9:06 AM - May 29, 2020
9:06 AM - May 29, 2020

Read the latest coronavirus updates here

Officials expect Philadelphia to move to the “yellow” phase of reopening next Friday, though they repeated that the city won’t reopen “if the numbers get bad.” The Wolf administration confirmed that counties can move to the reopening phase more slowly at their discretion.

11:43 PM - May 28, 2020
11:43 PM - May 28, 2020

Sources: NBA considers pushing up free agency period before draft, expected in early September

From left, Raul Neto, Kyle O'Quinn, James Ennis, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, and Josh Richardson pose for a photo with their Sixers jerseys after an introductory press conference introducing both new and resigned players at the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex in Camden, NJ on Friday, July 12, 2019.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
From left, Raul Neto, Kyle O'Quinn, James Ennis, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, and Josh Richardson pose for a photo with their Sixers jerseys after an introductory press conference introducing both new and resigned players at the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex in Camden, NJ on Friday, July 12, 2019.

The NBA board of governors will make key decisions in the coming month as they navigate the pandemic. Among them will be when to begin free agency and to hold the draft.

Several league sources said the 2020 draft is expected to be pushed back from June 25 to early September. Two of the sources also said the board of governors would also discuss whether the upcoming free-agency period should be moved ahead of the draft. Free agency for the 2020-21 season will be moved from the scheduled start of 6 p.m. June 30.

— Keith Pompey

9:10 PM - May 28, 2020
9:10 PM - May 28, 2020

Philly will have mail ballot drop boxes for voters this weekend and on election day

A voter prepares to drop off their ballot into a ballot drop box at the south portal of City Hall on Thursday, May 28, 2020.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
A voter prepares to drop off their ballot into a ballot drop box at the south portal of City Hall on Thursday, May 28, 2020.

Philadelphia voters who don’t have time to send back their mail ballots for Tuesday’s primary can instead drop them off at multiple locations across the city beginning Saturday.

Elections officials installed a standalone ballot drop box in the south portal of City Hall last week.

Saturday through Monday, city workers will have 10 pop-up sites around the city, available for two hours at a time to collect ballots from voters. On Tuesday, there will be 10 additional drop boxes for voters to hand-deliver their ballots up until the 8 p.m. deadline, when polls close and mail ballots are no longer accepted.

Drop boxes are new for Philadelphia — and largely foreign to Pennsylvania — because state election law used to restrict absentee ballots so much that only about 5% of votes in any election were cast by mail.

— Jonathan Lai

7:51 PM - May 28, 2020
7:51 PM - May 28, 2020

La Colombe is reopening coffee shops with acrylic panels for social distancing

Coffee shops and cafes, largely shut down for walk-in business since mid-March, are beginning to reopen as restrictions on takeout food ease.

La Colombe, the Philadelphia-based coffee giant, is taking pages out of the airport and pharmacy handbooks in retrofitting 30 of its cafes in six cities for safety. The first location to reopen this week is at 130 S. 19th St., just north of Rittenhouse Square, where the company began 26 years ago. Others will follow in coming weeks, including the flagship store in Fishtown. The four airport locations will have to wait.

— Michael Klein

7:04 PM - May 28, 2020
7:04 PM - May 28, 2020

Gov. Tom Wolf’s push to move Philly area to ‘yellow’ phase despite data met with skepticism among city officials

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

None of the five counties in the Philadelphia region are close to meeting a key goal — a low rate of new infections — that Gov. Tom Wolf had initially said needed to be met before restarting parts of the economy. Additionally, testing in the area still lags behind some experts’ benchmarks and that of neighboring states.

Wolf nonetheless intends to move the region from the “red” to the “yellow” phase of his reopening plan on June 5, a truncation of his own timeline that Philadelphia officials skeptical and suburban counties largely eager to reopen.

Mayor Jim Kenney has said publicly that Philadelphia will be ready to enter a modified version of Wolf’s “yellow” phase of reopening, with restrictions tailored for the city, only if the daily number of new cases continues to trend down. But privately, members of his administration have questioned why the governor has changed course.

— Sean Collins Walsh, Anna Orso, Vinny Vella, Dylan Purcell

6:51 PM - May 28, 2020
6:51 PM - May 28, 2020

From art, a fuller vision of patients during the crisis of the pandemic

A Drexel University medical student looks at art at the Barnes Foundation, part of a Barnes course specifically designed for health-care professionals.
Craig Schlanser, Drexel University
A Drexel University medical student looks at art at the Barnes Foundation, part of a Barnes course specifically designed for health-care professionals.

Stephen Wolff, a newly minted physician assistant, found his first job at a hospital in Maine a few months ago.

And then COVID-19 struck, leaving health-care professionals all over the country almost too exhausted to think, let alone reflect on the nuances of humanity.

But Wolff had received unusual training while working for his master’s degree at Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions — he had taken a course at the Barnes Foundation designed specifically to help medical and health-care students to see, and to consider what it is they are actually seeing.

One day recently, Wolff was with a non-COVID patient with a deteriorating heart condition. The man lay ill, and afraid, in his efficient, if isolating, hospital room, with virus patients on the rise just outside the door, harried nurses, and clipboard-wielding doctors coming in and out. But, said Wolff, there came a moment for a pause, a moment for a family meeting. The man’s wife and daughter were there, via a video call, along with the attending doctor and Wolff.

The Barnes experience was a huge help in learning to pause, listen, and reflect with a very ill patient, Wolff said.

— Stephan Salisbury

6:21 PM - May 28, 2020
6:21 PM - May 28, 2020

Coronavirus has cut deep into Philly area hospitals’ finances

Penn Presbyterian Medical Center is part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which expects to have an operating loss of $317 million in the quarter ended June 30, before adding in $190 million of federal aid.
TYGER WILLIAMS / PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Penn Presbyterian Medical Center is part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which expects to have an operating loss of $317 million in the quarter ended June 30, before adding in $190 million of federal aid.

Large nonprofit health systems in the Philadelphia region saw sharp negative swings in operating profitability in the three months ended March 31, as coronavirus pandemic started unleashing an unprecedented disruption in health care.

It is too soon to know the full impact of the pandemic, but there are signs that the massive amount of federal aid steered to hospitals starting last month is sparing them from the worst.

Temple University Health System, for example, which at the peak of the pandemic in April was caring for 29% of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Philadelphia, rebounded from a $12.4 million operating loss in March to post an operating profit of $18.7 million in April — thanks to $35.5 million of CARES Act money.

Temple was at the heart of the region’s fight against COVID-19, but even wealthy systems that had a light load of COVID-19 inpatients took a financial hit because they deferred all non-essential procedures. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which received $42.9 million in federal aid, saw its operating margin fall to 0.5% from 5.9% a last year.

— Harold Brubaker

6:09 PM - May 28, 2020
6:09 PM - May 28, 2020

Checking in: Wildwood motels at limping Jersey Shore first to welcome guests

Pat Visalli, owner of Fleur di Lis Beach Resort, shown here at the hotel in Wildwood, NJ, May 27, 2020.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Pat Visalli, owner of Fleur di Lis Beach Resort, shown here at the hotel in Wildwood, NJ, May 27, 2020.

The coronavirus has turned even the most confident of Shore towns into their own version of Atlantic City in its down-on-its-luck days, with no sure business model, an uneasy customer base, and business owners railing against politicians over whom they have little sway.

“It’s a tough nut,” said Pat Visalli, owner of Fleur de Lis Beach Resort in Wildwood. “We’ve been spit-shining and doing everything we can to provide a safe environment."

One owner tried to open his Mango and Blue Diamond motels anyway over Memorial Day weekend, before they were permitted, but he ended up being fined and charged with a disorderly persons offense.

At the Mango this week, a worker grilled some ribs on a deck barbecue, and owner Frank Mangini, who earlier told NJ.com he hadn’t taken the prohibition seriously enough, declined further comment.

— Amy S. Rosenberg

5:49 PM - May 28, 2020
5:49 PM - May 28, 2020

Pennsylvania A.G. won’t pursue criminal investigation into claims GOP lawmakers withheld coronavirus test result

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro will not pursue a criminal investigation into state Republican leaders who did not notify lawmakers and staff that a colleague tested positive for the coronavirus, despite calls from Democratic legislators to do so.

Rep. Kevin Boyle (D., Philadelphia) sent a letter late Wednesday to Shapiro seeking an investigation into what he called a failure to notify lawmakers of the positive test, as required under guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Shapiro responded Thursday calling the allegations “disappointing” but said the information didn’t rise to the level of a criminal investigation.

— Julia Terruso, Angela Couloumbis

4:57 PM - May 28, 2020
4:57 PM - May 28, 2020

Video: Pa. House Democrats say they were in the dark about GOP lawmaker’s positive coronavirus test

— Raishad Hardnett

4:35 PM - May 28, 2020
4:35 PM - May 28, 2020

La Salle University to allow students to return to school in the fall

La Salle University will allow students to return to campus for classes in the fall as long as government regulations permit it, the school announced Thursday.

“As we each know, it is those moments of interaction on our campus, the formal and informal moments, that allow for the greatest transformational impacts of a Lasallian experience,” La Salle president Colleen Hanycz said in a message to the campus. “We need to do everything within our power to safeguard that experience within our community, achieving that in a manner that continues our prioritization of the health and wellness of all within our community.”

Classes will start on Aug. 17 and end ahead of Thanksgiving, with no fall break, she said. It’s a model that other colleges, including the University of Notre Dame, have been announcing or considering.

Hanycz’s statement follows a virtual town hall meeting with staff and faculty Thursday afternoon.

Faculty are being asked to devise their courses for delivery, both face to face and online, she said. The university plans to offer on-campus housing, with more single occupancy units likely, she said.

The university will continue to refine its plan and make a draft available for feedback by mid-June, with the goal of having a final plan by July 1.

— Susan Snyder

4:29 PM - May 28, 2020
4:29 PM - May 28, 2020

Coronavirus cases in Montgomery County have increased by 26% in past two weeks

The overall number of coronavirus cases in Montgomery County has increased by 26% in the last two weeks, county data shows.

“People under 50 are getting infected at a rate higher than the overall average,” said Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. “And people over 50 ... are getting infected at a rate lower than the overall average.”

Cases have increased by 55% for people between the ages of 10 and 19 in the last two weeks, according to the data Arkoosh presented Thursday, and cases amongst people ages 20 to 29 increased by nearly 35%.

This chart, displayed during a virtual Montgomery County coronavirus briefing, shows the increase in coronavirus cases in the county between May 13 and May 28.
Montgomery County Commissioners
This chart, displayed during a virtual Montgomery County coronavirus briefing, shows the increase in coronavirus cases in the county between May 13 and May 28.

“We are all at risk and as we move into the yellow phase we have to keep in mind that the yellow phase is a slow opening, that the coronavirus is still in our midst,” said Arkoosh.

Additionally, Arkoosh urged everyone who chooses to vote in person on Tuesday to wear a mask, though it’s not mandatory.

“We will not deny someone the right to vote if they do not have a mask on,” she said.

The county reported 92 additional cases on Thursday, and 13 additional deaths. The case total now sits at 6,779 and the confirmed positive death toll has climbed to 675.

— Ellie Rushing

4:15 PM - May 28, 2020
4:15 PM - May 28, 2020

Philabundance to hold its first-ever emergency food drive-through Friday morning at Citizens Bank Park parking lot

Joseph Hill, 25, of West Philadelphia, Volunteer, hands out fresh green beans or cantaloupe along with the boxes of packaged food from Philabundance to a local in the area at the corner of 59th Street and Lansdowne Avenue on Thursday, April 23, 2020.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
Joseph Hill, 25, of West Philadelphia, Volunteer, hands out fresh green beans or cantaloupe along with the boxes of packaged food from Philabundance to a local in the area at the corner of 59th Street and Lansdowne Avenue on Thursday, April 23, 2020.

Philabundance will hold a free, drive-through emergency food distribution in the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, and every Friday thereafter until June 26.

It’s the first time that Philabundance, one of two leading anti-hunger agencies in the region, has ever organized a drive-through distribution, according to spokeswoman Samantha Retamar.

“With Philabundance partner agencies reporting up to a 60% increase in clients due to the pandemic,” she said, “the primary goal of this new site is to safely distribute food to clients on a mass scale.”

Philabundance plans to give out 35 pounds of food per vehicle every Friday. The agency will be able to serve up to 1,600 vehicles each week at the site, with clients receiving a combination of perishable products varying weekly, Retamar said. It will likely include produce, dairy products, and bread.

—Alfred Lubrano

4:03 PM - May 28, 2020
4:03 PM - May 28, 2020

Philly officials won’t set firm coronavirus reopening metrics

A window cleaner wipes the glass leading to the SEPTA concourse at City Hall on Thursday, May 28, 2020.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
A window cleaner wipes the glass leading to the SEPTA concourse at City Hall on Thursday, May 28, 2020.

Philadelphia officials will not set firm COVID-19 metrics that the city must meet in order to move into the first phase of reopening, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Thursday.

But Farley noted that he expects the city will be ready to begin reopening.

“I want to just reserve the possibility, if the numbers get bad, then we may not go there,” he said. “Certainly we want to open up, we want it to be better to get the economy restarted. But certainly the virus is unpredictable.”

Farley said city officials will release guidelines for businesses and residents on Friday, as well as a list of virus metrics that the city is tracking. Gov. Tom Wolf last week announced that all counties in the state would move into the first, “yellow” phase of reopening on June 5, whether or not they meet a metric for the rate of new cases that his office had previously set. In Philadelphia, that metric would be about 55 new cases per day for 14 days; on Thursday the city had 175 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

“I always thought that having a decision based on that one metric was too narrow,” Farley said Thursday, noting that his office has been looking at a variety of other metrics.

Farley declined to comment on what number of cases might cause him not to move the city into the yellow phase next week, saying simply, “If the numbers doubled, I would be very concerned.”

Mayor Jim Kenney said he did not want “to be totally negative about it.” While residents should be prepared for the possibility that the city will not move into the yellow phase by June 5, Kenney said he does still expect it to happen.

“The point is we need to be realistic with people, we need to be upfront with people,” he said. “I’m hoping and praying and encouraged that we can get there on June 5.”

— Laura McCrystal

3:26 PM - May 28, 2020
3:26 PM - May 28, 2020

Pa. has distributed hospital supplies to 60 health-care facilities, tested more than 67,000 patients

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday announced the latest shipment of hospital supplies to health-care facilities across the commonwealth. In all, officials said they’ve sent supplies, including nasal swabs, to more than 60 hospitals, facilities, and local health departments for the testing of more than 67,000 patients.

“We know we need to ramp up testing capabilities as a means to further mitigate COVID-19,” the governor said in a statement. “These supplies are critical to that goal. We will continue to distribute these supplies as quickly and efficiently as they become available.”

While neither the governor nor Health Secretary Rachel Levine held press conferences Thursday, they did announce that the state surpassed 70,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

On Thursday, Pennsylvania added another 625 additional positive cases to its count for a total of 70,042. An additional 108 deaths were also reported for a total of 5,373.

— Erin McCarthy

2:56 PM - May 28, 2020
2:56 PM - May 28, 2020

PHLove variety show raised $1.5 million for the PHL COVID-19 Fund

Patti LaBelle during PHLove COVID-19 variety show telethon that's happening at 7 p.m. on on May 21, 2020.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Patti LaBelle during PHLove COVID-19 variety show telethon that's happening at 7 p.m. on on May 21, 2020.

PHLove, the hourlong variety show that featured headliners like Questlove, Daryl Hall, and Patti LaBelle, raised $1.5 million for the PHL COVID-19 Fund, organizers announced on Thursday.

The May 21 show aired live on several television stations and was live-streamed on Inquirer.com. It was presented by the Middleton family, including Phillies managing partner John Middleton and his wife, Leigh. The PHL COVID-19 Fund is a collaboration established by the City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Foundation, and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern N.J. to support Philly-area nonprofits during the pandemic.

— Marc Narducci

2:42 PM - May 28, 2020
2:42 PM - May 28, 2020

Bucks County voters who refuse face masks will have to wait, vote separately

In this April 7, 2020 file photo, voters observe social distancing guidelines as they wait in line to cast ballots in the presidential primary election in Milwaukee.
Morry Gash / AP
In this April 7, 2020 file photo, voters observe social distancing guidelines as they wait in line to cast ballots in the presidential primary election in Milwaukee.

Bucks County voters who refuse to wear masks might have to wait for others to go first.

The county health department has ordered all voters to cover their faces while inside polling places, and any voters who arrive at the polls Tuesday without a face mask will be offered one, county officials said at a press conference Thursday.

Those who refuse will be asked to wait outside and given a provisional paper ballot to fill out away from the main voting area. (A poll worker will watch nearby.)

“They'll be handled an envelope, they can fill it out on their own, and that would kind of tighten down on their interactions with other folks,” said Gail Humphrey, the county’s chief clerk.

A voter who refuses to wear a mask and who wants to cast a normal vote, instead of a provisional one, will be asked to wait until other voters go first and the polling place is cleared out.

“We’ll just kindly ask that individual to wait. We’re going to say, ‘You know, we have X number of people here already in line, they are masked and they’re ready to vote,’ and we’re going to ask that our poll workers let those individuals go first,” Humphrey said.

That will delay those voters who won’t wear masks and don’t want to use provisional ballots, she said.

The county commissioners urged voters to comply with the order to wear masks, which is meant to protect help limit the spread of COVID-19 by trapping and slowing down the respiratory droplets that are its primary method of transmission.

Other counties will also provide masks to voters who do not have them.

— Jonathan Lai

2:38 PM - May 28, 2020
2:38 PM - May 28, 2020

Pennsylvania urges eligible residents to apply for utility bill, meal financial aid

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services on Thursday encouraged residents to apply for pandemic relief programs if they are struggling financially amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Through the recovery crisis program, residents can receive up to $800 toward utility bills if they have been notified that their service will be shut off or if they’re at risk of that happening when the shutdown ends, said Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller. That program runs through August 31, or when funds run out.

If a family has lost significant income due to the pandemic, they can receive a one-time payment through the emergency-assistance program, she said. Eligible families must have at least one person who was employed on March 11 but lost their job or had their hours or wages reduced by at least 50% for at least two weeks since then, Miller said. The payment is based on family size, and families of three would receive about $800.

Families with children who received reduced-price meals when they were in school, or who have become eligible for that program since March, can apply for the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer program. Benefits from that program will start to be distributed later this week, she said, and through June.

“You may not think these programs are for you,” Miller said, “but they can help make these difficult times a little easier.”

Residents can apply at www.compass.state.pa.gov.

— Erin McCarthy

2:34 PM - May 28, 2020
2:34 PM - May 28, 2020

Kenney withdraws proposed Philly property tax hike

The City of Philadelphia announced that the Family Health Care Center #5 at 20th and Berks Sts. will begin to do COVID-19 testing. The Mayor Kenney, in his Eagles mask, waits to make the announcement at a press conference on May 26, 2020.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
The City of Philadelphia announced that the Family Health Care Center #5 at 20th and Berks Sts. will begin to do COVID-19 testing. The Mayor Kenney, in his Eagles mask, waits to make the announcement at a press conference on May 26, 2020.

Mayor Jim Kenney has withdrawn his proposed property tax hike, citing increased state funding that will help fill a budget shortfall for the city’s schools.

“As soon as the Senate did that this morning we were free to step away from the proposal,” Kenney said Thursday.

Kenney had proposed a 3.95% property tax increase, which would have provided $57 million for the school district in the next fiscal year. City Council members had voiced opposition to tax increases, and Kenney formally withdrew the proposal in a letter Thursday to Council President Darrell L. Clarke.

"The School District still faces a substantial deficit during their Five-Year Plan which will require all of us, working with our partners in the General Assembly, to address in the future," Kenney wrote in the letter.

Kenney’s proposed budget still includes an increase in the city’s parking tax and wage tax for non-residents who commute to work in the city. His proposal would also freeze planned reductions in business taxes and the wage tax rate for city residents, and eliminating a discount for property-tax payers who pay their bills early.

Those measures would raise an estimated $49 million in the next fiscal year.

Clarke, who sent a letter to Philadelphia Board of Education President Joyce Wilkerson this week warning "that it would be unwise to assume that Council will approve the Mayor's proposed real estate tax hike," said Thursday that there was not much support on Council for the proposal.

Clarke said Council is still reviewing Kenney's other tax hikes and budget priorities.

“There are a couple of other things that members are concerned about,” Clarke said Thursday.

— Laura McCrystal

2:30 PM - May 28, 2020
2:30 PM - May 28, 2020

This is what six feet apart looks like

Staying six feet away can be hard to picture. Here are some ways to help remember what six feet looks like.
Cynthia Greer
Staying six feet away can be hard to picture. Here are some ways to help remember what six feet looks like.

By now, it’s drilled into our brains: Keeping a six-foot distance from other people helps protect us from catching and spreading the coronavirus. But what’s not so clear — what does six feet actually look like?

Since walking around with measuring tape would feel both annoying and absurd, we’ve put together some ideas to help you visualize safe social distancing.

— Grace Dickinson

2:01 PM - May 28, 2020
2:01 PM - May 28, 2020

Murphy: N.J. critical care patient numbers down by more than 60% since virus’ peak

Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday noted another 1,261 residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 157,815.

Another 66 people have also died, Murphy said, increasing the state’s death toll to 11,401.

Murphy reported people in the hospital, critical care, or on ventilators because of the coronavirus are all down more than 60% since the pandemic’s peak in mid-April. Currently, 2,797 people are hospitalized, including 760 in critical care and 564 on ventilators.

Murphy noted 24,000 people were tested for the coronavirus on Tuesday, surpassing his goal to have at least 20,000 people tested per day by the end of May.

New Jersey reported 537 long-term care facilities are suffering a coronavirus outbreak, accounting for over 31,000 of the state’s positives and 5,751 of its deaths, according to data self-reported by these facilities.

— Pranshu Verma

1:59 PM - May 28, 2020
1:59 PM - May 28, 2020

Pennsylvania Democrats want to know why they weren’t told when a Republican lawmaker tested positive for coronavirus

ReOpen PA demonstrators prepare to protest on the steps of the Pa. State Capital Building in Harrisburg on Friday, May 15, 2020. The demonstration was the second anti-shutdown protesting Governor Tom Wolf's COVID-19 shutdowns of non-essential businesses.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
ReOpen PA demonstrators prepare to protest on the steps of the Pa. State Capital Building in Harrisburg on Friday, May 15, 2020. The demonstration was the second anti-shutdown protesting Governor Tom Wolf's COVID-19 shutdowns of non-essential businesses.

Democratic lawmakers in Pennsylvania are voicing growing outrage after the belated revelation that one of their Republican colleagues had tested positive for the coronavirus, with allegations of a cover-up prompting calls for the House GOP leader to resign and one Democrat even calling for an official investigation.

Lawmakers learned Wednesday that state Rep. Andrew Lewis (R., Dauphin) had tested positive a full week earlier, on May 20. Lewis said he immediately began self-isolating after receiving the test result, and that he informed House officials, who worked to identify anyone he may have exposed.

But while some Republican lawmakers have confirmed being notified of their potential exposure and self-isolating as a result, Democrats say they only learned of it from a reporter — despite their own daily proximity to Lewis.

— Julia Terruso, Angela Couloumbis

1:51 PM - May 28, 2020
1:51 PM - May 28, 2020

Murphy: More than 77% of New Jersey’s coronavirus unemployment claims have been processed

Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday noted 911,000 of the state’s 1.17 million claims for unemployment benefits have now been paid out to residents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the course of the pandemic, lawmakers and advocates have criticized the Murphy administration for not processing claims quick enough. The administration has put multiple call centers on-line to handle the “unprecedented” volume of requests it has seen since March.

“You all have paid into the system to protect you in times like this,” Murphy said. “Every New Jerseyan who qualifies for unemployment benefits [will receive] every single penny to which they are entitled.”

— Pranshu Verma

1:44 PM - May 28, 2020
1:44 PM - May 28, 2020

National Guard will be deployed at N.J. long-term care facilities until August

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday the National Guard will remain deployed in New Jersey until mid-August to assist in the state’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement came shortly after President Donald Trump tweeted out the extension order Thursday.

“The men and women of the National Guard have been doing a great job fighting the CoronaVirus,” Trump said on Twitter. “This week, I will extend their Title 32 orders through mid-August, so they can continue to help States succeed in their response and recovery efforts.”

Each state relying on the National Guard to assist in their fight against the pandemic will be able to take advantage of the funding extension.

In New Jersey, National Guard members have been deployed to the state’s long-term care facilities to tame the spread of the virus among the state’s most vulnerable population.

They also help operate two FEMA testing sites in northern and central New Jersey.

Murphy noted more details will be available Friday for how National Guard resources will be used over the summer.

— Pranshu Verma

1:39 PM - May 28, 2020
1:39 PM - May 28, 2020

Kenney: 'No restaurant should be announcing plans to launch outdoor dining on June 5’ as Philly develops guidelines

Krista Micheletti puts a label on to-go margaritas at El Vez restaurant on 13th Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on May 21, 2020.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Krista Micheletti puts a label on to-go margaritas at El Vez restaurant on 13th Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on May 21, 2020.

Despite guidance issued this week from Gov. Tom Wolf's office on outdoor dining, Mayor Jim Kenney said Thursday that his administration is still reviewing whether to permit outdoor dining beginning June 5 — and how to do so safely.

“No restaurant should be announcing plans to launch outdoor dining on June 5,” Kenney said.

Kenney said the city will issue its own guidance on outdoor dining next week rather than simply following Wolf's guidelines.

“Outdoor dining, done properly in the midst of a pandemic, is extremely complicated,” Kenney said. “We are still determining how this will work in Philadelphia.”

City officials said they will need to determine how to keep sidewalks accessible while allowing outdoor dining and requiring social distancing between tables. The city may change curblines and make other adjustments.

"Our numbers are different and we're a more concentrated population," Kenney said. "This is complicated but it’s simple: We don’t want people to get sick and die and that’s what we’re worried about."

City officials said they will release additional details for other businesses and residents on Friday about a planned move to the “yellow” phase of reopening.

“We are getting closer to a step-wise, gradual restart on June 5,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said, but noted that if there is an increase in new cases of COVID-19 before that date the city may not be able to ease restrictions.

Farley announced 175 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Thursday, and 10 additional deaths due to COVID-19.

— Laura McCrystal

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

Are businesses hiring again? Here’s how to read unemployment numbers during pandemic times

In this May 7, 2020, photo, the entrance to the Labor Department is seen near the Capitol in Washington. The record unemployment rate reflects a nation ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
J. Scott Applewhite / AP
In this May 7, 2020, photo, the entrance to the Labor Department is seen near the Capitol in Washington. The record unemployment rate reflects a nation ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

The business shutdowns forced by the coronavirus pandemic has put tens of millions of Americans out of work, pushing unemployment to historic levels not seen since the Great Depression.

Each week seems to bring a new grim statistic about the labor market. But there are important distinctions between the different kinds of economic data released by the government, and they tell different stories about the economy.

Here’s what you need to know about how the government tracks and measures unemployment.

— Christian Hetrick

1:11 PM - May 28, 2020
1:11 PM - May 28, 2020

Pa. state park beaches, some pools to reopen at reduced capacity

Dennis Cermak, 64, from Spring City, fishes on Scott's Run Lake at French Creek State Park in Elverson, Pennsylvania on Wednesday, October 23, 2019.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Dennis Cermak, 64, from Spring City, fishes on Scott's Run Lake at French Creek State Park in Elverson, Pennsylvania on Wednesday, October 23, 2019.

All Pennsylvania state park beaches and some state park pools will soon reopen at reduced capacity as the commonwealth begins to emerge from the coronavirus shutdown.

Starting June 6, all park beaches will be open for swimming, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced Thursday, while most pools in both yellow and green counties will reopen June 13. Capacity will be limited to 50 percent.

The department said the reopening decision is consistent with “Governor Wolf’s direction to ensure Pennsylvanians have opportunities to safely enjoy outdoor recreation and help maintain positive physical and mental health.”

Additionally, the state parks’ cabins, cottages, lodges, and yurts will open statewide on June 12.

As of Thursday, all state parks and forests had at least one bathroom facility open for visitors, the department said, with enhanced cleaning protocols in place.

— Erin McCarthy

1:07 PM - May 28, 2020
1:07 PM - May 28, 2020

Photos: Daily life in the Philadelphia region during the coronavirus pandemic

— Inquirer Staff Photographers

12:44 PM - May 28, 2020
12:44 PM - May 28, 2020

'I am livid’: Some Pa. House Democrats demand resignations over Republican’s positive coronavirus test

The dome of the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.
Matt Rourke / AP
The dome of the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.

Upon hearing the news Wednesday that State Rep. Andrew Lewis (R., Dauphin) received a positive coronavirus test result on May 20, House Democrats immediately began demanding answers from their Republican colleagues about why they had not been informed sooner that one of their colleagues had tested positive.

Some demanded resignations.

“I am livid,” said State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D., Phila.), who sits on the committee with Lewis, adding: “They were derelict in their duty when they did not alert us to this immediately.... They put our health at risk, they put our families at risk, and Speaker [Mike] Turzai should resign, period.”

— Angela Couloumbis, Julia Terruso

12:17 PM - May 28, 2020
12:17 PM - May 28, 2020

Pennsylvania is sitting on billions in coronavirus relief money. What’s the holdup?

After enduring more than two months of the coronavirus pandemic, and with state revenues continuing to tank, Pennsylvania has yet to spend a dime of $3.9 billion in discretionary federal stimulus dollars intended to aid in the relief effort.

The pot of money is by far the largest available to the state, and the most valuable. And while it currently cannot be used to make up for lost revenues — projected to be as much as $5 billion by next June — there is hope in some corners the rules could change.

The second unknown is whether Congress and President Donald Trump will agree on another stimulus package that would provide direct cash assistance to state budgets, which might change how Pennsylvania chooses to spend the current round of cash.

— Cynthia Fernandez

11:33 AM - May 28, 2020
11:33 AM - May 28, 2020

Delaware state park campgrounds to reopen Monday

As Delaware relaxes its travel and short-term rental restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, campgrounds at its state parks will reopen for visitors beginning Monday.

For the first time since March 24, campers will be able to stay in tents, RVs, cabins, cottages, and yurts at Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore, Indian River Marina, Killens Pond, Lums Pond, and Trap Pond, the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control said Thursday.

Cabins and cottages will be professionally cleaned between reservations, the department said, and visitors must wear face masks in enclosed spaces such as bathrooms. Some amenities, including playgrounds and nature centers, remain closed.

A flexible reservation policy will be in place through June 15, according to the department, and any visitor who cancels a visit during that time can get a full refund.

— Erin McCarthy

9:20 AM - May 28, 2020
9:20 AM - May 28, 2020

Philly is dealing with increased raccoon sightings during the coronavirus pandemic

Raccoon spottings have increased in and around Philadelphia since mid-March, when people were forced to remain in their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
John Griffin, The HSUS
Raccoon spottings have increased in and around Philadelphia since mid-March, when people were forced to remain in their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Have you looked out the window of your Philly townhouse recently and noticed a raccoon scurrying around on your back deck? You’re not alone.

Raccoons aren’t exactly uncommon in southeast Pennsylvania. But judging by social media posts, it certainly seems like the “Philadelphia Trash Panda” is being spotted by an increasing number of people these days.

ACCT Philly says it has experienced a jump in the number of calls about raccoons since the city’s shelter-in-place rules went into effect in mid-March, based on anecdotal feedback from its dispatchers. Unlike their counterparts in the wild, the raccoons that live in the Philadelphia region aren’t necessarily nocturnal, so seeing them scamper around during the day isn’t an unusual occurrence.

“They do not always wait until dark to come outside to look for food. They are perfectly comfortable coming out when people are walking around,” said Sarah Barnett, the director of development and communications for ACCT Philly. “With more people at home and going for walks as exercise, it’s natural that more people would report seeing raccoons during the daytime.”

— Rob Tornoe

8:45 AM - May 28, 2020
8:45 AM - May 28, 2020

Another 2.1 million Americans filed for jobless benefits last week, pushing 10-week total over 40 million

At the Stove & Tap in Malvern owner Justin Weathers holds the tape measure as Caitlin Welge goes for a six foot distance between tables as Rich Fell watches in anticipation of being able to offer outdoor dining when the area enters the yellow phase of reopening.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
At the Stove & Tap in Malvern owner Justin Weathers holds the tape measure as Caitlin Welge goes for a six foot distance between tables as Rich Fell watches in anticipation of being able to offer outdoor dining when the area enters the yellow phase of reopening.

More than 2.1 million Americans filed new unemployment claims last week, federal figures showed Thursday, as the 10-week toll surpassed 40 million since states shut down their economies to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The weekly count of new claims in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the nation continued to ease since peaking in late March, but they remained at high levels more than two months after states shut down businesses and limited the movement of residents, worrying some economists.

New claims were down 323,000 nationwide from the more than 2.4 million filed the week ending May 16, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s well below the surge of 6.9 million in late March, but the modest declines in new claims in recent weeks have economists worried that the U.S. economy could be in for a slower recovery.

“If we’re still seeing 2 million or even 1.5 million, it’s still saying that businesses and the government are continuing to cut back dramatically, despite the process of reopening,” Joel Naroff, president and founder of Naroff Economic Advisors in Bucks County, said Tuesday before the latest figures were released.

— Christian Hetrick

8:14 AM - May 28, 2020
8:14 AM - May 28, 2020

Masks, social distancing, shorter ceremonies in store for outdoor graduations in N.J.

New Jersey education officials have laid out guidelines for holding outdoor graduation ceremonies in July.

Starting on July 6, schools may hold either a more traditional outdoor ceremony with capacity limits, social distancing modifications, and universal masking requirements, or a drive-in or drive-through ceremony, according to the updated guidance released Wednesday night by the New Jersey Department of Education and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.

“These will be graduations unlike any others,” the governor said then. “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."

Drive-through or drive-in ceremonies can be held in school parking lots, drive-in movie theaters, stadium parking lots, and other similar venues, under the guidlines. If a school decides to go that route for graduation, officials urge administrators to ensure that families without cars can also safely participate and to perhaps livestream the celebration for anyone who cannot attend. All ceremonies must take place outdoors, though a tent or tarp may be used in the event of bad weather, according to the guidance.

Officials ask schools to limit staff members in attendance to only those needed, consider capacity limits or student-only ceremonies, and set up markings to allow for six feet of social distance between families in attendance. Ceremonies should be shortened if possible, and if classes are large, schools should consider multiple ceremonies with cleaning in between. Face coverings should be required for everyone, except children under 2 and those with certain health conditions, according to the guidance.

Any schools that wish to hold these kinds of ceremonies must certify their plans with state education officials starting June 5 at https://covid19.nj.gov/.

— Erin McCarthy

6:00 AM - May 28, 2020
6:00 AM - May 28, 2020

Voting is different in Philly this year. Here’s what you need to know for Tuesday’s coronavirus primary.

In this April 7, 2020, a voter arrives at the Riverside High School for Wisconsin's primary election in Milwaukee.
Morry Gash / AP
In this April 7, 2020, a voter arrives at the Riverside High School for Wisconsin's primary election in Milwaukee.

Huge cuts in the number of polling places. Face masks, plastic barriers, and gloves. A massive surge in voting by mail.

Voting during this pandemic doesn’t look like anything we’ve seen before.

For in-person voters, there’s the potential for long lines and confusion over polling place changes. For mail voters, there’s a tight deadline that could make it impossible to mail ballots back in time.

But there are ways to avoid problems in Tuesday’s primary election. And the better prepared you are, the less likely you are to encounter issues.

— Jonathan Lai

5:30 AM - May 28, 2020
5:30 AM - May 28, 2020

‘We ask forgiveness from the dead’: Why Jewish volunteers are washing bodies in a pandemic

David Kushner demonstrates how he would wash the deceased during the Tahara in a room with a Mikveh at the Joseph Levine & Sons Funeral Home in Trevose last week.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
David Kushner demonstrates how he would wash the deceased during the Tahara in a room with a Mikveh at the Joseph Levine & Sons Funeral Home in Trevose last week.

It used to be that David Kushner would receive a call to report to one of the area’s Jewish funeral homes once every few weeks. In the pandemic, his phone has buzzed every single day, sometimes more than once.

Then, Kushner, 40, must rally the other members of the Chevra Kadisha B’nei Moshe. This all-volunteer group, which is not affiliated with any one synagogue or denomination, is the largest of the handful of chevra kadishas, or burial societies, that operate in the region. Driven by faith and reverence for tradition, its members gather to carry out the ritual cleaning and dressing of bodies before burial. For devout Jews (or even lapsed ones), these are their final respects.

This work has always been emotionally taxing. Now, it poses a degree of physical danger.

— Samantha Melamed

5:00 AM - May 28, 2020
5:00 AM - May 28, 2020

Morning Update: Restaurants could serve outside, the Phillies could practice in Philadelphia under Wolf decree; Cape May to reopen ocean

Cierra Smith and Brandon Stallings and their Beagle Penny at their Mantua Township, N.J., home where they hung a banner with the inspirational message “HANG IN THERE, WORLD.” He is a chef and she is a restaurant manager and both have been out of work due to the pandemic.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Cierra Smith and Brandon Stallings and their Beagle Penny at their Mantua Township, N.J., home where they hung a banner with the inspirational message “HANG IN THERE, WORLD.” He is a chef and she is a restaurant manager and both have been out of work due to the pandemic.

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.

Under Gov. Tom Wolf’s guidelines released late Wednesday, restaurants in Philadelphia and other counties due to enter the “yellow” phase of easing virus-related restrictions could resume outdoor dining, but seating capacities would be limited. Pro sports teams could practice, but spectators couldn’t watch, and players would have to be tested.

And Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley held up a caution flag on Wednesday, suggesting it wasn’t a done deal that the city would enter the yellow phase on June 5, as per the current proposed schedule.

As for that weekend swim, nothing evidently can stop the ocean from reopening at Cape May at 10 a.m. Saturday, as officials have announced, but it wouldn’t hurt to bring a wet suit: The near-surf temperature Wednesday was 51.

— Anthony R. Wood, Erin McCarthy and Laura McCrystal

4:30 AM - May 28, 2020
4:30 AM - May 28, 2020

Today’s Front Page

The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Thursday, May 28, 2020.
Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Thursday, May 28, 2020.