Even finding a COVID-19 vaccine won’t be enough to end the pandemic
Johnson & Johnson’s race to manufacture a billion doses of coronavirus vaccine is ramping up in a small biotechnology plant near Interstate 95 in Baltimore. But even as technicians prepare to lower 1,000-liter plastic bags of ingredients into steel tanks for brewing the first batches of experimental vaccine, international concern is bubbling about what countries will get the first inoculations.
The Baltimore plant is the second of four planned locations around the world where Johnson & Johnson plans to pump out vaccine on a massive scale, months before testing the first dose in a human being. The manufacturing head start is one part of a worldwide scramble to protect the human population from the virus that is not expected to vanish on its own.
If SARS-CoV-2 establishes itself as a stubborn, endemic virus akin to influenza, medical experts say there almost certainly will not be enough vaccine for at least several years, even with the unprecedented effort to manufacture billions of doses. About 70 percent of the world’s population — or 5.6 billion people — will likely need to be inoculated to begin to establish herd immunity and slow its spread, scientists say.
Yet the nationalistic priorities of individual nations could thwart the strategic imperative to tamp down hot spots wherever they are on the planet — including poor countries that can’t afford the vaccine. The United States in particular could be left in the cold if vaccines developed here as part of a go-it-alone approach turn out to be less effective than those produced in China or Europe.
With liquor stores closed, April online booze sales spike in Pennsylvania
Southeastern Pennsylvania wine and spirits buyers are still limited to phone and online orders as the shutdown of the area’s Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores for walk-in customers approaches eight weeks.
April’s sales totaled $84.7 million — less than half of the monthly revenue year over year. Despite the shutdown, March sales totaled about $198 million, a fairly typical month. Customers hankered most for sweet wines, Fireball shots, and assorted vodkas.
The LCB’s online system — which was halted March 16 and returned April 1, only to become overwhelmed — accounted for about $10.3 million of the April sales, a dramatic rise from the $590,000 in e-commerce in March.
Against the backdrop of coronavirus, with all its casinos closed, Atlantic City is voting by mail on the future of its government
This election is exclusively vote-by-mail, but that did not stop Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. and allies from donning masks and going door-to-door in the final days of Tuesday’s referendum on changing the form of government.
“Even on Mother’s Day...we were in these Atlantic City Streets...We do what they won’t...WE WORK,” Small said on Instagram, where he posted photos from the 15th floor of a residential high rise and promoted a Monday evening “Vote No" car rally through the city’s 48 blocks.
Tuesday’s election will decide if the current system of government — a nine person council (six wards and three at-large) and full-time mayor — should be replaced by a five-member at-large council that appoints a professional city manager who would be tenured after three years.
It’s taken a lot of sacrifice. Businesses, closed. Millions of people, ordered to stay home. But the confirmed coronavirus case curve in the Philadelphia region is slowly flattening.
State and local officials are monitoring it closely. As the curve bends back down, they are making plans to eventually lift the heavy restrictions that have all but shuttered the economy and brought normal life to a standstill since March.
“I can’t put a date on when our activities can safely restart, but we can start to prepare,” Philadelphia Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.
It will take time. And the decision to reopen counties depends on a number of factors. Many of those are data-based — such as the number of new cases — but others are qualitative — such as whether local industries are able to practice social distancing. In the end, it’s a judgment call.
Philadelphia and the surrounding region is still in the red phase: Only “life-sustaining” businesses are allowed to open, and residents are still supposed to stay home except for essential trips.
But some counties are already moving into the yellow phase that allows most (but not all) businesses to reopen and puts limitations on social gatherings. No counties are yet in the unrestricted green phase.
But how do they decide? Here’s what we know about how the state is making its reopening decisions.
Pa. GOP takes Gov. Tom Wolf to court as it seeks records on controversial business waiver process
Senate Republicans are taking Gov. Tom Wolf to court in an effort to force his administration to release more information about how it exempted certain businesses from a statewide coronavirus shutdown order.
The suit, filed Monday in Commonwealth Court, seeks to enforce subpoenas issued by a Senate committee in April for all notes, memos, emails, letters, and other documents related to the controversial waiver process. The Wolf administration rejected the request on Friday, though it did for the first time release a list of more than 5,000 businesses that were granted waivers.
But the information, published online, didn’t include the criteria by which applications for waivers were considered or the reason businesses were approved. The administration has not made any applications available, nor has it released a list of which companies were denied exemptions, or those that were approved for a waiver and then had it revoked.
Expect pushback if Gov. Wolf withholds coronavirus recovery money from counties defying shutdown orders, experts say
Gov. Tom Wolf threatened Monday to withhold coronavirus recovery aid allocated by the federal government from counties that defy state shutdown orders, prompting some local officials and lawmakers to ask: Can he do that?
The answer, legal experts say, is probably yes — though it will invite inevitable legal challenges, incite legislative pushback and won’t affect Philadelphia and its suburban counties to the same extent as rural areas of the commonwealth.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed by President Donald Trump in March, gave wide latitude to governors to distribute their state’s portion of a $150 billion relief fund as they see fit.
Wolf, a Democrat, may be the first governor in the country to directly link allocation decisions to compliance with stay-at-home orders, but even lawyers on the other side of the partisan divide said the policy would likely withstand scrutiny if challenged in court.
Trump’s visit to Pennsylvania factory that produces PPE materials was scuttled after plant officials expressed concerns about health risks
President Donald Trump was pushing to get out in the public eye in recent weeks and tout his leadership during the pandemic, and White House staff thought they had hit on the ideal event: a presidential visit to thank the Pennsylvania factory workers who had recently taken herculean steps to ramp up U.S. supplies of protective equipment.
Workers had received national attention after dozens of them lived for 28 days inside their factory so they could ensure they were virus-free and their production was not contaminated or disrupted by illness.
White House officials pressed to hold an event at the Braskem factory, initially scheduled for last Friday. But after extensive back and forth, factory officials ultimately asked to postpone, worried that a visit from Trump could jeopardize both the safety of the workers and the plant’s ability to produce special material for masks and other medical gear, according to two people familiar with the decision and documents reviewed by The Post.
In most cases, coronavirus ‘wave parades’ for schools and birthdays don’t violate the N.J. stay-at-home order
Drive-by parades are OK after all, New Jersey’s emergency management director said Monday, clarifying earlier guidance that seemed to discourage the popular coronavirus events.
Col. Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police, who also serves as the state emergency management director, had issued a letter Saturday to the state Department of Education and its schools saying that in the name of public health, parades, including wave parades that “invite people to gather at a certain location,” should “be canceled or postponed” until the stay-at-home order is lifted.
The social-distancing celebrations have become common since March, when Gov. Phil Murphy ordered most businesses closed and directed residents to stay at home until further notice because of the pandemic. For birthdays, parents organize their children’s friends to drive past their houses in decorated cars, and many schools have sent caravans of teachers driving through their students’ neighborhoods to honk, wave, and shout inspiring messages to children gathered on doorsteps and sidewalks. Others have been held to honor health care workers or graduating seniors.
Callahan, at the governor’s daily press briefing on Monday, sought to clear up any confusion. He said that “a wave parade that does not summon students or individuals to one location … is certainly not in violation of [Murphy’s executive order.]”
Montgomery County commissioner tests positive for coronavirus
A Montgomery County commissioner has tested positive for the coronavirus, the official announced Monday.
Kenneth Lawrence, vice chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, tested positive for COVID-19 after getting tested at an event for black doctors in Pottstown on Saturday. Lawrence said he has not shown any symptoms and was surprised when he received his positive results Sunday.
Lawrence said he will self-isolate for two weeks and continue to work from home. Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the county commissioners, said the public officials are now working from home, and those who have been in close contact with Lawrence have been tested. The group will “base our next steps on the results of those tests,” she said.
“I think this is an example that we need more community testing and that also asymptomatic people can be positive and never know,” Lawrence said during Monday’s briefing.
Doctors worry COVID-19 school closures could worsen childhood obesity. Here’s how to combat weight gain in teens.
The closing of schools, playgrounds, sports fields and summer camps due to COVID-19 have pediatric nutritionists and dietitians concerned that changes in eating habits and an overall decrease in physical activity could lead to a future spike in childhood obesity, which has steadily increased over the last four decades according to data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“With quarantine, it’s basically like an extended summer,” said Rima Himelstein, a pediatrician specializing in adolescent health at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington. “Kids don’t have the chance to work out and participate in physical activities like they normally would have over the summer.”
The sedentary nature of online schooling is also worrisome, Himelstein said. Kids don’t walk from room to room between classes or have scheduled outside time and gym class. Plus, many parents are overstocking their pantries with more processed foods that have longer shelf lives to minimize the number of grocery store trips, which can lead to overeating foods that often have high added sugar and sodium levels.
White House recommends tests for all nursing home residents
With deaths mounting at the nation’s nursing homes, the White House strongly recommended to governors Monday that all residents and staff at such facilities be tested for the coronavirus in the next two weeks.
Why the government is not ordering testing at the the nation's more than 15,000 nursing homes was unclear. Nor was it clear why it is being recommended now, more than two months after the nation's first major outbreak at a nursing home outside of Seattle that eventually killed 43 people.
Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, told governors on a video conference call that it’s the federal government’s strong recommendation that such testing be done.
“We really believe that all 1 million nursing home residents need to be tested within next two weeks as well as the staff,” added Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force coordinator, according to a recording of the call obtained by The Associated Press.
For weeks the White House has resisted calls to set specific testing goals or metrics. And President Trump has reiterated that governors are responsible for testing.
Administration officials said the federal government is providing states with enough supplies to meet their testing goals.
At a minimum, the White House wants all states testing at least 2% of their populations, though the administration has declined to elaborate on how that number was reached.
The U.S. is still struggling to increase testing to the levels that most public health experts say are essential to safely reopen offices, schools, churches, restaurants and other parts of the economy.
Last week, Harvard researchers projected that the nation must conduct 900,000 daily tests by May 15 to be able to track new cases and contain new flare ups. That’s more than three times the country’s current daily testing rate of about 275,000.
MLB owners and players’ union set to discuss initial proposal to salvage 2020 season
Let the negotiations begin.
With the calendar marching on and the window narrowing to salvage even half of the 2020 season, Major League Baseball owners agreed Monday to send an initial return-to-play proposal to the Players’ Association, a source confirmed. Talks between the league and the union will begin this week, likely as soon as Tuesday.
Details of the proposed plan haven’t been widely discussed, but according to multiple reports, it likely involves an 82-game schedule in regular-season markets, 30-man rosters (expanded from 26), a taxi squad of additional players, and a universal designated hitter. Teams would play only within their respective divisions and against regional opponents in the other league. The Phillies, for example, could face the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles in addition to their NL East rivals.
Two considerable hurdles — they might actually be more like mountains — must be overcome: health/safety concerns related to the epidemiology track of COVID-19 and player pay. The latter is complicated due to the level of distrust that exists between the owners and players. But at least it’s within MLB’s control, unlike the unpredictable path of the virus and the availability of testing and monitoring protocols.
How much Philadelphia-area hospitals are getting in federal grants for treating COVID-19 patients
Temple University Hospital received $50 million in the latest round of relief funds under the CARES Act, twice as much as it received in last month’s first round of aid to hospitals and other medical providers nationwide.
The difference? The $12 billion distributed last week is for 395 hospitals that treated 100 or more COVID-19 inpatients through April 10 — 70% of the U.S. total through that date, federal Department of Health and Human Services said.
Last month, when the department distributed $30 billion, the money was divided among thousands of providers based on traditional Medicare billings, a methodology that was widely criticized because it did not take into account how hard hospitals were hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The $50 million grant to Temple, which has said it is losing $40 million a month because of lost revenue from nonurgent care, and pandemic costs, was the largest of the 18 awarded to hospitals in the Philadelphia region. Cooper University Hospital’s $39.2 million grant was the second-largest in the region.
Pennsylvania health officials are ‘working with’ Philadelphia-area counties to determine reopening factors
Pennsylvania health officials are “working with” Philadelphia-area counties to determine what factors would be the most appropriate to use in determining when the densely populated, hard-hit region is ready to reopen, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Monday.
“We’re going to continue all those discussions about the metrics that we would use,” Levine said, “and the data that we would use and all the other considerations we would use for the Southeast to go from red to yellow.”
Pennsylvania on Monday announced 543 additional positive cases, for a total of 57,154, and 24 new deaths, for a total of 3,731.
Levine said she wasn’t sure how much stock people should put in the decreased number of new cases and deaths compared to recent days.
“We’ll see,” she said. “We’ve noticed for weeks now or maybe months that there tends to be decreased reporting on the weekend especially if there’s a holiday [such as Mother’s Day on Sunday] … So we’re going to have to see as data comes in this week if that’s one day’s reporting or if that’s a trend.”
As the number of cases in care homes approaches 12,000, Levine said officials would release more granular facility-specific outbreak data by the week’s end.
Pa.’s top education official says he expects students to return to in-person learning in the fall
Pennsylvania leaders are preparing for schools to reopen this fall, the state’s education secretary said Monday.
“We fully expect to come back to school in fall,” Pedro Rivera said during a virtual Senate Education Committee hearing. He said the education department would provide more information in the coming weeks on how it will prepare teachers and staff to transition back to school buildings that have been closed since March due to the coronavirus outbreak.
While Rivera said previously it was possible students would not return to in-person learning, he downplayed those comments Monday. The department’s intent is to reopen schools while keeping students and staff safe, he said.
“At worst, school’s going to look differently,” he said.
Hundreds are being released from jail during the coronavirus pandemic. But where are they going?
At a time when prisoners are being released in unprecedented numbers — including more than a thousand from Philadelphia jails — they’re returning home to a straining network of reentry supports. Those include employers that have closed their doors, treatment providers that have moved online despite a gaping digital divide, and halfway houses wary that any new admission from the jails poses a risk of spreading the deadly virus.
Those providers that remain are working double-time, equipping people with phones and laptops for virtual job training and therapy, laying out thousands of dollars to secure extra transitional housing, and haggling with prospective employers about whether, in lieu of a photo ID, a prison mugshot will do.
And, where gaps remain, community members are stepping up.
"We can’t just sit out here while people are dying,” said LaTonya Myers, a volunteer with the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, who has been meeting people at the prison to give them donated bags filled with toiletries and gift cards, masks and hand sanitizer.
‘A fiscal disaster is not months away:’ Murphy pushes for more federal aid for New Jersey
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy warned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Monday that dire times are ahead if states do not receive more emergency aid in the next coronavirus bailout package.
“A fiscal disaster is not months away,” Murphy said. “Hard and unpalatable decisions are being made in the here and now. They'll be on our doorstep in just a few weeks.”
Murphy also invited Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) to provide an update on legislation he co-sponsored with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R., La.) that would provide $500 billion in flexible funding to states to alleviate budgetary woes caused by the pandemic.
“A national emergency requires a national response,” Menendez said. “We did not choose to lose more than 9,000 of our loved ones to COVID-19. We did not choose to have our economy decimate our state and local governments besieged by the soaring costs of responding to the virus.”
Menendez noted he was garnering bi-partisan support for the bill and would likely recruit two to three more Republican senators to his efforts, including one “surprising" name.
Coronavirus patients in Philly hospitals down 20% from peak, health commissioner says
A significant drop in the number of coronavirus patients admitted to Philadelphia hospitals is the latest sign that the city is turning the corner on the pandemic, Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.
On Monday, there were 822 patients with COVID-19 in city hospitals, and 1,495 in hospitals across Southeastern Pennsylvania, he said.
“That number is about 20% below where we were at the peak of the epidemic, and we continue to go in the downward direction,” Farley said.
Easing the burden on the healthcare system is the primary goal of “flattening the curve,” the strategy of slowing the spread of a disease to a point where hospitals never become overwhelmed with patients.
Individual hospitals at times reached capacity during the pandemic, but were able to transfer patients to less-burdened facilities in the region, he said.
“It was clear that some hospitals were at their peak,” Farley said. “The system came under strain, no question about it.”
The city reported just 102 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday, but that number, while low, is likely a temporary undercount because data reporting from testing labs is often delayed after weekends, Farley said.
In all, 18,313 city residents have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began.
The city on Monday reported no new deaths from the virus, and even saw the total number of fatalities fall by one, to 893, due to a previous reporting error that was corrected, Farley said. It is possible, however, that Monday’s count will rise as data are confirmed, he said.
Farley said that while Philadelphia is heading in the right direction, it is imperative that residents continue to practice social distancing and follow stay-at-home rules.
It is still too soon to say when the city may reopen parts of its economy, he said, but it is clear what residents must do when that happens: Wear masks, keep their distance from others, and wash their hands frequently.
“I can’t put a date on when our activities can safely restart, but we can start to prepare,” he said.
Twitter to start labeling disputed coronavirus tweets
Twitter announced Monday it will warn users when a tweet contains disputed or misleading information about the coronavirus.
The new rule is the latest in a wave of stricter policies that tech companies are rolling out to confront an outbreak of virus-related misinformation on their sites.
Twitter will take a case-by-case approach to how it decides which tweets are labeled and will only remove posts that are harmful, company leaders said Monday.
Some tweets will run with a label underneath that directs users to a link with additional information about COVID-19. Other tweets might be covered entirely by a warning label alerting users that “some or all of the content shared in this tweet conflict with guidance from public health experts regarding COVID-19.”
Murphy: New Jersey’s pace of coronavirus infections is showing ‘continual moderation’
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday said the pace of coronavirus infections is showing “continual moderation” as he reported another 1,453 people have tested positive for the disease, bringing the state’s total to nearly 140,000.
“We are in this position because of the work you are all doing to protect yourselves, your families and your communities by maintaining the practices of social distancing that are now part of our routine,” Murphy said.
Another 59 people have died from the disease, though officials noted there are reporting challenges over the weekend. The state’s death toll is now 9,310.
Hospitalizations across the state, including South Jersey, continue to drop, Murphy said. There are 4,915 residents hospitalized for the disease, with 1,255 in intensive care and 970 on ventilators.
Murphy also reported 26,397 long term care facility residents have tested positive for the disease, while 4,890 have died. There are 515 facilities across the state facing an outbreak.
On Tuesday morning, two New Jersey Air National Guard wings will team up and send four military planes on a circuitous route around the Garden State, the state’s Air National Guard and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs said.
They will make a point to fly over hospitals, including Jefferson Cherry Hill Hospital, as well as coronavirus testing sites, state veteran homes, and temporary field hospitals at the Atlantic City Convention Center and the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison.
“Never underestimate the value of a morale boost when in combat," Brig. Gen. Jemal Beale, commander of the New Jersey National Guard, said in a statement.
New Jersey military officials encourage residents to watch the flyover from their homes. If New Jerseyans do go outside, they said, stay six feet away from others and wear a mask to reduce the spread of the virus.
This coronavirus course will train an army of contact tracers. You can take it, too.
The nation needs a sprawling network of contact tracers to track and halt the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Public health experts estimate that an effective tracking system will require at least 15 tracers per 100,000 Americans — and, in the hardest-hit regions, a workforce twice that size.
About $3.7 billion will be needed to cover the work of 100,000 tracers, the National Association of County and City Health Officials calculated. Creating this army of contact tracers, bigger than any assembled in U.S. history, will require swift, efficient training.
To that end, on Monday, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health unveiled a course on the online platform Coursera to teach Americans the fundamentals of contact tracing.
New York Fed investigating why Pennsylvania and New Jersey are receiving fewer PPP coronavirus loans
Some of the states hardest hit by the coronavirus — such as New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — are getting fewer PPP loans than some Mountain and Midwest states on a per-small-business basis, according to a new report.
And it’s the banking relationships that made the difference.
The researchers used the number of coronavirus cases as a proxy for the economic impact from COVID-19 in a specific state.
But the report found “no statistically significant relationship between the severity of the economic impact of COVID-19 — measured both in terms of cases and unemployment claims —and the share of small businesses getting PPP loans.”
Coronavirus testing for NJ TRANSIT employees expands into South Jersey
An effort to test NJ TRANSIT employees for the coronavirus has expanded into South Jersey, the transportation system announced Monday.
Employees will now be able to undergo appointment-only testing at a Rowan University facility in Gloucester County on Tuesdays and Fridays, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. NJ TRANSIT kickstarted employee testing in East Rutherford last week with plans to expand the effort into Central Jersey as well.
NJ TRANSIT has a goal of testing all of its nearly 12,000 employees, NJ TRANSIT President and CEO Kevin Corbett said in a statement. The testing availability is part of N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy’s The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health” plan, and is made possible through an agreement with Agile Urgent Care and Accurate Diagnostics Lab.
“More testing will lead to quicker identification of cases, quicker treatment for those testing positive, and immediate isolation,” Corbett said in a statement. “This is all part of our ongoing efforts to meet our primary objective during this pandemic - to protect our employees and our customers from the continued spread of this virus.”
The effort joins other measures NJ TRANSIT has taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including boosted cleaning efforts and rear-door boarding for passengers. Riders are also required to wear face masks.
Gov. Wolf threatens to pull funding from counties that buck closure orders
As a growing number of Pennsylvania counties have released plans to buck the state’s shutdown orders, Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday threatened to pull state funding from those counties “operating illegally” and said politicians pushing for a reopening before the orders are lifted are “jeopardizing the lives of citizens of those counties.”
Wolf said during a news conference that businesses reopening “prematurely” are “engaging in behavior that is both selfish and unsafe.
He said funding will go to counties “doing their part,” including discretionary funds supplied to the state through the federal CARES Act. Wolf also issued a warning to business owners that reopen, saying they risk losing state licenses and are risking their insurance coverage “because insurance does not cover things that happen to businesses breaking the law.”
Twenty-four counties moved to the first phase of reopening on Friday and another 13 will enter that phase this week. Those counties are concentrated in the northern and western parts of the states.
An additional seven counties in south and central Pennsylvania have threatened to partially reopen their counties despite Wolf’s order and some districts attorney have said they won’t prosecute violations of the stay-at-home order.
President Trump singled out Pennsylvania Monday in denouncing the slow reopening of states where businesses remain closed to combat COVID-19.
“The great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails. The Democrats are moving slowly, all over the USA, for political purposes,” Trump wrote on Twitter Monday morning, disregarding his own administration’s guidelines on loosening restrictions.
The great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails. The Democrats are moving slowly, all over the USA, for political purposes. They would wait until November 3rd if it were up to them. Don’t play politics. Be safe, move quickly!
Last month, Trump publicly backed protesters of stay-at-home restrictions in Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia — all of which have Democratic governors.
Protesters have rallied in Harrisburg and other parts of the state, including Philadelphia, to demand the state be reopened.
By the end of the week, 37 of the Commonwealth’s counties, most of them rural, will be in the first phase of reopening. Officials in Lancaster, Dauphin and Lebanon counties have also said they plan to reopen Friday without state approval.
Prisons and jails nationwide have become breeding grounds for the virus, and many facilities have seen outbreaks. Some state officials, including Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, have moved to temporarily release certain nonviolent offenders to reduce the prison population and cut down on the risk of large-scale outbreaks.
But criminal justice advocates, including those with the Reform Alliance, say more needs to be done. Dorsey and other social media “influencers” will be sharing a public service announcement on Monday and asking followers to sign a petition to push for greater legislative action.
Mnuchin: No federal bailout for states hard hit by COVID-19
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin threw cold water on a proposal from Democrats to include direct aid to cash-strapped states and cities in a new coronavirus stimulus bill.
“[Democrats] want to throw a whole lot of money at this problem, but I think it’s very clear there is not going to be bipartisan support that bails out states for previous problems,” Mnuchin said in an interview Monday with CNBC.
Monday morning, Mnuchin pointed to recent legislation that allows states to use federal aid intended for COVID-19 expenses to pay firefighters, police officers, and other first responders. But states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey are facing the possibility of billion-dollar budget shortfalls due to lower tax collections forced by coronavirus restrictions. While the president and others have painted this as a “blue state” issue, several states run by Republicans — including Florida and Ohio — have been hit hard by the loss of tax revenue.
Speaker of The House Nancy Pelosi is reportedly working on a new stimulus bill that would devote roughly $1 trillion to states and cities to help alleviate their budget issues. Mnuchin said he’s rather see states borrow the money they need, though most have restrictions that limits their ability to issue debt. “With interest rates very, very low, states can borrow this money,” Mnuchin said. “Some of them would have to make changes, because they do have balanced budget [rules]. But this is a one-time situation that is quite different.”
Philadelphia-area horse rescues are struggling amid the coronavirus
Darlene Supnick wishes she could help all the people who’ve called her South Jersey horse rescue and asked for help since the coronavirus shutdown. Some have lost their jobs, she said, and can’t afford to care for their animals.
But Supnick, who has saved 300 horses from slaughter in recent years, can no longer provide immediate refuge. Her Forgotten Angels Equine Rescue is one of many horse rescues that have found themselves overwhelmed and struggling to stay afloat due to increasing need and declining donations.
“Now we have so many horses," she said. "We can’t take any more in.”
Between her three rescue properties and two foster homes, Supnick has 30 horses, eight of which have been saved since the pandemic began. Many more are on a wait list, she said, and a couple of horses are due to have babies this month.
The struggles of her rescue in Medford, Burlington County, are mirrored at other farms nationwide, including in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Stocks opened down on Monday as cautious investors eye infection rates of states loosening coronavirus restrictions and reopening parts of their state’s economies.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened down about 220 points, about 0.9%. Investors appear to be nervous after South Korea warned of a new cluster of cases associated with newly-reopened nightclubs, according to CNBC.
Both the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 opened down slightly as well.
Fauci: Under right conditions, I could see NFL fans in stadiums this fall
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said it's possible NFL fans will be able to watch games from the stands come September, depending on the course of the virus over the next few months. But even in the best scenario, it probably won’t look like the packed stadiums we’re used to seeing every Sunday.
“If the virus is so low that even in the general community the risk is low, then I could see filling a third of the stadium or half the stadium so people could be six feet apart,” Fauci said in a new interview with NBC Sports’ Peter King. “I mean, that’s something that is again feasible depending on the level of infection. I keep getting back to that: It’s going to depend.” One major determinant will be the level of testing available in September, he said.
Fauci said in an ideal situation, the NFL would test all players before each game, and sideline those who are infected. Because COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, it won’t spread though players’ sweat, but Fauci said the close contact required by the game itself will create perfect conditions for spreading coronavirus.
“I would think that if there is an infected football player on the field — a middle linebacker, a tackle, whoever it is it — as soon as they hit the next guy, the chances are that they will be shedding virus all over that person,” Fauci said.
Fauci is scheduled to testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday, but will appear remotely after coming in contact with a White House employee who tested positive for coronavirus. “So I immediately got tested. I am negative. So, I’m negative yesterday. I don’t know if I’m going to be negative Monday. Understand? It’s almost an impossible situation,” Fauci said.
‘It will probably cost lives’: Coronavirus researcher speaks out after Trump administration cuts funding
Peter Daszak, a zoologist and the president of the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, is speaking out after the Trump administration cut funding to his group’s research into coronavirus in bats due to unsubstantiated rumors about COVID-19’s origin.
During an interview that aired on 60 Minutes Sunday night, Daszak said he was informed two weeks ago by the National Institutes of Health that funding for his research — studying emerging coronaviruses in bats — was canceled. The move came after unfounded rumors the U.S. gave $3.7 million to a lab in Wuhan, China, moved from Fox News to the White House, with President Trump promising to “end that grant very quickly.”
That grant was to Daszak’s New York-based organization, and was considered such a high priority it was reissued in 2019 for five years by the Trump administration. Daszak criticized the “politicization of science” that has taken place during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and said there’s “just no evidence” any lab in the world — including China — had the virus in the lab prior to the outbreak.
“It’s sad to say, but it will probably cost lives,” Daszak said. “By sort of narrow-mindedly focusing in on ourselves, or on labs, or on certain cultural politics, we miss the real enemy.”
“The conspiracy theories out there have essentially closed down communication between scientists in China and scientists in the U.S… It will probably cost lives,” says a scientist about allegations that have ended research designed to stop pandemics. https://t.co/8eL9zqzVeFpic.twitter.com/ECnF0Zn3ms
Cash toll lanes reopened Monday morning on the Ben Franklin, Walt Whitman, Betsy Ross and Commodore Barry bridges.
The Delaware River Port Authority temporarily turned to electronic tolling only in March to limit person-to-person contact and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Toll collectors are wearing masks and have protective shields. Drivers also should wear facial coverings as well.
How a Berks County woman used Facebook to rescue an egg farmer’s 80,000 hens amid the coronavirus
Hamburg egg farmer Josh Zimmerman faced disaster about a month ago when his bulk-egg processor ran out of storage for liquefied eggs for cruise ships, hospitals, hotels, and school cafeterias. The yellow goo from millions of eggs, stored in bladder bags, had filled all the available freezer space. So processors had to shut off the flow.
With a veritable Ol’ Man River of eggs, 60,000 a day rolling out of his hen houses, Zimmerman, 37, faced a hard choice: either euthanize his 80,000-hen flock or find a new market for eggs.
Into that void stepped go-getter Timi Bauscher, 38, who runs the Nesting Box Farm Market and Creamery in Kempton, about 20 minutes from Zimmerman’s cage-free spread, both in Berks County. She proposed to sell some of Zimmerman’s eggs at her roadside market, offering a minimum of five dozen on flats for a discounted $2 a dozen.
Zimmerman, desperate but skeptical, thought "she’d move a skid or two a week.”
And as Cain and his family learned about its potential side effects — vision changes, muscle weakness, and irregular heart rhythms that can result in death — they grew more concerned. No one at the nursing home had contacted them before putting his great-aunt on the drug. And no one informed them about its risks.
Philly-area college students owe rent for their now-empty apartments, with little to no recourse
Big-box apartment complexes dot the edges of Philadelphia’s university campuses, vying for students’ business. The rental companies specifically market to collegians — touting their study spaces and laundry rooms, labeling themselves “official student housing” — and using their relationships with colleges to maintain steady streams of tenants willing to pay a premium.
But the closure of universities because of the coronavirus has left the young tenants in an untenable financial situation with the private apartment corporations.
Many students are obligated to pay rent under leases that run until August, even as many have lost their jobs and most aren’t eligible to receive the government stimulus aid. Some complexes have offered a month of rent forgiveness and payment plans, but students — and their parents who are listed as cosigners — are desperate to terminate their leases.
“It’s so frustrating because it’s just me going against this giant corporation who just sees me as a number,” said Gina Moffa, a Drexel University graduating senior. “They don’t really care what I’m going through; they just want to get their money.”
Moffa rents from Chestnut Square, one of 166 student housing properties owned by American Campus Communities across the country. The company said it has forgiven $17 million in rent so far and is working on a case-by-case basis with students to meet their financial needs.
Elected officials in three Pa. counties announce plans to reopen with or without state approval
Elected officials in Lancaster, Dauphin, and Lebanon counties are saying they plan to begin reopening with or without state approval on Friday.
In a letter to the governor, posted on Facebook by State Sen. Ryan Aument, Republican lawmakers in Lancaster said they believed local hospitals “have the capacity to handle the needs of our communities." They also proposed several steps to try to manage the crisis inside nursing homes and longtime care facilities, where it has hit hardest.
"The time is now to begin restoring and rebuilding a strong Lancaster County,” they wrote, joining officials in at least two other counties — Dauphin and Lebanon — who have said they plan to move into the “yellow phase” of reopening starting May 15 even if they have to defy Wolf’s order to do so.
None of the three counties has a low enough case count to meet the state requirement to enter the yellow zone, according to an Inquirer review of the data.
At least one local official in Lancaster said the county wasn’t ready to reopen.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the mayor of Lancaster, Danene Sorace, a Democrat, said she did not feel the county had enough testing, contact tracing, or personal protective equipment to begin inching back toward normal life.
Morning Roundup: Words of encouragement from an aged World War II vet, as the Philly region passes a quiet Mother’s Day
A drive-by parade of well-wishers surprised Sal Castro for his 95th birthday on Sunday, but it was the World War II veteran who offered words of hope and encouragement to everyone struggling in the pandemic.
“Hang in there," he advised in a phone interview. "Good days are coming ahead. Most of us will survive this.”
About 35 cars carrying 75 people cruised past Castro’s Levittown home, the celebration organized by his fellow honor guardsmen from the Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Upper Makefield Township, Bucks County. All wanted to recognize the Army veteran, who served in the South Pacific.
On Sunday, the Philadelphia region passed a quiet Mother’s Day, with so many people unable to visit their families because of the pandemic. Stay-at-home orders kept people apart — and many have been forever separated by the ever-rising death count.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey reported more cases and more fatalities on Sunday, and the United States continued to lead the world in both categories with more than 1.3 million people diagnosed and more than 79,000 dead, according to Johns Hopkins University.