badges and escorted from the center Tuesday, the sources said.

Blackwood, 47, took over as commandant of the home for veterans and their spouses five years ago after a brief stint as executive director of the Phoebe Wyncote nursing home in Montgomery County. He’d previously worked at a troubled nursing home in Lancaster County. His state salary is $119,453. Mullane earns $122,113 a year.

Blackwood and his senior staff have come under scrutiny in recent weeks following Inquirer articles about how the coronavirus tore through the 238-bed home in East Vincent Township.

— Vinny Vella, Allison Steele, and William Bender

5:00 PM - May 26, 2020
5:00 PM - May 26, 2020

Sixers to reopen practice facility for voluntary, individual workouts

The Sixers' Glenn Robinson III shoots at the end of practice at the Sixers Training Complex in Camden, N.J. in February.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
The Sixers' Glenn Robinson III shoots at the end of practice at the Sixers Training Complex in Camden, N.J. in February.

The 76ers will open their practice facility on Wednesday for voluntary, individual workouts.

NBA practice facilities started to reopen for individual on-court workouts on May 8 in some cities, but the Sixers were not among the teams permitted to unlock their gym doors in Camden, N.J., as only teams in cities and states in which local governments have eased restrictions on facilities will be allowed to reopen.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has announced Tuesday that all professional sports teams in the state can return to training and competition “if their leagues choose to move in that direction” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Flyers also practice in South Jersey.

— Keith Pompey

4:30 PM - May 26, 2020
4:30 PM - May 26, 2020

Philadelphia allows construction activity to expand

Construction work resumed on a home at Bancroft and Reed Streets in South Philadelphia on May 1.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Construction work resumed on a home at Bancroft and Reed Streets in South Philadelphia on May 1.

Philadelphia on Tuesday expanded the construction activity allowed within the city.

Projects that have received building or demolition permits from the city after March 20 can now continue.

Prior to Tuesday’s order from Mayor Jim Kenney and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, only construction projects with permits issued on or before March 20 were allowed to resume. That guidance last month opened construction that had been halted to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

— Michaelle Bond

4:20 PM - May 26, 2020
4:20 PM - May 26, 2020

Coronavirus death toll may be undercounted by thousands in Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Pallbearers walk the casket carrying Henry James to the hearse in front of the Terry Funeral Home in Philadelphia.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Pallbearers walk the casket carrying Henry James to the hearse in front of the Terry Funeral Home in Philadelphia.

The coronavirus may have killed up to 9% more Pennsylvanians than the reported death toll for the month of April, an Inquirer data analysis suggests.

The state’s official number of COVID-19 deaths for the month is 3,200, but the number of deaths from all causes was 3,500 above the five-year average for April. That means as many as 300 additional deaths could have been due to coronavirus.

In New Jersey, which has been more up to date in recording death certificates, the possible undercount is even larger. As of May 9, some 9,100 deaths had been attributed to COVID-19, while the number of deaths from any cause was more than 12,000 above the state’s five-year average in the same time period. If those deaths were due to coronavirus, that would increase the virus’ death tally by a dramatic 32 percent.

As Yale University researchers have found elsewhere in the country, much of the likely undercount in each state can be explained by an unprecedented spike in deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza.

— Chris Williams and Tom Avril

4:00 PM - May 26, 2020
4:00 PM - May 26, 2020

Delaware cites decreasing hospitalization rate as it moves to lift stay-at-home order

Delaware Gov. John Carney said health experts expect to see a slight bump in positive coronavirus cases when the state lifts its stay-at-home restrictions on June 1, but said he’s heartened by the declining hospital rates in the state’s hardest-hit areas.

“In the county where the rates have been increasing most, the hospitalization rates are going down,” Carney said, referring to Sussex County, which experienced outbreaks at chicken processing plants and accounts for more than half of the state’s known coronavirus cases.

Currently, there are 201 Delawareans hospitalized with COVID-19, down more than 40% from a peak of 337 hospitalizations a month ago. With a statewide capacity north of 2,000 hospital beds, Karyl Rattay, the director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said she felt comfortable with the state loosening restrictions on businesses.

“I believe if Delawareans are able to wear face coverings and keep themselves distanced from one another, no matter where they are, I think we can keep this under wraps,” Rattay said.

— Rob Tornoe

3:55 PM - May 26, 2020
3:55 PM - May 26, 2020

Chair of Montgomery County Commissioners supports Wolf’s decision to ease restrictions

Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners, speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in March.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners, speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in March.

Montgomery County Chair Val Arkoosh said she agreed with Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to lift some restrictions on the county starting next week.

The county’s hospitalizations continue to drop, and she said contact tracing will soon be conducted on every new case, so as to quickly identify and isolate patients.

"That is how we are going to keep the curve flat,” said Arkoosh, a physician, who has a background in public health.

She reminded residents that even when the county moves into yellow and green phases, some restrictions would remain in place. She urged people to keep washing hands, wearing masks and social distancing from people in public, while keeping in mind that the virus can spread between asymptomatic people.

"This virus is still very much in our presence,” she said. “We must each continue to take personal responsibility for our actions.”

— Allison Steele

2:55 PM - May 26, 2020
2:55 PM - May 26, 2020

Community College of Philadelphia will start fall with online classes

President Donald Generals announced the campus would start most fall classes online during a virtual town hall with faculty and staff Tuesday.
ANTHONY PEZZOTTI / Staff Photographer
President Donald Generals announced the campus would start most fall classes online during a virtual town hall with faculty and staff Tuesday.

The Community College of Philadelphia became the first college in the region to announce it would start the fall semester with online classes.

Some face-to-face courses may be allowed later in the fall if the circumstances surrounding the virus change, the school announced. Also, some classes in certain majors that require labs or hands-on instruction also may be held in person, the school said.

College president Donald Generals made the announcement to faculty and staff during a virtual town hall on Tuesday. The college, which had a full-time fall enrollment of 4,763 in 2019, is largely a commuter campus.

“Given the continuing uncertainty regarding long-term COVID-19 forecasts, (the college) has decided that online classes are the safest and best educational option for the fall semester,” Generals said. “We are making this decision now to allow faculty adequate time to develop the best remote-learning strategies and to allow students to begin making plans for the fall semester.”

— Susan Snyder

2:30 PM - May 26, 2020
2:30 PM - May 26, 2020

Mayor Kenney: Gatherings like yesterday’s 200-person North Philly party hinder fight against coronavirus

Plans to reopen parts of the economy that were shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus could be derailed by people attending large gatherings like the Memorial Day parties that went viral Monday, Mayor Jim Kenney said.

“There’s nothing that I would want more than to go to yellow and to go to green on schedule,” Kenney said, “but the frustration about this is that when you see 250 people at 28th [Street] and Cecil B. Moore [Avenue], or 2,000 people in a pool in St. Louis by a lake without masks on, the possibility of us getting where we need to be or where we want to be in a timely manner gets continually diminished.”

The mayor was referring to Monday’s 200-plus person gathering on Cecil B. Moore Avenue in North Philadelphia, which police had to break up, and to viral videos of partygoers drinking in Lake of the Ozarks pool bars in Missouri.

“It’s frustrating, and I don’t have an answer for when people misbehave other than continue to keep on talking about it, promulgating the information, and hoping we can continue our downward trend, and then get back to some sense of normalcy,” Kenney said at a virtual news conference.

— Sean Walsh

2:15 PM - May 26, 2020
2:15 PM - May 26, 2020

Fraudsters are stealing Pa. residents’ identities and filing for unemployment benefits, state says

Scammers are using Pennsylvanians’ stolen identities to file fraudulent claims for pandemic unemployment benefits, state officials said during a news conference Tuesday.

Over the weekend, the Department of Labor & Industry’s anti-fraud division discovered attempts to bilk Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, L&I Secretary Jerry Oleksiak said. He declined to say how many fraudulent claims were filed or how much may have been stolen, citing an ongoing investigation.

The personal information used to file the fraudulent claims was not stolen from L&I, Oleksiak said. None of the department’s systems or data have been breached, he said.

“This is identity theft from before the COVID-19 virus,” he said. “The bad guys are using personal information they obtained without permission from other sources to file for PUA benefits and route those payments to their own bank accounts.”

To combat the fraud, the department will mail paper checks for PUA benefits to ensure payments aren’t stolen, said Susan Dickinson, director of the state’s Office of Unemployment Compensation Benefits Policy. Anyone who receives a paper check in the mail and did not file for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania should not cash the checks.

“Part of the information that was used for these identify theft issues was the person’s real address, so individuals are receiving things from us and saying, ‘I never filed for unemployment,” she said.

Pennsylvanians should keep a close eye on their credit ratings, as they may have been unaware that their personal information was stolen, Oleksiak said.

— Christian Hetrick

1:40 PM - May 26, 2020
1:40 PM - May 26, 2020

City clears out airport encampment of homeless people, plans to offer tests for COVID-19

City officials began clearing out about 50 homeless individuals from Philadelphia International Airport Tuesday morning, offering COVID-19 tests to anyone who asked to be transported to a shelter.

No incidents were reported as five dozen police officers were on hand to back up outreach workers, who explained to members of an encampment that had formed at Terminal A-East that they could no longer remain.

“All individuals are being offered multiple places to stay, as well as behavioral health and medical attention as needed,” said city Managing Director Brian Abernathy, who was at the airport early Tuesday. “So, a relatively quiet day. Things have gone well.”

The situation wasn’t nearly as tranquil last week, when advocates and providers of services for the homeless threatened to sue the Kenney administration if it didn’t test people moving from the encampment to shelters for the coronavirus.

— Alfred Lubrano

1:30 PM - May 26, 2020
1:30 PM - May 26, 2020

Philly reports fewer than 100 new cases, another sign that the coronavirus’ spread is slowing

Philadelphia on Tuesday reported fewer than 100 new confirmed coronavirus cases for the first time in weeks, Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.

A month ago, the city regularly reported 500 or more cases per day. The 97 new positive cases confirmed Tuesday are the latest sign that the virus’ spread in the city is slowing.

The city also reported eight new coronavirus fatalities, bringing the pandemic’s death toll in Philadelphia to 1,243. Of those, 662 were nursing home residents. As cases fall and testing becomes more available, the city is expanding its guidelines for who should be tested for the virus, Farley said.

Previously, the city encouraged anyone showing new symptoms of respiratory illness to be tested. Now, it also is recommending that people who are not showing symptoms but were exposed to a known coronavirus carrier within the last seven days to be tested.

— Sean Walsh

1:20 PM - May 26, 2020
1:20 PM - May 26, 2020

Philly restaurants and vendors to allow walk-up ordering

Ian Clark, left, picks up margaritas at El Vez restaurant.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Ian Clark, left, picks up margaritas at El Vez restaurant.

Walk-up food ordering and food trucks are now permissible in Philadelphia, ending policies adopted at the beginning of the coronavirus shutdown.

No more than 10 people can be in line at once, and social distancing is required.

Since the coronavirus shut down, walk-up ordering had not been allowed at restaurants — only online and phone ordering was permitted — and food trucks were forced to close.

— Mike Klein

1:10 PM - May 26, 2020
1:10 PM - May 26, 2020

Thousands of Pa. voters have applied for mail ballots, but it’s unclear if they’ll get them in time for Tuesday’s primary

Absentee ballot applications.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Absentee ballot applications.

Tens of thousands of Pennsylvania voters have been applying for mail ballots every day leading up to Tuesday’s deadline.

It’s unclear how many will receive them in time to actually vote in next week’s primary.

“There are going to be many people who are still going to be receiving their ballots very close to election day or on election day,” Delaware County Councilwoman Christine Reuther said. “I’m very worried that people are going to be disenfranchised.”

Reuther and other county elections officials across the state are warning that an unexpected surge of mail ballots this year, combined with uncertain mail delivery times and coronavirus-related staffing changes, could lead thousands or even tens of thousands of voters to receive their ballots without enough time to mail them back. Some will likely not even receive them until after the election.

— Jonathan Lai

12:40 PM - May 26, 2020
12:40 PM - May 26, 2020

Delaware will lift its stay-at-home order and allow gatherings of up to 250 people beginning Tuesday

Delaware is lifting its ban on short-term rentals, eliminating its quarantine on out-of-state residents, and allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 250 people, Gov. John Carney announced Tuesday.

The new order, which goes into effect June 1, is part of the state’s effort to roll back restrictions put in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed at least 332 Delawareans.

“We are where we are because Delawareans listened and stayed home,” Carney said in a statement. “While we are slowly reopening our economy, it’s critical that Delawareans not rush out and undo all the hard work they’ve done to get us to this point. Let’s continue to be cautious and responsible as we ease our way into this new normal.”

Shopping malls, retail stores, restaurants, and other Delaware businesses will also be allowed to reopen June 1, under capacity limits.

Organizers of outdoor events may apply to host gatherings of up to 250 people by submitting a plan to the Delaware Division of Small Business at least seven days before the event. Strict adherence to social-distancing guidelines is also required, including wearing face masks in most public settings.

Carney said he would release guidance for outdoor graduations later Tuesday, and guidance for summer school programs and summer camps later this week.

— Rob Tornoe

12:15 PM - May 26, 2020
12:15 PM - May 26, 2020

Rutgers-New Brunswick and West Chester University scrap standardized testing for fall 2021 class

A Rutgers University Barnes & Noble next to the New Brunswick train station.
A Rutgers University Barnes & Noble next to the New Brunswick train station.

Two large state universities announced Tuesday morning that they will make standardized test scores optional for students applying for fall 2021 admission.

Rutgers University’s New Brunswick and Newark campuses in New Jersey, and West Chester University in Pennsylvania, cited concerns about the pandemic in making their announcements.

They join a growing number of other colleges that have loosened standardized test requirements amid the pandemic, especially as testing dates have been canceled.

West Chester said its change would be for one year. “Students will not be disadvantaged in any way for declining to submit test scores,” said Sarah Freed, assistant vice president of admissions.

Rutgers said its temporary policy would be for spring or fall admission in 2021. Rutgers-Camden has not decided. “We are certainly envisioning that possibility but we have not yet finalized our plans,” said Mike Sepanic, a spokesman for Rutgers-Camden.

— Susan Snyder

12:10 PM - May 26, 2020
12:10 PM - May 26, 2020

N.J. is ‘moving closer’ to the next phase of reopening as the coronavirus’ spread slows, Murphy says

Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday said the spread of the coronavirus in New Jersey is “slowing considerably,” and noted the state is “moving closer” to its next phase of economic recovery where businesses like restaurants, libraries, and museums may be able to reopen with restrictions.

“The progression across the past two weeks has been constant and undeniable,” Murphy said. “We’re seeing many more good days than bad.”

The governor noted another 703 residents have tested positive for the disease, bringing the state’s positive caseload to 155,764. An additional 54 people have died from the disease, Murphy said, increasing the state’s death toll to 11,191. The governor noted the numbers are likely undercounted due to the holiday weekend.

He reported 2,723 residents are hospitalized due to the coronavirus, including 786 people in critical care and 578 on ventilators. The governor noted New Jersey still leads states like Pennsylvania and New York in new positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths per 100,000 residents.

“We also have to balance our optimism with this reality,” Murphy said. “Among our neighbors and other major states in the country we still lead in some indicators that we would rather not.”

The governor also noted new positive cases in the state’s long term care facilities are “far down from the peak” in late-April. Currently, 536 of the state’s more than 600 facilities are suffering a coronavirus outbreak. They account for 30,714 of the state’s positives and 5,684 of its deaths, according to data that is self-reported from the facilities.

In recent days, members of the New Jersey legislature have called for a “9/11 style” commission to investigate the state’s response to the virus’ spread in long-term care facilities. Murphy has agreed to submit his administration to this scrutiny.

— Pranshu Verma

12:00 PM - May 26, 2020
12:00 PM - May 26, 2020

Wolf still has concerns about large gatherings during the Pa.'s green phase

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday he had concerns about large gatherings, including graduation ceremonies, even in the least-restrictive green phase of the commonwealth’s reopening.

On the same day New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he would allow these outdoor, socially distant celebrations beginning July 6, Wolf did not say he would prohibit the ceremonies but said he and other state officials “think there needs to be a limit of the number of people who gather.”

Masks and social distancing should be the norm regardless of crowd size into the green phase, Wolf said.

— Erin McCarthy

11:47 AM - May 26, 2020
11:47 AM - May 26, 2020

Murphy says 'Mother Nature’ denied Jersey Shore officials chance to test crowd control over Memorial Day weekend

Beachgoers setup along the beach at Margate City over the weekend.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
Beachgoers setup along the beach at Margate City over the weekend.

Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday said “Mother Nature helped” keep crowd sizes down at the Jersey Shore over the Memorial Day weekend, denying local officials the opportunity to practice managing capacity during the busy summer beach season that has just started.

“Did we learn a lot of lessons from this weekend? I’m afraid, only to a degree,” Murphy said. “The weather just wasn’t good for the most part.”

Murphy said he was encouraged with the social distancing compliance he saw during his visit to Seaside Heights over the weekend.

“What we saw were all very good signs,” Murphy said. “Practices that are now part of our routines will continue to put us in a strong position to move into the next phase of our restart and recovery in the not too very distant future.”

Earlier this month, Murphy ordered beaches opened and gave local officials the responsibility of ensuring social distancing guidelines are in place and crowds are kept to a minimum.

Many Shore town mayors have cautioned that enforcing these measures will be daunting given the expected crowd sizes and limited amount of staff available to make sure rules are followed.

— Pranshu Verma

10:42 AM - May 26, 2020
10:42 AM - May 26, 2020

Murphy says professional sports can return to New Jersey

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday that professional sports teams may resume play and training in the state if their leagues “move in that direction.”

“We have been in constant discussions with teams about necessary protocols to protect the health and safety of players, coaches, and personnel,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.

New Jersey bans gatherings of more than 25 people outdoors and 10 indoors and it is unclear if spectators will be allowed to attend.

During a briefing later Tuesday, Murphy said he felt professional sports teams have the facilities and resources in place to meet the demands of public health.

“I recognize that obviously not all of our sports are back,” Murphy said. “We continue our work with all stakeholders, including, if not especially, youth sports leagues, to hopefully see their reception in the near future.”

— Rob Tornoe

10:21 AM - May 26, 2020
10:21 AM - May 26, 2020

Murphy gives go ahead for N.J. schools to hold outdoor graduation ceremonies starting in July

New Jersey graduates will be able to celebrate their achievements with socially distant outdoor ceremonies beginning in July, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday.

“TO THE CLASS OF 2020: Beginning July 6th, schools WILL have the opportunity to hold outdoor graduation ceremonies that comply with social distancing — ensuring the health and safety of all in attendance,” the governor tweeted.

The governor’s announcement comes as New Jersey looks to gradually reopen from the coronavirus shutdown in the coming weeks.

“These will be graduations unlike any others,” Murphy said later at his daily briefing. “The steps we are taking are necessary to ensure the health and safety of everyone in attendance. ... No one will ever forget the way we will celebrate the class of 2020.”

Murphy said schools may need to hold multiple graduation ceremonies if there is still a cap on outdoor gatherings.

School districts and higher education institutions will be required to mail caps, gowns and diplomas to students’ homes, sent electronically, or delivered in a socially distanced manner, according to a preview of ceremony guidelines released Tuesday.

Districts and colleges will also need to determine the “minimum number” of faculty and staff needed to run the ceremonies, and coordinate plans with local law enforcement, first responders and health officials. Murphy said education officials will provide full guidance for schools and colleges Wednesday.

— Erin McCarthy and Pranshu Verma

9:44 AM - May 26, 2020
9:44 AM - May 26, 2020

Cuomo rings opening bell as NYSE floor trading resumes and stocks surge to open the week

Optimism in the steady march towards reopening the country’s economy has markets surging to open the week following the Memorial Day weekend.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened up over 575 points, about 2.35%, breaking 25,000 points for the first time since March 10. The index is up about 35% since it’s low point on March 23, when it closed at 18,591 points.

The Nasdaq Composite opened up about 150 points (about 1.6%), while the S&P 500 opened up about 60 points (about 2%). The S&P 500 broke 3,000 points for the first time since March 5.

For the first time in two months, the New York Stock Exchange reopened its floor to traders, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ringing the opening bell. Only a quarter of the normal number of traders are allowed on the floor of the stock exchange, traders must avoid public transport, and all workers are screened and undergo temperature checks.

— Rob Tornoe

9:09 AM - May 26, 2020
9:09 AM - May 26, 2020

'It’s a travesty’: South Jersey pastor expects citations for reopening church

Solid Rock Baptist Church Pastor Charles Clark, III, conducts service at the Berlin church on Sunday morning.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Solid Rock Baptist Church Pastor Charles Clark, III, conducts service at the Berlin church on Sunday morning.

The pastor of a South Jersey church that reopened on Sunday in defiance of the state’s coronavirus restrictions called it a “travesty” that the state has not deemed houses of worship essential businesses.

The Rev. Charles Clark III, the co-pastor at Solid Rock Baptist Church in Berlin, Camden County, said during a CNN interview Tuesday morning he expects to receive citations over the church’s decision to reopen its doors in defiance of Gov. Phil Murphy’s shutdown orders.

“I think it’s a travesty,” Clark III said. “The church has religious rights in our First Amendment. We’re first in line, and right now Gov. Murphy has taken us out of line … So us getting citation is wrong, and it goes against the first amendment."

In New Jersey, churches are temporarily barred from holding in-person services indoors, but can hold outdoor services limited to 25 people. Dozens of pastors throughout the state have threatened to sue following President Trump’s demand for governors to open up churches immediately.

Murphy said during a CNN interview Sunday morning the response to defying the state’s executive orders typically involve summons, either from the Department of Health or the attorney general’s office. He cited Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, which was issued summons for several days before a judge forced the facility to close.

“There will be repercussions in any case where someone willfully violates our executive orders,” Murphy said. “But putting the specifics of that aside, I want to get churches going as well… We got to make sure we’re all in this together and do it the right way.”

Many pastors have abided by Murphy’s coronavirus restrictions. Among those is Rev. Wayne Zschech, the pastor of the Lutheran Church Of Our Savior in Haddonfield, who said the health and safety of his members and the community outweigh the need to gather in the church together.

“While we long for the day we can gather again in this sanctuary… until there is a vaccine, we will not be able to gather as we have gathered in the past,” Zschech said in a video shared on social media, noting the church will continue to livestream its services.

— Rob Tornoe

8:36 AM - May 26, 2020
8:36 AM - May 26, 2020

Carney ‘impressed’ by social distancing at Delaware’s beaches, will announce plan for short-term rentals today

Gov. John Carney said he was “impressed” with the way Delawareans were following the state’s coronavirus restrictions and guidelines while enjoying Memorial Day at the state’s beaches.

“What I saw really impressed me, with respect to how people were wearing face coverings on the boardwalk as required, and some as recommended on the beach,” Carney said on Monday. “It shows that attitudes have changed in a significant way.”

Carney compared the state’s response to Ocean City, Md., where photos and videos over the weekend revealed people not wearing masks or practicing much social distancing on the boardwalk.

"What I saw in Rehoboth, and what I’ve heard is the situation along the Delaware coast, is the way to do it, to gradually reopen things so you don’t have this rush, this onslaught of folks which are going wild and risking all the progress that we’ve made in the last three months,” Carney said.

The governor said he would be making an announcement Tuesday on short-term rentals, which have been temporarily banned as part of Delaware’s coronavirus restrictions. Carney is also expected to address the state’s restrictions on out-of-state residents, who currently must quarantine for 14-days if they enter and remain in the state.

“I feel much more comfortable about moving forward, because business owners are really attentive to the changes they need to make,” Carney said. “I think we’re ready.”

— Rob Tornoe

6:00 AM - May 26, 2020
6:00 AM - May 26, 2020

U.S. consumer confidence is shattered and reopening alone won’t bring it back, new survey finds

Consumer confidence has collapsed amid the coronavirus pandemic and isn’t getting a lift from states reopening their economies, according to nationwide surveys.

Daily surveys of more than 6,000 Americans by Morning Consult shows that consumers started to sour on the economy before state shutdown orders. Lifting those restrictions hasn’t boosted their confidence. And consumers’ views track more closely with nationwide developments rather than those in a particular state, the data show.

“If you think about what it’s going to take for the U.S. economy to rebound, it’s gonna take some sort of a change in health outcomes at the national level, even for various states to start seeing a rebound in consumer spending," said John Leer, a Morning Consult economist.

— Christian Hetrick

5:45 AM - May 26, 2020
5:45 AM - May 26, 2020

One arrested as police disperse large crowd gathered on a vacant lot in North Philly

One man was arrested when police broke up a crowd of about 200 people who gathered on a North Philadelphia vacant lot Monday night to listen to a DJ playing music in apparent violation of the city’s stay-at-home orders aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Chief Inspector Scott Small said the man was charged with disorderly conduct after he angrily refused to disperse and put his hands on a police officer.

Many of those who gathered at Taney Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue were not wearing face masks and were not keeping a safe distance from each other, police said.

Police arrested another man nearby after his car crashed and officers found a handgun inside, Small said.

It took police about an hour to disperse the crowd. No injuries were reported.

— Jeff Gammage

5:30 AM - May 26, 2020
5:30 AM - May 26, 2020

A PPE fee at the dentist? New requirements could raise prices for patients.

Dentist Michael Barnes MD, DDS in his South Philadelphia office last week. Dentists and hygienists return to work with fresh fears about a lack of PPE and the new costs associated with the protection against the coronavirus.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Dentist Michael Barnes MD, DDS in his South Philadelphia office last week. Dentists and hygienists return to work with fresh fears about a lack of PPE and the new costs associated with the protection against the coronavirus.

As dentists resume services put on hold during the pandemic, they face new infection-control requirements that could lead to higher costs — and perhaps less access — for patients.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has said that dental practices must have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for all providers and has urged dentists to avoid procedures that “create a visible spray” of saliva or blood from patients’ mouths unless necessary as part of emergency treatment.

Dentists agree the protections are important in a line of work where faces come close and spit can fly, but they are cash-strapped after two months without any income, and are concerned about how they will cover the new expense. Dental insurance plans may cover part of the cost, dentists could charge a PPE fee directly to patients or raise prices to account for the additional expense.

Sarah Gantz and Wendy Ruderman

5:15 AM - May 26, 2020
5:15 AM - May 26, 2020

Morning Update: Pandemic takes no holiday as coronavirus cases and deaths grow in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Hearing a positive forecast, Dolores Soltys and Bernie Krause of Fairless Hills, Bucks County were persuaded to come to the beach in Wildwood, on Monday. A gray windy morning would later turn into a perfect sunny day.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Hearing a positive forecast, Dolores Soltys and Bernie Krause of Fairless Hills, Bucks County were persuaded to come to the beach in Wildwood, on Monday. A gray windy morning would later turn into a perfect sunny day.

New Jersey reported 965 new coronavirus cases and 16 more deaths on Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced, noting that the low numbers may be due to a reporting delay during Memorial Day weekend.

At least 11,144 New Jerseyans now have died after contracting COVID-19, the nation’s second-highest state death toll, behind New York, according to coronavirus-tracking authorities at Johns Hopkins University.

New York had 29,141 deaths and Massachusetts placed third with 6,372. Pennsylvania ranked fifth with 5,139.

Memorial Day marked the 19th straight day that New Jersey has reported fewer than 2,000 new cases during a 24-hour period, despite the increased availability of testing. The new cases reported Monday pushed the state total to 155,092.

— Jeff Gammage and Rob Tornoe

5:00 AM - May 26, 2020
5:00 AM - May 26, 2020

Today’s Front Page

The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Tuesday, May 26, 2020.
Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Tuesday, May 26, 2020.