Life in the Philadelphia region won’t be anywhere near its pre-coronavirus state, but by the end of next week, restaurants might be able to resume outdoor dining, the Phillies could be allowed to practice in Philadelphia, and the Atlantic Ocean will be open to bathers in Cape May.
However, with virus-related fatalities continuing to nudge upward and the national total surpassing 100,000, reopening timetables probably will remain subject to caveats, change — and debate.
The guidances made available Wednesday cover drive-in, drive-through, and modified in-person ceremonies.
Any ceremony held before July 6 must be done virtually.
Colleges and universities planning to have outdoor ceremonies must certify to the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education that the ceremony will comply with requirements for gatherings, including social distancing.
An online form will be made available on June 5 and must be submitted no later than seven days prior to the scheduled ceremony.
Similar requirements for K-12 schools are outlined here.
The state’s published guidance for colleges is available here.
Their case was assigned a court date for next Wednesday, June 3, which means the gym’s doors will remain closed until the judge makes a decision. The owners, who were each issued court summonses each day last week for violating the order, were eager to file the injunction and reopen as soon as possible. The week-long delay was a disappointment, said Trumbetti.
The state Department of Health had ordered the gym to close last Wednesday, but the owners ignored that request and reopened again Thursday. They arrived at the facility Friday morning to find the locks on the doors changed and a judge’s order requiring them to close.
The gym had built a large following after the owners appeared on multiple news channels, including Tucker Carlson Tonight, to announce their reopening. A large crowd gathered outside the gym when it opened Monday morning to support the owners, and throughout the week, dozens continued to camp out in the parking lot to cheer them on.
History in the making as House cast proxy votes in pandemic
It’s a day for the history books on Capitol Hill: For the first time, House lawmakers were voting by proxy, an unprecedented move to avoid the risk of travel to Washington during the pandemic.
To mark Wednesday’s history-making moment, House Republicans sued to stop the majority party from going ahead with the new system. The House, with 432 current members and three vacancies, is trying to strike a balance between working from home during the coronavirus outbreak and honoring the Constitution’s requirement to be “present” and voting. The House rules change is fast becoming a political test on party lines. Dozens of Democrats signed up to have colleagues cast their vote by proxy. Twenty Republicans joined in the leaders’ lawsuit against that move, which House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California says is unconstitutional.
Pa. Supreme Court will end judicial emergency order June 1, but local court restrictions can stay in place
Following Gov. Tom Wolf’s steps to gradually reopen the state from pandemic restrictions, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced on Wednesday that the statewide order declaring a judicial emergency will end on June 1 but local and intermediate court restrictions can still be maintained.
The state’s high court first declared an emergency on March 16 that closed all courts in Pennsylvania except for essential services. In late April, the high court eased the restrictions to allow some courts to reopen but encouraged them to use alternative technologies, such as video calls and conferencing.
The statewide order will end, but local and intermediate appellate orders will remain in force until they expire or are rescinded, the high court announced.
Confirmed U.S. coronavirus death toll surpasses 100,000
Nearly three months after the first COVID-19 death was recorded in the United States, the nation’s death toll has officially surpassed 100,000 people, by far the largest number of any country.
At least 100,047 Americans have succumbed to the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, the latest somber marker as states across the country — including Pennsylvania and New Jersey — continue to loosen lockdown restrictions.
Though the United States leads other countries when it comes to the total number of people who have died, a handful of hard-hit countries in Europe — including Spain, the United Kingdom, and Italy — have suffered more deaths per 100,000 people.
Even with those high numbers, the true number of deaths might even be higher. An Inquirer data analysis suggests the coronavirus may have killed up to 9% more Pennsylvanians than the reported death toll for the month of April.
In New Jersey, 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 32%.
More than 1.6 million people in the United States have contracted COVID-19, nearly one-third of the world’s more than 5.5 million cases.
Pa. to allow pro teams to practice, some outdoor dining in “yellow” phase
The Phillies and other professional sports teams could resume practices in Philadelphia and restaurants could offer limited dine-in service in outdoor-seating areas once the city enters the “yellow” phase of reopening, the state said Wednesday afternoon.
Under the guidelines released by Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, no spectators could be in attendance during team practices, and teams would have to follow coronavirus-safety protocols.
As for dining, restaurants and food-service businesses will be permitted to serve guests in outdoor seating areas, but they will have to limit occupancy. And customers will have to be seated at tables.
Philadelphia is among the counties scheduled to enter the yellow phase — in which some coronavirus-related restrictions would be lifted, including stay-at-home orders, but crowds of 25 or more would be prohibited — on June 5.
However, city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Wednesday it is not a certainty that the city will exit the red phase on that date.
Gov. Wolf unsure of what life beyond the green phase of reopening looks like
Gov. Tom Wolf said even he doesn’t quite know what comes next after a county enters the final green phase of reopening, something the Philly area can do no earlier than two weeks after it moves to yellow next month.
“For all of us, there’s a new normal and none of us at this point can tell. The hope is we’ll get a vaccination soon or therapies,” the governor said. “We’re all waiting. There’s a lot of uncertainty."
“As to what the future beyond green holds, at this point I think we’re all still looking at that," he said.
Health Secretary Rachel Levine said masks will be recommended even in the green phase. Wolf reiterated the enforcement of mask-wearing will be up to individual businesses, not law enforcement. If someone enters a business without a mask, they aren’t breaking a law, but a business owner can refuse service, he said.
“I think we’ve left it up to the individual businesses to make that decision,” the governor said. “Its their property. It’s their business.”
13 cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in Pa. children, Levine says
Pennsylvania has seen 13 confirmed cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children related to the coronavirus pandemic, and 10 cases that are under investigation, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Wednesday.
The children were between the ages of 11 months and 18 years old, she added.
Only one child has died of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania , the secretary has said, and they did not have the inflammatory syndrome.
The chief of infectious disease at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Audrey John, said earlier this month that the link between coronavirus and the pediatric illness “is strongly suggestive but not definitive.”
The update came on a day Pennsylvania reported 780 new confirmed coronavirus cases, for a total of 69,417, and 113 additional deaths, for a total of 5,265.
“It’s important to remember that while our total number of cases will continue to increase, the number of new reported cases continues to decline,” Levine said. “We are regionally seeing some fluctuations in case counts, but overall they are trending downward.”
No extension for mail-in ballots in Montgomery County after coronavirus brings surge of requests
Montgomery County elections officials’ emergency request to extend mail ballot deadlines has been rejected.
The Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas on Wednesday denied the county elections board’s request that ballots be counted if they arrive up to one week after the election. The court did not hold a hearing before issuing its order denying the request and it did not provide an opinion to go with it.
That leaves intact the current deadline set by state law: Mail ballots must be returned to county elections officials by 8 p.m. on election day, June 2.
Montgomery County officials worry that will disenfranchise voters who can’t return their ballots in time. They filed an emergency petition Tuesday requesting a one-week deadline to allow ballots to be counted if they arrive by 5 p.m. June 9.
Pa. GOP lawmaker says he tested positive for coronavirus
A Central Pennsylvania lawmaker confirmed Wednesday that he tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month.
State Rep. Andrew Lewis (R., Dauphin) said in a statement he immediately began self-isolation after getting a positive result on May 20. He said he informed House officials after he received the result, and they have worked to identify anyone with whom he may have come into contact. He said he was last in the Capitol on May 14.
“I can confirm every member or staff member who met the criteria for exposure was immediately contacted and required to self-isolate for 14 days from their date of possible exposure," Lewis said in a statement.
City officials, backed by police, arrived about 3 p.m. and ordered work to stop.
A city spokesperson said the “business” was operating without a license, so in the interest of patron safety, Health’s Office of Food Protection issued a cease operations order, stickered the location, and ordered them not to restart.
Cicala could not immediately be reached for comment.
City of Cape May to allow swimming at beaches beginning Saturday
The City of Cape May will allow swimming at its beaches beginning Saturday morning, officials announced.
Swimming can resume at 10 a.m. on Saturday after city officials on Wednesday rescinded an executive order that had banned the activity.
The city reopened its beaches last weekend for sunbathing and passive recreation, but swimming was not permitted “for the health and safety of the public and Cape May City Beach Patrol as new training mandates and protocols were put into place,” a city spokesperson said.
Social distancing is required, the city said in a press release, and people may only swim when and where lifeguards are on duty.
No guarantee that Philly moves into yellow phase on June 5, city health commissioner says
There is “not a guarantee” that Philadelphia will move into the first phase of reopening on June 5, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Wednesday.
“We do need to follow the numbers between now and then,” Farley said at the city’s daily virtual briefing on COVID-19. “If they get worse we could reconsider that. So it’s not a guarantee that we will go to yellow on June 5. It’s just if the numbers continue to look good.”
Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday that Philadelphia and its surrounding counties would move into the state’s “yellow phase,” or first phase of easing stay-at-home restrictions, by June 5. But as Farley announced 237 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, he reiterated that the date is not certain. Wednesday’s cases represented an increase from Tuesday, when Farley reported less than 100 new cases of the coronavirus.
Wednesday’s number is “not a number I’m quite as happy about,” Farley said. “I’d like to see lower, but overall the trend is still down.”
Farley had previously said that the city would need to get to about 50 new cases per day in order to trace new cases of the virus and reopen safely. But he said Wednesday that it would not be necessary to reach that goal before moving into the yellow phase.
“I think that would be okay if we start to see some decrease between now and then,” he said. “I don’t think we need to have everything in place for this first stage of yellow, which is really a very careful restarting of some activities which are relatively low risk activities.”
Farley said city officials will announce additional guidance this week on the city’s plans to move into the first phase of easing restrictions. They will include guidelines for businesses on how many people can be in a store at a time, guidance for clear barriers at retail locations, and requirements that customers wear masks, he said.
N.J. is ‘well past the peak’ of the coronavirus, Gov. Murphy says
Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday said New Jersey is “well past the peak” of the coronavirus pandemic, as he reported another 970 people tested positive for the disease with an additional 148 residents dying overnight.
“Our overall trajectory remains positive,” Murphy said. “[But] there are still many, many people in our hospitals with COVID-19.”
New Jersey now has 156,628 people who have tested positive for the disease, while 11,339 have died.
Murphy, who along with his wife First Lady Tammy Murphy got tested for the coronavirus Wednesday, said the state is making significant strides towards its goal of testing 20,000 people per day by the end of May. This is a key metric Murphy has required the state to meet before restarting larger parts of the economy. The state tested 16,000 people for the disease Monday, the governor reported. In the three days leading up to Memorial Day, the state tested between 21,000 to 30,000 people per day.
The governor also reported 2,761 people are hospitalized for the disease, including 768 people in critical care and 583 on ventilators. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli noted that each of the state’s 602 long-term care facilities has submitted plans on how they’ll mandatorily test each of their residents and staff for the coronavirus by the end of the month.
Persichilli also noted 1,000 migrant farmworkers have been tested for the coronavirus, with 10% coming back positive. The state is partnering with four federally qualified health care centers to conduct these screenings.
Most Philadelphians believe in wearing masks, new survey says
Three out of four Philadelphians believe that all residents should wear masks when they leave their homes, according to a survey conducted by the city in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania.
“Thank God there’s so many smart people out there,” Mayor Jim Kenney said at a news conference Wednesday as he announced the results of the survey.
But Philadelphians were less likely to report that their neighbors also understand the importance of social distancing measures. Just 42% of residents said their neighbors agree it is important to stay home, minimize contact with others, and keep a six-foot distance between people.
The online survey asked 626 adult Philadelphia residents about their perceptions of public health precautions during the coronavirus pandemic. Results, gathered between May 5 and May 8, were weighted by age, gender, race, and education to reflect the city’s overall population. The survey had a 6.5% margin of error at the 95% confidence level.
“So based on all of this it is clear that the vast majority of Philadelphians do get it,” Kenney said.
Biden and Gov. Wolf talk Pennsylvania’s response to COVID-19 in live-streamed chat
Hours after endorsing former vice president Joe Biden’s presidential bid, Gov. Tom Wolf video-chatted with him about Pennsylvania’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
Wolf told Biden that “like every other state and every other governor, we’re scrambling to find the right way to deal with this...There is no game plan so we’re flying into unknown areas here and doing our best. We could really use the leadership that you would bring to Washington.”
Wolf hadn’t backed anyone in the primary previously. He threw his support behind Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, six days before Pennsylvania’s June 2 primary. Pennsylvania is likely to be critical in the general election in November.
In the call, the two agreed on the need for a civilian corps at the state and federal level to help with tracing, testing and eventually, vaccine distribution. “We’re going to need thousands of people just for contact tracing and that doesn’t include what we need to do to train people to administer tests in this post pandemic world,” Wolf said.
Biden commended Wolf’s handling of unemployment filings in the state, which have been among the highest in the nation. Biden also said he’s prided himself on being called the state’s third senator, given his ties to Scranton and proximity in Delaware. He pledged, if elected, to expand broadband internet so that kids “in rural Luzerne,” have the same access as kids in Center City Philadelphia.
At the end of the conversation, Biden asked Wolf if he’d heard from other governors seeking advice for their home states.“I participate in all the governors’ calls," Wolf said, "but I’ve found I’m much more of a taker than a giver.”
Under the phased approach, the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom would open July 11, with EPCOT and Hollywood Studios opening July 15.
Visitors would be required to wear masks and have their temperatures checked. Capacity would be limited to allow for social distancing, and hand sanitizer would be readily available throughout the theme parks. In an attempt to curb crowds, Disney would temporarily cancel all parades, firework shows, and character meet-and-greets.
The proposal needs the approval of officials in Orange County and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The Department of Human Services issued guidance clarifying protocols regarding behavioral health, residential care settings, and child welfare services in the interim phase of economic reopening. Here’s some of the guidance:
In residential care settings, providers should still try to connect families and residents via video if possible.
Behavioral health services, which include mental health care and drug and alcohol addiction treatment, should still be done virtually when possible. If in-person treatment is required, masks should be worn by all, including the person seeking care. If the wearing of masks triggers anxiety or trauma in an individual, the state suggests providers talk with them, explore other care options, or wear masks with different material that may be less triggering.
For children in foster care, they can resume in-person visits with biological parents if masks are worn and social distancing is practiced. This decision is at the discretion of the families involved and of the county. If a foster child and their biological parent live in different counties with different levels of reopening, they should adhere by the guidelines of the county with the strictest regulations.
Fauci: Face masks are effective, second wave of coronavirus is ’not inevitable’
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, stands behind recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people to wear face masks or coverings while in public.
“I do it whenever I’m outside,” Fauci said during a CNN interview Wednesday morning, noting it’s an effective way to limit transmission of the virus. “We can try and keep the usual distance, but sometimes it is out of your control.”
“It’s respect for another person, and have that person respect you,” Fauci added. “You wear a mask, they wear a mask, you protect each other.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci says he wears a mask in public not only to protect himself and others but also because "I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that's the kind of thing you should be doing."https://t.co/wmHCTqWhJDpic.twitter.com/EpWVe1VIVq
Delaware requires residents to wear face masks in most public settings, including outdoors and on the state’s boardwalks. Pennsylvania and New Jersey both recommend people wear masks outdoors and require they be worn inside a store or a business.
Fauci, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey should expect to see upticks in cases as they loosen coronavirus restrictions. But he said people can prevent a potential “second wave” of cases by taking simple mitigation measures, such as socially distancing, wearing masks, avoiding large crowds, and washing hands frequently.
“We can prevent this second wave,” Fauci said. “It could happen, but it is not inevitable.”
Only half of Americans plan to take coronavirus vaccine, poll finds
Just half of Americans plan to get a coronavirus vaccine if scientists succeed in creating one, according to a new poll from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Twenty percent of those polled said they’d outright refuse to take a vaccine, mostly over concerns about potential side effects as the government attempts to fast-track development with “Operation Warp Speed.” Thirty-one percent said they’re not sure if they’d take a vaccine.
“I am not an anti-vaxxer,” Melanie Dries, a 56-year-old poll respondent from Colorado Springs, Colo., told the Associated Press. But "to get a COVID-19 vaccine within a year or two … causes me to fear that it won’t be widely tested as to side effects.”
Of those polled, 49% said they would get the vaccine.
The nationwide poll of 1,056 adults was conducted May 14 to 18, and has a margin of error plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. Read the full survey here.
COVID-19 testing begins at 7 Walmarts in New Jersey
As New Jersey works to increase its testing capacity in preparation to reopen from the coronavirus shutdown, Walmart recently began drive-through testing at seven of its stores across the state.
From 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Wednesday, drivers pulled into the Mount Laurel store to get the self-swab nasal test. The Walmart in Burlington Township is also doing testing.
A partnership between officials, Quest Diagnostics, and the retail giant, the site is set to be open Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 7 a.m, to 9 a.m. by appointment only. Screenings and appointments can be made at www.MyQuestCOVIDTest.com.
Point Pleasant Beach is planning to reopen its boardwalk and beaches Friday after keeping them closed over Memorial Day weekend.
Mayor Paul Kanitra said in a statement that rides, games, and amusements will remain closed due to coronavirus restrictions put in place by Gov. Phil Murphy. Restaurants will be open, but for takeout only. Hand sanitizing stations have been set up at every beach access point, and visitors must follow social distancing guidelines.
The move will also allow Jenkinson’s complex — which includes its own beach, restaurant, and boardwalk — to reopen.
Kanitra also said parking restrictions would be partially scaled back to allow private and public lots to reopen. Officials plan to lift all parking restrictions by June 5. Beginning Wednesday morning, the inlet parking lot will return to normal operations.
“Like every decision we make, these measures are subject to change if the COVID-19 situation does,” Kanitra said.
COVID-19 and its side effects have kept rural Pa. real estate agents busy
The last time Tina Richlin’s phone rang this much was just after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, when some city residents thought they’d be safer in the mountains.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has the lines at Richlin’s real estate office in rural Sullivan County ringing nonstop again with people seeking to rent short-term, buy second homes, or relocate altogether to somewhere with a smaller population.
“It was so busy, I couldn’t handle it. I sold three homes, sight unseen," Richlin said last week.
Sixers to reopen practice facility for voluntary, individual workouts
The 76ers will open their practice facility on the Camden waterfront today 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, 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 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.
Morning Update: N.J. and Delaware approve outdoor graduations, lift other restrictions as Pa. moves cautiously
New Jersey approved outdoor graduations and indoor training for professional sports teams on Tuesday, while Delaware plans to lift its ban on short-term rentals, eliminate its quarantine on out-of-state residents, and allow outdoor gatherings, including graduations, of up to 250 people starting Monday.
But even as the Philadelphia region prepared to move to the “yellow” phase of reopening on June 5, Pennsylvania officials were more cautious. Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday he had concerns about large gatherings even in the least-restrictive green phase and did not say whether he would approve outdoor graduation ceremonies.
And Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney warned that plans to reopen could be derailed by people attending large gatherings and flouting safety recommendations, citing a Memorial Day party in Brewerytown where police broke up a gathering of 200-plus people listening to a DJ.
“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 and Cecil B. Moore, 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.”