8:58 AM - May 30, 2020
8:58 AM - May 30, 2020

Read the latest Philadephia-area coronavirus updates here

Philadelphia International Airport is making adjustments to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Tuesday’s primary election in Pennsylvania will not have many of the usual campaign or election day rituals. And Philadelphia’s guidelines for moving into the “yellow” phase of easing stay-at-home restrictions include some differences from Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan.

Editor’s note: News about the coronavirus is changing quickly. The latest information can be found at inquirer.com/coronavirus.

10:28 PM - May 29, 2020
10:28 PM - May 29, 2020

Days before the Pa. primary, Democrats and progressive groups continue push for more time to vote by mail

HOLD FOR STORY - FILE - 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. Wisconsin's presidential primary election held last month in the face of the coronavirus pandemic drew concern from doctors, voters, poll workers and politicians who warned that having thousands of people leave their homes to cast ballots would further spread the highly contagious virus. Now well beyond the 14-day incubation period for COVID-19, and with a Tuesday special congressional election in northern Wisconsin looming, it remains largely unknown just how many people contracted the virus at the polls on April 7. (AP Photo/Morry Gash File)
Morry Gash / AP
HOLD FOR STORY - FILE - 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. Wisconsin's presidential primary election held last month in the face of the coronavirus pandemic drew concern from doctors, voters, poll workers and politicians who warned that having thousands of people leave their homes to cast ballots would further spread the highly contagious virus. Now well beyond the 14-day incubation period for COVID-19, and with a Tuesday special congressional election in northern Wisconsin looming, it remains largely unknown just how many people contracted the virus at the polls on April 7. (AP Photo/Morry Gash File)

Just days before Pennsylvania’s primary election, key ground rules are being challenged in four cases now pending before state courts.

In the last week alone, Montgomery and Bucks Counties have asked their Common Pleas courts to extend mail ballot deadlines in their counties; a group of voters in Southeastern Pennsylvania asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to give voters statewide an extra week to return ballots; and Democrats appealed to the state Supreme Court for a one-week extension and to allow third parties such as friends, family, or political activists to collect and turn in mail ballots.

The legal challenges have so far been unsuccessful, but remained live Friday afternoon. The courts could scramble the election rules just days before people are set to cast their votes June 2.

— Jonathan Tamari, Jonathan Lai

9:24 PM - May 29, 2020
9:24 PM - May 29, 2020

Penn Medicine is working with West Philadelphia nursing homes to improve coronavirus care

Jennifer Olenik, left, a palliative care physician, and Nina O'Connor, chief of the palliative care program at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, review paperwork for the Serious Illness Conversation project, a questionaire that helps doctors talk with patients about their priorities.
Courtesy of Penn Medicine
Jennifer Olenik, left, a palliative care physician, and Nina O'Connor, chief of the palliative care program at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, review paperwork for the Serious Illness Conversation project, a questionaire that helps doctors talk with patients about their priorities.

The coronavirus is strengthening the relationship between Penn Medicine and the West Philadelphia nursing homes that both send it patients and provide post-acute care for people discharged from the system’s hospitals.

The program started in March, when Joshua Uy, a Penn geriatrician who is medical director of Renaissance Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center, asked for help from Nina O’Connor, chief of the Penn health system’s palliative care program. Renaissance had the unfortunate distinction of being the first nursing home in the city to have a patient test positive for the new virus, and Uy was swamped with work as he tried to contain the outbreak.

His first patient, who later died, went to the hospital, but Uy was dismayed after her brother told him, “Not only would she not want to be on a ventilator, she wouldn’t even want to be in the hospital.”

— Stacey Burling

8:20 PM - May 29, 2020
8:20 PM - May 29, 2020

Lawsuit demands full refunds for summer camp canceled because of coronavirus

A class-action lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Philadelphia is demanding full refunds for pricey summer camp programs run by a Main Line business that were canceled last week because of the pandemic.

ESF Summer Camps offered 70-percent refunds among several options for parents who paid up to $6,000 per child for the canceled programs, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of plaintiff Jodi Teitelman of Villanova by the Marlton law firm of DeNittis Osefchen Prince.

ESF Summer Camps could not be reached for comment Friday night.

— Robert Moran

7:07 PM - May 29, 2020
7:07 PM - May 29, 2020
Robbie Becker, second from right, and his sister Sophia Becker, right, color a rainbow on the wall of their house in Society Hill, May 29, 2020.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Robbie Becker, second from right, and his sister Sophia Becker, right, color a rainbow on the wall of their house in Society Hill, May 29, 2020.

— Jessica Griffin

6:48 PM - May 29, 2020
6:48 PM - May 29, 2020

AAC commissioner talks about college football’s potential return

Mike Aresco
Marc Narducci/Staff
Mike Aresco

Mike Aresco, the commissioner of the American Athletic Conference, of which Temple is a member, remains cautiously optimistic there will be a college football season. In an interview on Friday with The Inquirer, Aresco said there are still many hurdles that have to be cleared to have a college football season and especially one that starts on time.

The NCAA recently announced that voluntary on-campus activities can resume in football and basketball beginning on Monday. That is contingent on what a state rules and then school rules. Until next week, the Philadelphia region is currently in restrictive red phase, which prohibits such activity.

— Marc Narducci

6:10 PM - May 29, 2020
6:10 PM - May 29, 2020

Philadelphia struggles to adapt summer’s rituals to pandemic’s reality

Matthew Fisher and Bobbie Ann Tilkens-Fisher with their son Milo, 3, in their backyard pool May 27, 2020. People are adapting to this summer, lost to the coronavirus.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Matthew Fisher and Bobbie Ann Tilkens-Fisher with their son Milo, 3, in their backyard pool May 27, 2020. People are adapting to this summer, lost to the coronavirus.

Summer has always been Philadelphia’s signature season, the time of year when the city becomes the beating heart of America with its Independence Day fireworks and regattas on the Schuylkill. But the pandemic’s demand for isolation runs counter to this city’s party-loving sensibility. Summer here is for mingling. It’s about plunging into the sweaty mass of humanity on the Parkway for Made in America. It’s about the generations coming together for family reunions in Fairmount Park. It’s about firing up the grill and inflating the bounce house for a neighborhood block party. It’s about crowding the urban midway of Spruce Harbor Park and lounging in hammocks.

Now the pandemic has redefined what the summer of 2020 will be. All those big, crowd-drawing events have been canceled — even our main brand, Welcome America. Rec centers are shut tight, and officials say nearly a thousand rims have been removed from city basketball courts. Beer gardens and public pools are dry. While city and state health protocols are in flux, it’s reasonable to expect most restrictions to remain at least through Labor Day. In a city where most residents live in modest rowhouses, and get by on modest budgets, the living will definitely not be easy.

— Inga Saffron

5:25 PM - May 29, 2020
5:25 PM - May 29, 2020

Some Gap stores reopen in Philadelphia as hundreds more prepare to go live soon

Gap Store at The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley are shown Thursday, July 23, 2015 in Center Valley, Pa. (Philadelphia Inquirer/Bradley C Bower)
Philadelphia Inquirer
Gap Store at The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley are shown Thursday, July 23, 2015 in Center Valley, Pa. (Philadelphia Inquirer/Bradley C Bower)

Five stores under Gap Inc., which include Athleta and Banana Republic, had reopened by Thursday in the Philadelphia area as the company prepared to resume operations at 800 of its stores across the country by the end of the month, a company spokesperson said.

The trickle of reopenings, which ranged from a Banana Republic on Philadelphia’s Walnut Street to a Gap in Doylestown, are part of the company’s plans that have followed similar sweeping measures by other major retailers. Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, and Ulta have opened in other parts of the country but not yet in the Philadelphia area.

The reopenings, which come amid sagging apparel sales during the coronavirus pandemic, are expected to resuscitate — and reshape — Gap Inc.'s portfolio of stores, each of which had found varying levels of online success during the pandemic.

— Katie Park

4:24 PM - May 29, 2020
4:24 PM - May 29, 2020

Montgomery County now has ‘sufficient infrastructure in place’ to identify coronavirus hot spots, officials say

Eighty-one more cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Montgomery County, bringing the total to 6,859 cases, said Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.

Of the people who tested positive, 17 are from long-term care facilities, one is from the Montgomery County Correctional facility, and 63 are from the community. The cases were reported in 38 women and 43 men across 21 municipalities.

None of these people are hospitalized, six are known to be self-isolating at home, and 75 are unknown in terms of their status, Arkoosh said.

In total, the coronavirus’ spread in Montgomery County has reached 61 of the county’s 62 municipalities.

Arkoosh also reported two more deaths, both in residents of a long-term care facility.

The county’s total deaths is up to 677 people. When adding in “probable” deaths from COVID-19, the county has seen 791 people die from the virus.

On Friday, there were 225 COVID-19 patients in Montgomery County hospitals — a decrease from Thursday’s 250, Arkoosh said. Around 50 of those patients require ventilators.

The county has seen that in the last 32 days, 14% of those tested for the coronavirus are positive.

The county now has “sufficient infrastructure in place,” to identify any hot spots that break out, increase testing, conduct contact tracing and urge people to quarantine if they were in contact with someone who tested positive, Arkoosh said.

Still, she said, residents should continue following social distancing guidelines, like staying at least 6 feet away from others in public, covering sneezes and coughs, washing hands, and wearing masks.

“As we move into the yellow phase, I just want to remind everyone that we still do have this virus in our midst,” Arkoosh said. ”As we put all of these pieces into place, it will allow us to live with this virus which we are going to be doing for the foreseeable future.”

— Ellie Silverman

4:10 PM - May 29, 2020
4:10 PM - May 29, 2020

Trump: U.S. ‘terminating’ relationship with World Health Organization

President Donald Trump said Friday that the U.S. will be terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization, saying it had failed to adequately respond to the coronavirus because China has “total control” over the global organization.

He said Chinese officials “ignored” their reporting obligations to the WHO and pressured the WHO to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered.

He noted that the U.S. contributes about $450 million to the world body while China provides about $40 million.

The U.S. is the largest source of financial support to the WHO and its exit is expected to significantly weaken the organization. Trump said the U.S. would be “redirecting” the money to “other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” without providing specifics.

— Associated Press

3:48 PM - May 29, 2020
3:48 PM - May 29, 2020

Wolf: Pa. schools will reopen by fall, but may look different

Parents pick up Chromebooks at the Philadelphia School District headquarters in Philadelphia, Pa. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Parents pick up Chromebooks at the Philadelphia School District headquarters in Philadelphia, Pa. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf vowed Friday to have the commonwealth’s schools reopened by the fall, but perhaps with a mix of online and in-person learning and smaller class sizes.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure schools reopen on time in the fall,” Wolf said, noting the guidelines for schools will be unveiled next week. “I think every single high school and middle school and elementary school in the commonwealth is thinking about, how do we get back to as close to normal as we can be and keep people safe?”

— Erin McCarthy

3:23 PM - May 29, 2020
3:23 PM - May 29, 2020

What our social lives will look like in the yellow phase

Sofia Deleon participates in a "Virtual Takeout and Meet and Greet" with Jill Biden from inside her El Merkury Restaurant May 12, 2020. Biden held the Zoom meeting before attending a virtual organizing event with Philadelphia volunteers.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Sofia Deleon participates in a "Virtual Takeout and Meet and Greet" with Jill Biden from inside her El Merkury Restaurant May 12, 2020. Biden held the Zoom meeting before attending a virtual organizing event with Philadelphia volunteers.

As more and more Pennsylvania counties emerge from red, shelter-in-place status to the still-cautious yellow phase, the return to the next new normal seems to be officially underway.

Philadelphia and the surrounding area may start to reopen on June 5. But Philadelphia’s “Safer at Home" phase will not look like other yellow-phase counties. Restaurants and bars won’t be open for outdoor dining just yet, and while some retail is allowed, online shopping and curbside pick-up is being encouraged.

But can we start, slowly, to expand our social circles? Under the state’s yellow-phase guidelines, gatherings of 25 people or less are allowed

But what does this really mean? Is it safe? After all, people are still getting sick.

— Elizabeth Wellington

2:51 PM - May 29, 2020
2:51 PM - May 29, 2020

Wolf: ‘We cannot do a lockdown’ as Pa. prepares for a second possible virus wave in the fall

With all 67 Pennsylvania counties, including in the Philadelphia region, beginning to reopen by next Friday, Gov. Tom Wolf said the state hopes to never again have to implement shutdown.

As officials prepare for a possible second wave in the fall, “we cannot do a lockdown,” the governor said. “We cannot do a shelter-in-place. That’s just not going to work.”

“The goal is that we don’t do that,” he clarified later. “The assumption is that’s not an option. We want to do everything in our power to avoid that and we will.”

With the knowledge that a vaccine likely won’t quickly be available, Pennsylvania will hopefully have a healthy supply of rapid, perhaps even at-home coronavirus tests by the fall, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said. They hope residents will be able to take a nasal or oral swab test, she said, and get results in 10 to 15 minutes.

— Erin McCarthy

2:47 PM - May 29, 2020
2:47 PM - May 29, 2020

Philly riders can soon book an Uber for hours at a time

The logo of Uber app displayed on a tablet screen.
DENIS CHARLET/AFP / MCT
The logo of Uber app displayed on a tablet screen.

Uber riders in Philadelphia will soon be able to book trips for as long as they need.

The “hourly” option, available in Philadelphia starting Tuesday, works almost like a car for hire. Riders needing a lift to the grocery store or doctor’s office can call an Uber and expect the driver to wait until after they’re finished with the errands, instead of needing to request another trip.

The feature costs $50 per hour, excluding tolls, and has a seven-hour limit. “Hourly” can be used to get to multiple destinations but not to get to the airport.

While it wasn’t added in response to COVID-19, the pandemic prompted the rideshare giant to prioritize the feature’s rollout.

“This is one other way that we think will make people more comfortable being in an Uber,” Hartfield said. “We know there’s some riders and drivers alike who like the comfort of knowing that that driver is with them all day.”

— Patricia Madej

2:33 PM - May 29, 2020
2:33 PM - May 29, 2020

Philly discourages social gatherings in yellow reopening phase, but many guidelines won’t be enforced

Differing from Gov. Tom Wolf’s guidelines for the “yellow” phase of reopening, Philadelphia officials are not recommending any religious or social gatherings of up to 25 people as the city moves toward the first phase of easing stay-at-home restrictions.

Philadelphia officials said social and religious gatherings carry a high risk of spreading COVID-19 because they involve prolonged close contact between people.

But much of Philadelphia’s “safer at home” guidelines will not be enforced. Instead, city officials said Friday, they are asking residents to voluntarily comply.

“A lot of this really does depend on the voluntary participation of Philadelphia residents,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.

City officials outlined recommendations for retail stores to safely resume operations by allowing fewer than five customers per 1,000 square feet, requiring masks, screening employees for health symptoms, and encouraging on online ordering and curbside pickup.

“This is not reopening Philadelphia,” Farley said. “This is a cautious restart of certain activities.”

Mayor Jim Kenney called the planned lifting of some regulations a “mini step forward“ to restart the economy.

“We’re ready to put our toe in the water and see how everybody behaves and how everybody reacts,” Kenney said.

But city officials emphasized that a move into the “yellow” phase next week is not guaranteed if cases of the virus increase in the next week — and that the city is not ready for a full reopening.

“At some point in the future — but not anytime soon — if things go well, we would move onto a green phase,” he said.

— Laura McCrystal

2:10 PM - May 29, 2020
2:10 PM - May 29, 2020

Pennsylvania to allow 16 more counties to move to the ‘green’ phase of reopening

An additional 16 counties, which include the city of Pittsburgh, will move to the final green phase of reopening June 5, at the same time that Philadelphia and its collar counties are set to proceed to the interim yellow phase, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday.

Those counties are Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Clinton, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Lycoming, Mercer, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.

In the green phase, all businesses may reopen and gatherings can be held, but officials urge residents to continue to take precautions to prevent outbreaks. Wolf reiterated Friday that people should continue to wear masks and follow health guidelines. “For some reason, wearing masks has become politicized,” Wolf said. “We need you to keep being responsible.”

Earlier Friday, 18 Pennsylvania counties shifted to the green phase of reopening.

— Erin McCarthy

1:51 PM - May 29, 2020
1:51 PM - May 29, 2020

Murphy urges N.J. residents to continue wearing masks, social distancing

Gov. Phil Murphy reported another 1,117 residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 158,844.

Another 131 people have also died, Murphy said, increasing the state’s death toll to 11,531.

Murphy also 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. As of May 28, 2,707 people are hospitalized, including 720 in critical or intensive care and 544 on ventilators.

As of May 28, there were 183 new hospitalizations, compared to 231 discharges.

“We remain confident in our overall direction,” Murphy said, while urging people to keep wearing masks and practicing social distancing. “These challenges are surmountable if we stick to it.”

— Ellie Silverman

1:45 PM - May 29, 2020
1:45 PM - May 29, 2020

Philadelphia to gradually resume government operations as city moves to ‘yellow’ phase

The west side entrance to the courtyard of City Hall is closed and the gates are locked on March 22, 2020, the day before Philadelphia institutes ‘stay-at-home’ order on Monday March 23, 2020.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
The west side entrance to the courtyard of City Hall is closed and the gates are locked on March 22, 2020, the day before Philadelphia institutes ‘stay-at-home’ order on Monday March 23, 2020.

Philadelphia will gradually resume government operations as the city plans to move into the “yellow” phase of reopening on June 5, officials announced Friday.

The first services to restart will include in-person tax and water bill payments, expanded deed recording services, and administrative and adjudicative boards, such as the tax review board, said Stephanie Tipton, the city’s chief administrative officer. The resumption of those functions will bring some city employees back to work who have been deemed non-essential workers during the city’s stay-at-home order.

“It’s going to be a phased approach,” Tipton said. “Our ultimate goal is to ensure a safe return to work for our employees while meeting the needs of our residents.”

Masks will be required for city workers and residents entering city facilities, and in-person interactions will be by appointment only, Tipton said.

City employees who are already working remotely will continue to do so.

— Laura McCrystal

1:35 PM - May 29, 2020
1:35 PM - May 29, 2020

Colleges’ fall plans: Online classes, hybrid, early end to the semester

Arcadia University in Glenside.
David Swanson / File Photograph
Arcadia University in Glenside.

Arcadia University is working vigorously to redesign about 1,000 courses that could be delivered fully online, but also in person, as well as a mix of the two, simultaneously.

The Glenside university won’t require students to come to campus in the fall, but expects that many will, said Jeff Rutenbeck, provost and senior vice president for student affairs.

“We decided about six weeks ago to commit to an all-modes approach,” Rutenbeck said. “It gives us real flexibility, not just for the fall but for the year. We just turn the dial slightly, and we can go from this mixed mode to fully online without missing a beat.”

Such planning is going on at colleges around the region, as they try to develop a safe and educationally sound approach to the fall term, still expected to be heavily impacted by the virus. What makes it more challenging are the unseen factors too early to predict: Will there be a fresh surge? Will students sit out the year rather than commit to a semester of uncertainty? Will faculty feel comfortable returning? What will local governments dictate?

— Susan Snyder

1:16 PM - May 29, 2020
1:16 PM - May 29, 2020

Philly officials outline ‘Safer at Home’ plan for yellow phase, discourage social gatherings

Mayor Kenney, in his Eagles mask, waits to make the announcement at a press conference on May 26, 2020.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Mayor Kenney, in his Eagles mask, waits to make the announcement at a press conference on May 26, 2020.

Mayor Jim Kenney on Friday announced Philadelphia’s “Safer at Home” plan for entering the state’s “yellow” phase of reopening parts of the economy on June 5, including office-based businesses, manufacturing and retail.

Kenney stressed that the incremental loosening of restrictions on business and social activities does not mean that Philadelphia has beat the coronavirus or that residents should give up on social distancing practices to prevent its spread.

“We are still safer at home and should only leave to engage in essential activities,” Kenney said. “It is clear that the work of Philadelphians so far has put us in a much safer place than we were two months ago, but we are not out of the woods yet.”

Kenney said residents should still avoid large gatherings.

Businesses that are more likely to be venues for spreading the virus, like bars and restaurants, will remain closed.

Kenney’s new plan establishes rules for businesses operations, including allowing no more than five customers for every 1,000 square feet of space in stores.

One key difference between the state’s yellow phase and Kenney’s “Safer at Home” plan concerns social gatherings.

The state allows social and religious gatherings of up to 25 people in the yellow phase, but the city said it is not encouraging any congregations of people.

“While these are permitted under the state’s order, we are not recommending the gatherings of any size,” Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said. “If you have 25 people coming together and singing, for example, there is really a risk of spreading from one person to another.”

Farley said the city will also be monitoring early warning signs that the virus may be spreading more rapidly as the economy begins to reopen, such as hospital emergency room reports. If cases spike, he said, the city may reinstitute stronger restrictions on commercial and social activities.

Details of what activities will be allowed on June 5 can be found here.

The virus, however, continues to afflict Philadelphians. Farley reported 255 new confirmed cases Friday, for a total of 22,405 since the pandemic began. While that number was higher than daily tallies in recent weeks, Farley said the city received a high number of new lab reports between Thursday and Friday.

Additionally, 20 more city residents have died from COVID-19, bringing total fatalities in the city to 1,278, Farley said.

— Sean Collins Walsh

1:05 PM - May 29, 2020
1:05 PM - May 29, 2020

Murphy: N.J. child-care centers can reopen June 15

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday that the following activities can resume over the next few weeks “if they follow health and safety safeguards.”

He outlined the following timeline:

  • Child-care centers can reopen June 15.
  • Non-contact organized sports activities can restart June 22.
  • Youth day camps, including municipal summer recreation programs can begin July 6.
  • Horse racing will resume with first competitive races as early as next weekend. The first qualifying races happened this morning, Murphy said. Fans are still not allowed into the race track.

Murphy also expects to be able to raise the limit on indoor gatherings so indoor religious services can restart by the weekend of June 12.

“Our houses of worship are cornerstones of our communities,” he said. “We want these institutions to be strong and safe.”

Murphy also announced his administration will be creating a $100 million short-term rental assistance program for low and moderate income families.

“No family should fear losing their home as a result of financial hardship due to COVID-19,” Murphy said. “As another rent day approaches I want to reiterate that point.”

— Ellie Silverman

12:39 PM - May 29, 2020
12:39 PM - May 29, 2020

Photos: West Philly’s Woodlands provides unique oasis for residents during pandemic

As the coronavirus held Philadelphia in its grip this spring, people across the city turned to their neighborhood parks and river trails for a breath of fresh air and a needed break from feelings of isolation, fear, and uncertainty.

For West Philadelphians, the Woodlands provided a unique oasis. The 54-acre, 18th-century English garden, converted into a rural cemetery in 1840, sits tucked away in West Philadelphia, a short walk from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Rural cemeteries like the Woodlands were designed during the Victorian era for people to linger and enjoy the grounds while visiting the deceased.

The cemetery is the final resting place for many notables from the Philadelphia region, including artist Thomas Eakins, Campbell’s Soup founder Joseph A. Campbell, and Navy nurse Marie L. Hidell. Hidell is a reminder that Philadelphia — and the world — faced a similar situation a little more than a century ago. She treated hundreds of infected sailors at the Philadelphia Navy Hospital during the 1918 flu pandemic before contracting and succumbing to the virus in September that year. Hidell was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for her selfless efforts.

The Woodlands is still active. There are about 30 burial plots available each year, according to Emma Max, program and operations manager. Max and executive director Jessica Baumert lead a five-person team in running the cemetery year-round. Early on during the pandemic they realized the importance of keeping the space open for the community to use in a safe manner. They displayed creative handmade signs at the entrance gate to ask for cooperation with CDC guidelines.

One sign reads: 6 Feet Apart > 6 Feet Under.

— David Maialetti

12:15 PM - May 29, 2020
12:15 PM - May 29, 2020

Philabundance holds first emergency food drive-through at Citizens Bank Park parking lot

The National Guard assists Philabundance at the first drive-through distribution by the agency, in a parking lot next to the sports stadiums in South Philadelphia, May 29, 2020.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
The National Guard assists Philabundance at the first drive-through distribution by the agency, in a parking lot next to the sports stadiums in South Philadelphia, May 29, 2020.

— Heather Khalifa

11:59 AM - May 29, 2020
11:59 AM - May 29, 2020

PPA to resume parking enforcement in Philly in June

The glass pavilion over the entrance to a Philadelphia Parking Authority underground parking lot beneath the Independence Visitor Center.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
The glass pavilion over the entrance to a Philadelphia Parking Authority underground parking lot beneath the Independence Visitor Center.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority will resume enforcing meter expirations on June 8 following discussions with city Managing Director Brian Abernathy, said PPA Executive Director Scott Petri.

The return to normal will be phased in. On street-signage and parking regulations will be enforced in Center City and University City beginning June 8, while meters and residential time limits will be enforced across the city on June 22.

“We have to start a process somewhere; we have to start at some point in time,” Petri said. “And if businesses are going to start to open, then you do need turnover at the curb, otherwise we’ll all be driving around idling and stuck in congestion.”

The approach allows the authority to place “special emphasis on the city’s most congested corridors before expanding to outlying business and residential districts," according to the PPA.

The PPA began the “softening of enforcement” in mid-March in response to the coronavirus, but that didn’t mean an end to ticketing. The authority still enforced safety violations, like double parking, blocking crosswalks or loading zones, during the pandemic. Towing for safety violations has also continued, Petri said.

— Patricia Madej

11:37 AM - May 29, 2020
11:37 AM - May 29, 2020

Sen. Bob Casey tests positive for coronavirus antibodies

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey speaks at a news conference outside Temple's hospital in 2015.
JOSEPH KACZMAREK / FOR THE DAILY NEWS
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey speaks at a news conference outside Temple's hospital in 2015.

Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) has tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, suggesting he may have had a mild case of the virus earlier this year, he announced Friday.

The positive test makes Casey the third senator to test positive for antibodies, along with Sens. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) and Tim Kaine (D., Va.). Casey said he received the results Wednesday afternoon, and would donate plasma Friday. Antibody-laden blood plasma is being used experimentally to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients.

Casey said that when he experienced a low-grade fever and flu-like symptoms he self-isolated at home in Scranton on the advice of his physician, while his wife was visiting their eldest daughter and son-in-law.

“My fever went away on its own by mid-April, and it was never recommended that I be tested for the virus," he said. "I was able to work during my illness, remotely engaging with constituents and staff and keeping a full schedule.”

After consulting with the Capitol’s attending physician last week, he was tested and found to have "substantial levels of COVID-19 antibody in my blood.”

The accuracy of antibody testing in real-world use, however, is unclear. Test results that are positive may actually be detecting antibodies from common cold-causing coronaviruses.

— Jonathan Tamari, Marie McCullough

11:27 AM - May 29, 2020
11:27 AM - May 29, 2020

West Philly test site screens for COVID-19 as well anxiety, depression

As testing sites for people with symptoms of COVID-19 have sprouted up across the city, one in West Philadelphia is now screening patients for more than the coronavirus: They’re looking for symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Sayre Health and Penn Medicine in April opened a drive- and walk-through coronavirus testing site in the parking lot behind Sayre High School at 227 S. 59th St. in West Philadelphia. According to Penn, clinicians there are screening every patient for anxiety and depression and, depending on their responses, providing patients with intervention or longer consultation and mental health resources.

Health experts say social distancing and extended periods of isolation can be difficult for anyone to cope with, but especially those with preexisting mental health conditions.

The Cobbs Creek testing site aims to serve a high-risk neighborhood, as experts say people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus due to a variety of structural inequities and social conditions. Nearly all the patients the testing site served in its first week were black or Hispanic. Testing at the site takes place Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursdays from noon to 3 p.m. Patients are encouraged to preregister by calling 215-474-4444.

— Anna Orso

11:03 AM - May 29, 2020
11:03 AM - May 29, 2020

Delaware County announces plan to establish its own health department by end of 2021

Delaware County Council unveiled on Friday a detailed timeline for the establishment of the county’s health department, aiming to have one fully operational by the end of 2021.

The densely populated suburb is the only county in the Philadelphia region to not have its own health department, an absence that greatly affected local leaders’ initial response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the meantime, the Chester County Health Department has been providing service for Delaware County, through an agreement approved by Gov. Tom Wolf in March.

Councilmembers in Delaware County had previously estimated that starting their own health department would take up to 24 months. But in the timeline released Friday, the process would last 18 months, starting with a health study from Johns Hopkins University expected to be completed in July.

The study will then be discussed at community town halls this summer, with a strategic plan to follow in December. Key staff, including a director and Board of Health members, will be appointed early next year, according to the plan.

— Vinny Vella

10:22 AM - May 29, 2020
10:22 AM - May 29, 2020

18 counties move into green phase of reopening in Pa.

Eighteen counties in Pennsylvania have moved into the green phase of reopening from coronavirus restrictions on Friday, while others shifted into the yellow phase.

Philadelphia and its collar suburbs remain in the red, stay-at-home phase but are slated to enter the yellow phase next week.

The counties moving to green on Friday included Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango, and Warren.

In the yellow phase, some businesses can reopen, people may return to in-person work if needed, and people can gather in groups of 25 or less. Indoor dining is not allowed, but some outdoor dining may be permitted, depending on the county.

In the green phase, all businesses are allowed to be open and people can gather in groups. However, Gov. Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine have urged continued caution even in the green phase to avoid outbreaks, which could result in reimposed restrictions.

Pennsylvanians should still wear masks, stay home when they can, and follow public health guidelines, they said. Personal-care businesses must operate by appointment-only, and social distancing should be enforced in restaurants and bars. Gatherings of 250 or more people are prohibited.

In the yellow phase, some businesses can reopen, people may return to in-person work if needed, and people can gather in groups of 25 or less. Indoor dining is not allowed, but some outdoor dining may be depending on the county.

— Erin McCarthy

9:38 AM - May 29, 2020
9:38 AM - May 29, 2020

In switch, N.J. to allow drive-in, drive-through graduations as early as June 12

Graduates of New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School class of 2020 parade in vehicles after holding a drive-in graduation ceremony as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, outside Delgado Community College in New Orleans on Wednesday Students and family got out of their cars to receive diplomas one by one, and then held a parade of cars through city streets.
Gerald Herbert / AP
Graduates of New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School class of 2020 parade in vehicles after holding a drive-in graduation ceremony as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, outside Delgado Community College in New Orleans on Wednesday Students and family got out of their cars to receive diplomas one by one, and then held a parade of cars through city streets.

New Jersey education officials modified their guidance for graduation ceremonies in the Garden State late Thursday to allow for drive-in and drive-through celebrations as early as June 12.

“These will be graduations unlike any others,” Murphy said Tuesday. “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."

The initial guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education said drive-in and drive-through ceremonies could not occur until July 6, the same day that more traditional outdoor ceremonies could be held with capacity limits, social distancing modifications, and universal masking requirements.

Drive-through or drive-in ceremonies can be held in school parking lots, drive-in movie theaters, stadium parking lots, and other outdoor venues, they said. If a school decides to go that route, officials have urged administrators to ensure that families without cars can also safely participate and to perhaps livestream the celebration for anyone who cannot attend.

Any schools that wish to hold these kinds of ceremonies must certify their plans with state education officials at least a week in advance at https://covid19.nj.gov/.The certification form opens on June 5. That means the first possible date for a vehicle-based graduation is June 12.

— Erin McCarthy

9:21 AM - May 29, 2020
9:21 AM - May 29, 2020

U.S. consumer spending sinks by record 13.6% in face of coronavirus

A woman walks into a closing Gordmans store, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in St. Charles, Mo. Stage Stores, which owns Gordmans, is closing all its stores and has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Jeff Roberson / AP
A woman walks into a closing Gordmans store, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in St. Charles, Mo. Stage Stores, which owns Gordmans, is closing all its stores and has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

U.S. consumer spending plunged by a record-shattering 13.6% in April as the viral pandemic shuttered businesses, forced millions of layoffs and sent the economy into a deep recession.

Last month's spending decline was far worse than the revised 6.9% drop in March, which itself had set a record for the steepest one-month fall in records dating to 1959. Friday's Commerce Department figures reinforced evidence that the economy is gripped by the worst downturn in decades, with consumers unable or too anxious to spend much.

Even with employers cutting millions of jobs during the month, personal incomes soared 10.5% in April, reflecting billions of dollars in support through government payments in the form of unemployment benefits and stimulus checks.

— Associated Press

6:22 AM - May 29, 2020
6:22 AM - May 29, 2020

Got a $1,200 stimulus debit card in the mail? Yes, it’s real.

The EIP Card is sponsored by the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service as part of the US Debit Card Program. Check your junk mail in case it arrived.
U.S. Treasury
The EIP Card is sponsored by the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service as part of the US Debit Card Program. Check your junk mail in case it arrived.

About four million Americans will receive their stimulus coronavirus cash on a prepaid debit card, according to the Treasury Department.

And yes, these debit cards are real.

If you thought these debit cards were fake, you have a lot of company, according to local accountants.

“One client thought the card was a scam, and shredded the prepaid debit card which had their $1,200 payment,” said David Zalles, a CPA based in Blue Bell.

— Erin Arvedlund

6:00 AM - May 29, 2020
6:00 AM - May 29, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic is fueling efforts to increase access to abortion pills

The pandemic is helping U.S. abortion rights advocates achieve a longstanding goal: make it easier for women to use pills to end pregnancies up to 10 weeks.

Federal and state regulations have restricted access to “medication abortion” ever since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it two decades ago. Nonetheless, use of the two-drug regimen has grown steadily, accounting for at least 40% of all abortions, even as the national abortion rate has fallen to historic lows, data shows.

Before the coronavirus made seeking medical care in person risky for both patients and providers, efforts were well underway to expand access to abortion pills through telemedicine and mail-order pharmacies. Now, those efforts are accelerating and multiplying because suddenly a divisive political issue is also a matter of public health.

— Marie McCullough

5:45 AM - May 29, 2020
5:45 AM - May 29, 2020

Pennsylvania Republicans don’t want to vote by mail: ‘We’re listening to Trump on this’

President Donald Trump in Rose Garden earlier this week.
Evan Vucci / AP
President Donald Trump in Rose Garden earlier this week.

President Donald Trump has said voting by mail is “fraudulent” and will result in “rigged” elections.

In Pennsylvania, Republican voters appear to be listening — despite efforts by national and state party officials to encourage mail voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Thursday morning, about 1.3 million registered Democrats had requested and been approved for mail ballots for the June 2 primary election, compared with about 524,000 Republicans. Republicans made just 29% of the requests, even though they represent 38% of registered voters in the state and 45% of those registered to either major party.

— Andrew Seidman

5:30 AM - May 29, 2020
5:30 AM - May 29, 2020

Morning Roundup: As officials navigate boundaries of reopening, Philadelphia weighs outdoor dining and Delaware opens campgrounds

Rowers practice social distancing as they exercise on the dock of the Temple University crew boathouse, on the Schuylkill on Wednesday.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Rowers practice social distancing as they exercise on the dock of the Temple University crew boathouse, on the Schuylkill on Wednesday.

All Pennsylvania state park beaches and some pools will reopen at reduced capacity in June, and Delaware campgrounds at state parks will reopen Monday, officials said Thursday — more gradual steps toward emerging from the coronavirus lockdown as summer approaches.

New Jersey officials laid out guidelines for outdoor graduation ceremonies, which will be permitted with limitations starting July 6. In Pennsylvania, focus was on Tuesday’s primary election, which will look different from any before. In Bucks County, officials said voters who refuse to wear masks at the polls will be asked to fill out a provisional ballot outside their polling place or wait until other voters are done and the polling place has cleared out.

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.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley declined to say what number of cases might dissuade him from moving the city into the yellow phase next week. “If the numbers doubled, I would be very concerned," he said.

— Justine McDaniel, Laura McCrystal and Erin McCarthy

4:30 AM - May 29, 2020
4:30 AM - May 29, 2020

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