11:54 PM - May 13, 2020
11:54 PM - May 13, 2020

Doctors express glimmers of hope as they try out new approaches against coronavirus

FILE - In this March 2020 photo provided by Gilead Sciences, a vial of the investigational drug remdesivir is visually inspected at a Gilead manufacturing site in the United States. On Wednesday, April 29, 2020, the company says its experimental antiviral drug has proved effective against the new coronavirus in a major U.S. government study that put it to a strict test. (Gilead Sciences via AP)
AP
FILE - In this March 2020 photo provided by Gilead Sciences, a vial of the investigational drug remdesivir is visually inspected at a Gilead manufacturing site in the United States. On Wednesday, April 29, 2020, the company says its experimental antiviral drug has proved effective against the new coronavirus in a major U.S. government study that put it to a strict test. (Gilead Sciences via AP)

Jose Pascual, a critical care doctor at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, recalled those first, mad days treating the sick when he had little to offer beyond hunches and Hail Marys. Each new day brought bizarre new complications of the coronavirus that defied textbook treatments.

“We were flying blind,” he said. “There is nothing more disturbing for me as a doctor.”

Now, for the first time since a wave of patients flooded their emergency rooms in March, Pascual and others on the front lines are expressing a feeling they say they haven't felt in a long time - glimmers of hope. They say they have devised a toolbox, albeit a limited and imperfect one, of drugs and therapies many believe give today's patients a better shot at survival than those who came only a few weeks before.

To be clear, these are not therapies proved to kill or stop the virus. They range from protocols to diagnose and treat dangerous, but sometimes invisible, breathing problems that can be an early warning of COVID-19 in some people, to efforts to reduce the illness’s severity or length. At this stage, they are still experimental approaches by doctors desperate to find ways to help gravely ill people and throwing everything they can think of at the problem.

— Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post

9:42 PM - May 13, 2020
9:42 PM - May 13, 2020

Is Gov. Wolf right that insurance won’t cover firms that violate the coronavirus shutdown?

FILE - In this Dec. 29, 2015 file photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks with members of the media at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Wolf is attacking local elected officials making plans to reopen in defiance of his shutdown orders as cowards deserting the pandemic battlefield. Wolf threatened Monday, May 11, 2020 to block aid to rebellious counties in an escalating political fight over his administration's handling of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
Matt Rourke / AP
FILE - In this Dec. 29, 2015 file photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks with members of the media at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Wolf is attacking local elected officials making plans to reopen in defiance of his shutdown orders as cowards deserting the pandemic battlefield. Wolf threatened Monday, May 11, 2020 to block aid to rebellious counties in an escalating political fight over his administration's handling of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Gov. Tom Wolf has been using the state-regulated insurance industry as a cudgel to beat down the grass-fire rebellion by counties and local-business owners chafing against Pennsylvania’s coronavirus shutdown order.

“Businesses in counties that do not abide by the law will no longer be eligible for business liability insurance and the protections it provides,” Wolf warned in a public statement Monday. "Insurance does not cover things that happen to businesses breaking the law.”

“Noncompliant businesses defying the governor and secretary’s business closure orders” ought to remember that property and liability policies often “contain provisions that exclude coverage for businesses or individuals engaging in illegal acts or conduct,” Wolf’s insurance commissioner, Jessica K. Altman, warned in a supporting statement.

Or maybe not. “Altman’s press release stating that businesses that open without Gov. Wolf’s position could lose their insurance coverage is – at best – misleading. I happen to think it is blatantly false,” writes Art Boyle, a 30-year Pennsylvania insurance industry veteran and managing partner at Controlled Risk Partners LLC in Downingtown.

— Joseph N. DiStefano

9:09 PM - May 13, 2020
9:09 PM - May 13, 2020

South Jersey gym owner says he will open next week, defying Gov. Murphy order

Ian Smith, center, is the owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, N.J. Smith appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Wednesday and said he plans to reopen his gym on Monday despite the state's closure orders.
Tucker Carlson Tonight
Ian Smith, center, is the owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, N.J. Smith appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Wednesday and said he plans to reopen his gym on Monday despite the state's closure orders.

A South Jersey gym owner, in a Wednesday appearance on the Fox News primetime show Tucker Carlson Tonight, said he plans to defy Gov. Phil Murphy’s orders and reopen his gym on Monday.

Ian Smith, owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, said “enough is enough” and that he and his business partner have chosen to reopen their gym to their members on Monday, even though Camden County has not relieved any closure restrictions.

“We are prepared for any and all consequences,” he said.

“We are ready to show that [any safety precautions] that Walmart and these big corporations can do … small businesses all around America can do,” he said.

The gym will only be open to its membership base, he said, and all equipment has been moved six feet apart. The gym has also increased its sanitation and cleaning, and put signage throughout.

“We are not doubting the danger of the coronavirus,” said Smith. “What we are saying is we can be prosperous and we can be cautious at the same time.”

— Ellie Rushing

7:38 PM - May 13, 2020
7:38 PM - May 13, 2020

Pa. counties abandon plans to buck Wolf, as GOP lawmakers continue pushing doomed reopening bills

As Republicans in the legislature continue to pass reopening bills doomed to be vetoed, some Pennsylvania counties are abandoning plans to restart their local economies without Gov. Tom Wolf’s blessing.

Over the past week, a growing number of counties that are still in the “red” phase of Wolf’s three-tiered reopening plan vowed to buck the state and unilaterally ease coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and residents.

The GOP-controlled state Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would give counties the power to do so, by opting out of Wolf’s business closure and stay-at-home orders.

“This allows counties to decide on their own what they want to do and what they don’t want to do,” Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) said. “This allows counties to decide what businesses can open and what ones do not open.”

— Cynthia Fernandez

7:36 PM - May 13, 2020
7:36 PM - May 13, 2020

Trump to name former Glaxo exec as vaccine czar

President Donald Trump is set to name a former pharmaceutical executive to lead his administration’s all-out effort to produce and distribute a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.

Moncef Slaoui, a former GlaxoSmithKline executive, will lead “Operation Warp Speed,” Trump’s push to accelerate the vaccine development process for COVID-19, according to an administration official. Slaoui is to serve in a volunteer capacity, and will be assisted by Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the commander of United States Army Materiel Command.

Slaoui, a Montgomery County resident, is a partner at Medicxi Ventures, a Philadelphia-based venture capital firm that invests in drug trials.

The move comes as the president and White House aides hope to produce vaccines for the coronavirus faster than what many scientists believe is realistic. The administration is aiming to have 300 million doses to distribute to Americans by the end of the year, believing a reliable vaccine is the only way to promote an economic rebound.

“Operation Warp Speed” is operating largely independently of the existing White House coronavirus task force, which is also shifting its focus toward vaccine development.

— Associated Press

7:34 PM - May 13, 2020
7:34 PM - May 13, 2020

In Philly, amid the coronavirus, a step forward for transgender students

The Philadelphia School District board.
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM / Staff
The Philadelphia School District board.

After public and school board pressure, the Philadelphia School District is moving to assure that its transgender and nonconforming students are referred to by their preferred names and pronouns.

The move — announced in an email to principals this week and expected to be formally presented to the school board Thursday — follows a groundbreaking 2016 district policy meant to ensure “safety, equity, and justice for all students regardless of their gender identity or gender expression so that they can reach their fullest human and intellectual potential.” Students do not need parental approval, a court order, or evidence of medical transition, and the policy also applies to the bathrooms students are permitted to use and the sports teams aligned with their gender identity.

But when the pandemic halted in-person instruction, some students found themselves referred to by their “dead name” because Google Classroom, the district’s preferred online platform, didn’t reflect the students’ preferences. At first, school officials said they were limited by technology in how to fix the issue.

— Kristen A. Graham

7:04 PM - May 13, 2020
7:04 PM - May 13, 2020

Cats with no symptoms spread virus to other cats in lab test

The owner of a cat cafe checks the temperature of one of her cats in Bangkok.
Sakchai Lalit / AP
The owner of a cat cafe checks the temperature of one of her cats in Bangkok.

Cats can spread the new coronavirus to other cats without any of them ever having symptoms, a lab experiment suggests.

Scientists who led the work, reported on Wednesday, say it shows the need for more research into whether the virus can spread from people to cats to people again.

Health experts have downplayed that possibility. The American Veterinary Medical Association said in a new statement that just because an animal can be deliberately infected in a lab “does not mean that it will easily be infected with that same virus under natural conditions.”

Anyone concerned about that risk should use “common sense hygiene,” said virus expert Peter Halfmann. Don’t kiss your pets and keep surfaces clean to cut the chances of picking up any virus an animal might shed, he said.

— Associated Press

6:57 PM - May 13, 2020
6:57 PM - May 13, 2020

Parents and kids fear a COVID-19 summer without camp

From left, Genevieve McCormack, William McCormack, Campbell McCormack, age-12, and twins, Ted & Hadley McCormack, pose for a portrait with their dog, "Norman" at their home in Haverford, Pa. Tuesday, May 12, 2020.The McCormack's are trying to deal with summer camps being closed because of coronavirus.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
From left, Genevieve McCormack, William McCormack, Campbell McCormack, age-12, and twins, Ted & Hadley McCormack, pose for a portrait with their dog, "Norman" at their home in Haverford, Pa. Tuesday, May 12, 2020.The McCormack's are trying to deal with summer camps being closed because of coronavirus.

For so many families, COVID-19 has wrecked the school year. It now threatens to ruin summer camp, too.

“Every parent I know is in a tailspin,” said Genevieve McCormack, 44, of Haverford, a lawyer and mother of three children whose plans for camp were upended.

“Camp is on everyone’s mind in my world. But instead of summer being something to look forward to, it’s an object of dread.”

Parents counting on camp for child care, or simply to occupy and enrich their kids for eight weeks, are facing an uncertain season. Not all facilities can offer straightforward answers on whether there’ll be s’mores and campfires in July and August.

“It’s a tricky situation,” said Tom Harris, owner and director of Blue Bell Camp in Montgomery County. “It’s uncharted territory.”

— Alfred Lubrano

6:46 PM - May 13, 2020
6:46 PM - May 13, 2020

Pennsylvania allocated federal remdesivir supply to hospitals based on COVID-19 patient volume, number on ventilators

A sign posted in the walkway over S. 10th St. to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
A sign posted in the walkway over S. 10th St. to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health released data on average daily numbers of COVID-19 patients from May 4-10 at 51 hospitals in the state — including 31 in the Southeast — that were allocated vials of remdesivir, an drug that may help patients recover more quickly from the coronavirus.

The new state data show that Thomas Jefferson University Hospital had twice as many COVID-19 inpatients as the rival Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania last week. The difference could have significant financial ramifications for the two largest health care providers in the Philadelphia region that are facing hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue as a result of the pandemic.

Pennsylvania hospitals received 1,200 vials of the drug from the federal government on Tuesday. The drug, which the FDA recently approved for emergency use, was expected to arrive at the hospitals this week, the health department said. Jefferson’s flagship hospital in Center City is slated to receive 72 vials.

— Harold Brubaker

6:25 PM - May 13, 2020
6:25 PM - May 13, 2020

Trump: Schools should ‘absolutely’ reopen in the fall

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that schools “absolutely” should reopen in the fall and he called comments made by his infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci about being cautious in reopening schools “unacceptable.”

"I think they should open the schools, absolutely. I think they should. It's had very little impact on young people," Trump said in an appearance at the White House with the governors of Colorado and North Dakota.

"Our country's got to get back and it's got to get back as soon as possible, and I don't consider our country coming back if the schools are closed," Trump said.

When asked about Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, urging caution in reopening schools during Senate testimony on Tuesday, Trump said he was surprised by Fauci's comments.

"To me, it's not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools," Trump said.

Fauci said schools should be reopened on a case-by-case basis depending on the local impact of the coronavirus. Fauci said he did not expect any vaccines to be ready this fall. He said people should not be “cavalier” about believing children are immune to the virus.

Trump said it was up to governors to decide whether they should reopen schools, but he added, “their state is not open if the schools are not open.”

— Robert Moran

5:54 PM - May 13, 2020
5:54 PM - May 13, 2020

South Philly nursing home workers get raises and hazard pay amid pandemic

People leave St. Monica Center in South Philadelphia.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
People leave St. Monica Center in South Philadelphia.

After voting to strike during the pandemic, when they were needed the most, nursing home workers at South Philadelphia’s St. Monica’s emerged with a contract that union leaders say is “night and day" compared to the workers’ previous contracts.

The new contract — which includes raises for the 130 workers, higher starting rates for new hires, and lower healthcare costs — demonstrates the power of a strike threat during the coronavirus crisis, especially on behalf of essential workers. Long-term care facilities have been hard hit by the virus.

— Juliana Feliciano Reyes

5:22 PM - May 13, 2020
5:22 PM - May 13, 2020

Most people support coronavirus lockdowns. But Trump is fighting them as he comes to Pa.

President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Washington.
Evan Vucci / AP
President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Washington.

With President Donald Trump prioritizing a rapid economic rebound as the key to the country’s revival and his own political fate, the fraught debate over when to loosen coronavirus restrictions is taking on increasingly partisan hues, including in Pennsylvania.

Strong majorities of voters still think it’s more important to prioritize health and safety over reopening the economy. But recent polling suggests that views of the coronavirus response, after largely avoiding the country’s usual polarization, are drifting toward familiar divides. Multiple surveys this week showed a growing share of Republicans who say it’s time to put the economy first, a theme the president has hammered. And as he prepares to visit the Lehigh Valley Thursday, Trump has criticized “blue state” governors and singled out Pennsylvania for moving too slowly.

“I talked to one Democratic governor recently who said he felt like a switch was flipped the moment the president started talking about ‘liberate,’” said former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, referring to Trump tweets supporting protesters who have criticized restrictions in several states. “It suddenly became political in a way it hadn’t been before and it really wrecked an opportunity to have a nonpartisan understanding.”

— Jonathan Tamari

5:14 PM - May 13, 2020
5:14 PM - May 13, 2020

Another anti-shutdown protest scheduled in Harrisburg

Another anti-shutdown protest has been scheduled in Harrisburg, organizers have announced.

ReOpen PA has planned another rally for Friday at noon on the steps of the state Capitol to “protest the tyranny of Gov. Tom Wolf,” the organizers said in an email.

The rally will come the day after President Donald Trump is set to visit an Allentown medical equipment distributor and deliver remarks on coronavirus testing.

A previous rally in Harrisburg on April 20 drew hundreds of people in their cars and on foot to protest the commonwealth’s closure amid the coronavirus.

— Ellie Rushing

5:03 PM - May 13, 2020
5:03 PM - May 13, 2020

‘Inordinate amount of urine and feces’ left behind in N.J. parks amid coronavirus bathroom closures

Wharton State Forest.
ED HILLE / Staff Photographer
Wharton State Forest.

With New Jersey parks reopened for more than a week after coronavirus-related shutdowns, thousands of visitors have reemerged outdoors, but are encountering a messy problem.

While the parks are open, the bathrooms are closed, and one of the state’s most active environmental groups is begging Gov. Phil Murphy to reopen them.

“Our state park police reported an inordinate amount of urine and feces being left behind in parks in water bottles,” Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said at a daily briefing this week on the pandemic.

As a result, state, county, and municipal police are warning park-goers there is a "zero tolerance policy for that,” Callahan said.

“The whole idea behind the parks is to give our citizens the ability to go out and enjoy fresh air and have time outside. That report from the park police was disheartening to say the least,” he added.

— Frank Kummer

4:47 PM - May 13, 2020
4:47 PM - May 13, 2020

U.N. forecasts pandemic to shrink world economy by 3.2%

The United Nations forecast Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic will shrink the world economy by 3.2% this year, the sharpest contraction since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

The U.N.’s mid-year report said the impact of the coronavirus crisis is expected to slash global economic output by nearly $8.5 trillion over the next two years, wiping out nearly all gains of the last four years.

— Associated Press

4:36 PM - May 13, 2020
4:36 PM - May 13, 2020

Acme owner hopes to use huge boost in coronavirus sales to sell 2,000 supermarkets

The Acme Market on Egg Harbor Rd. in Washington Twp., Gloucester County, N.J. on May 13, 2020.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
The Acme Market on Egg Harbor Rd. in Washington Twp., Gloucester County, N.J. on May 13, 2020.

The owners of Acme supermarkets are prospering from coronavirus-shutdown sales that have sent restaurant patrons running to the local grocer, according to the company’s latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

And the extra sales and profits couldn’t have come along at a better time, as far as the owners are concerned.

The owners, private-equity and real-estate investors who control Acme parent Albertsons, have run up billions in debt acquiring grocery chains over the past decade. They have already tried a couple of times to sell their shares on the stock market and get their money out.

After negotiating revised pension payments with food worker locals in Philadelphia and other cities, the company announced one more attempt at going public in early March. That was just before lockdowns shut restaurants, hotels and cafeterias and sent tens of millions of masked consumers into grocery stores as they prepared to cook more at home.

And suddenly the chain looks more attractive:

According to a filing with the SEC last week, Albertsons in March boosted sales at existing stores by more than one-third for the combined months of March and April over last year’s sales. Before coronavirus, sales averaged $5 billion a month.

— Joseph N. DiStefano

4:23 PM - May 13, 2020
4:23 PM - May 13, 2020

Pa. health secretary on reopening Bucks County: ‘We’ll be pleased to work with the counties ... when we have more data this week’

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine hedged Wednesday when asked whether the commonwealth would be providing Bucks County officials with a firm date for when they could enter the initial yellow phase of reopening. At a virtual meeting over the weekend, Bucks County commissioners had asked state officials to provide them with such a date by today.

“We are looking at all our data and metrics and models right now and then we’ll be pleased to work with the counties,” Levine said, “when we have more data this week.” She did not answer whether they planned to release a specific date and if so, when they might do so.

After speaking with Wolf’s office Wednesday, Bucks County Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia said there was a “consensus that we are rapidly moving toward the “yellow phase” of reopening and there should be more information within the next week,” the county said in a statement.

Pennsylvania on Wednesday reported 707 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus for a total of 58, 698 cases. The commonwealth added 137 new deaths, some of which were reported late due to a continued reconciliation of data with local health departments, for a total of 3,943.

— Erin McCarthy, Ellie Rushing

3:50 PM - May 13, 2020
3:50 PM - May 13, 2020

SEPTA to play vital role in Pa. economic coronavirus recovery, study says

The Philadelphia skyline can be seen from the window of the Market-Frankford line heading westbound from Spring Garden on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
The Philadelphia skyline can be seen from the window of the Market-Frankford line heading westbound from Spring Garden on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

Armed with a new study it commissioned, SEPTA officials are touting the authority’s economic impact on the region as essential to its recovery from devastating losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

SEPTA is crucial in moving workers and consumers in the growing five-county region, an area representing 32% of the commonwealth’s population and 42% of economic activity, according to the study from Philadelphia-based Econsult Solutions Inc.

“When you think about getting the state’s fiscal position back on track, it’s clear that this region has been an outsized contributor and will need to be so again,” said Ethan Conner-Ross, vice president and associate principal at Econsult. SEPTA paid Econsult $40,000 for the independent report that analyzed data prior to the pandemic.

SEPTA’s capital and operating investments total about $3.43 billion in annual economic impact in Pennsylvania, support 26,500 jobs, as well as $1.9 billion in earnings, the study found. Every $1 spent by SEPTA means a .91 cent return, Conner-Ross said.

— Patricia Madej

2:56 PM - May 13, 2020
2:56 PM - May 13, 2020

Cocktails-to-go bill is approved by Senate, and is on way to Gov. Wolf

Cocktails in pouches are popular at some bars and will be used for takeout drinks.
COURTESY BLUME
Cocktails in pouches are popular at some bars and will be used for takeout drinks.

An icy margarita with your to-go order of tacos is close to becoming a reality in Pennsylvania, as the state Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill allowing bars and licensed restaurants to sell mixed drinks for takeout during the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill’s next step is the House for signing and then to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf, who has indicated that he would sign it, providing a shot in the arm for businesses that have been largely idled since mid-March, when dining rooms and barrooms were closed by Wolf’s order.

Bars — from the humblest hole-in-the-wall to the poshest white-tablecloth restaurant — would be able to start serving immediately at the final stroke of Wolf’s pen, and many have takeout containers at the ready.

The measure, unprecedented in Pennsylvania history, is not intended to be permanent.

— Michael Klein

2:40 PM - May 13, 2020
2:40 PM - May 13, 2020

How National Black Muslim COVID Coalition serves communities during the pandemic

From left to right: Dr. Safiyya Shabazz, Dr. Kameelah Rashad, Oumy Thioune. All three women are National Black Muslim COVID Coalition organizers working from the Philadelphia area.
Yong Kim / Staff Photographer, David Maialetti / Staff Photographer, Muslim Wellness Foundation
From left to right: Dr. Safiyya Shabazz, Dr. Kameelah Rashad, Oumy Thioune. All three women are National Black Muslim COVID Coalition organizers working from the Philadelphia area.

The National Black Muslim COVID Coalition hosts conversations on the physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual impacts of coronavirus at least weekly.

Through digital organizing, the coalition steers and supports myriad initiatives looking for the concerns and experiences of black Muslim experiences during the pandemic. The coalition, which has multiple key organizers in Philadelphia, is leading a survey, a cultural preservation project that collects the oral histories of their elders, and producing a series of digital panels raising issues regarding medical racism, communal grief, and the need to provide culturally sensitive, faith-sensitive care as the community faces distressing racial disparities in the pandemic’s death toll. Through its national scope, the coalition serves black Muslim communities that not only have regional differences, but roots around the diaspora.

“Which means that when we’re talking about seemingly discrete issues, either around immigration, detention, incarceration, education, jobs, or economic insecurity, our community encompasses some of the disadvantages that occur because of the inequalities in those areas,” said Kameelah Rashad, a key coalition organizer, psychologist, and founder of the Muslim Wellness Foundation, a nonprofit based in West Oak Lane.

— Cassie Owens

2:13 PM - May 13, 2020
2:13 PM - May 13, 2020

Murphy: More than 21,000 have expressed interest in becoming part of N.J.'s ‘Community Contact Tracing Corps’

New Jersey officials announced Wednesday that more than 21,000 individuals have expressed interest in becoming contact tracers in the state in response to Gov. Phil Murphy’s call for 1,000 to people join his “Community Contact Tracing Corps.”

The state has nearly 900 individuals already on the ground. Hired tracers will be paid $25 an hour, and can work up to 35 hours per week, Murphy said, indicating the initiative will cost “millions of dollars.”

In previous weeks, Murphy said the state could need upwards of 7,000 contact tracers to effectively track and tame the spread of the virus.

— Pranshu Verma

1:51 PM - May 13, 2020
1:51 PM - May 13, 2020
Virtua Memorial Hospital employees, including nurse Jane Maher (center), watch a flyover of the U.S. Air Force Reserve's 514th Air Mobility Wing over the hospital in Mount Holly, N.J., on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. A C-17 Globemaster III and a KC-10 Extender flew over several South Jersey hospitals to honor health-care workers for their response to the coronavirus pandemic.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Virtua Memorial Hospital employees, including nurse Jane Maher (center), watch a flyover of the U.S. Air Force Reserve's 514th Air Mobility Wing over the hospital in Mount Holly, N.J., on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. A C-17 Globemaster III and a KC-10 Extender flew over several South Jersey hospitals to honor health-care workers for their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

— Tim Tai

1:44 PM - May 13, 2020
1:44 PM - May 13, 2020

Photos: CAPA staff surprise graduating class with signs on front lawn of school

The CAPA principal and staff installed signs with the photos and names of their graduating class on the front lawn of the school in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Due to the coronavirus, most activities surrounding graduation are being altered to adhere to social-distancing guidelines.

This initiative was a surprise for the students by the staff, who said the students were handling themselves well throughout the pandemic.

— Heather Khalifa

1:40 PM - May 13, 2020
1:40 PM - May 13, 2020

New Jersey’s April revenue was $3.5 billion less than last year

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said state revenue collected in April is projected to be 60% lower than the same time in 2019, a $3.5 billion hit to state coffers.

“I fear for what the budget will look like for our state, for our businesses, and most importantly for our people,” Murphy said. “We need direct federal cash assistance.”

New Jersey has pushed its tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15, which may account for a portion of the state’s drop in monthly revenue.

For weeks, Murphy has railed against federal lawmakers, most notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for not providing states bearing the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic more emergency aid to bolster critical operations.

Murphy has indicated New Jersey will have to conduct massive layoffs for teachers, first responders, and other essential workers, unless more federal assistance comes through.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled provisions in the Heroes Act that would provide $1 trillion in aid to states, cities, and tribal areas. The House is expected to vote on this package later this week, while the Senate is not expected to take it up until after Memorial Day.

— Pranshu Verma

1:38 PM - May 13, 2020
1:38 PM - May 13, 2020

Murphy: New Jersey making ‘steady progress’ in taming coronavirus spread

As Gov. Phil Murphy moves to slowly reopen New Jersey’s economy, he announced another 1,028 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 141,560 confirmed cases. Another 197 have died from the disease, increasing New Jersey’s known death toll to 9,702.

The governor noted New Jersey is making “steady progress” in its fight to tame the virus’ spread, and said 4,226 people are hospitalized for the disease. This includes 1,226 people in intensive care and 928 residents on ventilators.

“You are the ones who have pushed these numbers, and these lines downward through social distancing,” Murphy said. “And as we begin our long road back, we will need to keep it up to keep seeing these lines move downward.”

New Jersey also reported 522 long-term care facilities are suffering a coronavirus outbreak, which accounts for 26,673 of the state’s positive cases and 5,016 of its deaths.

— Pranshu Verma

1:33 PM - May 13, 2020
1:33 PM - May 13, 2020

Possible coronavirus-related inflammatory disease in children prompts alert from Pa. officials

A viral transport kit (nasal swab) used for coronavirus testing is pictured at PM Pediatrics in Wayne.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
A viral transport kit (nasal swab) used for coronavirus testing is pictured at PM Pediatrics in Wayne.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health this week directed hospitals and health care providers to report cases of children with a multi-system inflammatory syndrome that may be linked to coronavirus infections.

The United Kingdom recently reported the first known cases of the ultra-rare but sometimes fatal illness. Now, doctors around the world are watching for it, and researchers are rushing to determine whether it is a complication of coronavirus infection.

— Marie McCullough

1:22 PM - May 13, 2020
1:22 PM - May 13, 2020

Philly officials preparing for coronavirus contract tracing that will allow city to reopen safely

Travelers at the Philadelphia Airport wear masks, May 11th, 2020, in Philadelphia
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Travelers at the Philadelphia Airport wear masks, May 11th, 2020, in Philadelphia

Philadelphia officials are working to prepare for contact tracing of COVID-19 cases that will allow the city to reopen safely.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said a “peek into the future” in Philadelphia would involve increased testing and quarantining people who were exposed to the virus until a vaccine is available. City officials are working to develop protocols and hire new employees needed for contact tracing, he said.

“Success doesn’t mean no virus,” Farley said. “What success looks like in the future is that the virus is at such a low level that we can resume most of our activities and most people are not going to get infected.”

While he offered no timeline for the reopening of the city, Farley said Wednesday that the number of new cases and hospitalizations are continuing to decline in the city.

There were 242 new confirmed cases of the virus in the past day, Farley said. He said the city would be able to contact trace all new cases once there are about 50 new cases per day.

“We’re not going to be able to do all of them anytime soon but we’re trying to put in place a large system so as the number of cases come down we can do all of them,” he said.

Farley said he was not sure how many employees the city will have funding to hire for contact tracing to interview people with COVID-19 about where they’ve been and who they have been with, and will also rely on volunteer help from other groups. And even with contact tracing in place and reopening underway, he said there could be a need to institute more restrictions.

“As this plays out over months, sooner or later we’re going to have some flare ups and we’re going to have to backpedal,” Farley said.

Farley announced 78 deaths Wednesday – the highest daily count to date – but said most of those were delayed reports and the result of the city matching its database of people confirmed to have had COVID-19 to its list of death certificates.

Most of the deaths reported Wednesday were of deaths between April 21 and May 7, Farley said.

A total of 986 Philadelphia residents have now died of the coronavirus.

Farley said the number new COVID-19 patients being admitted to hospitals in Philadelphia and surrounding counties continues to decrease, after peaking in mid-April.

— Laura McCrystal

12:51 PM - May 13, 2020
12:51 PM - May 13, 2020

New Jersey nonessential businesses may reopen for curbside pickup, construction to resume Monday

Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Wednesday allowing nonessential retail businesses to reopen for curbside pickup only and for nonessential construction to resume effective 6 a.m. Monday.

Drive-in and drive-through services will also be allowed to resume with social distancing guidelines in place.

“We are taking the next steps down New Jersey's road back,” Murphy said, “and each step that eases us down this road is being taken because public health medical experts and the data tell us that it is now safe to do so.”

The governor ordered nonessential businesses closed March 21 and stopped nonessential construction April 8.

Murphy said plans for when hospitals can reopen for elective surgeries may be announced later this week, along with “beach protocols,” and guidance on the July 7 presidential primary.

“[The] success we’ve had flattening the curve gives us confidence that we’ll be able to announce the end of more restrictions in the days and weeks ahead,” Murphy said.

— Pranshu Verma

12:29 PM - May 13, 2020
12:29 PM - May 13, 2020

He gets no sleep collecting the bodies of coronavirus victims: ‘It’s not a job for everyone’

Preston Griffin, who runs First Class Mortuary Transport, poses for a portrait inside his vehicle after delivering a body to the Alfonso Cannon Funeral Chapels in Philadelphia, Pa. on May 6, 2020.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Preston Griffin, who runs First Class Mortuary Transport, poses for a portrait inside his vehicle after delivering a body to the Alfonso Cannon Funeral Chapels in Philadelphia, Pa. on May 6, 2020.

Preston Griffin never sleeps. Not really. Even when he sneaks a nap, his iPhone, set at maximum volume, is angled on the pillow, brushing his earlobe. He can’t miss the customized ringtone. The first note blares, and Griffin hops up. A funeral home director is on the line.

He listens to the scant details. Someone just died in a nursing home. A hospital. A home. The funeral director tells him if the coronavirus was to blame. Sometimes, it’s a mystery.

It could be 6 p.m. or 3 a.m. No matter. Griffin’s drill begins. He reaches toward the long, organized row of dark colored suits, shirts, and pre-tied ties hanging on a rack nearby. He gets dressed at Army-pace speed. Within minutes, he’s out the door of his West Oak Lane home and into his black Yukon Denali — with a mask, gown, booties, and gloves on the passenger seat, two stretchers and maroon colored body bags in the back. And he heads out into the night.

Time to collect one more body. One more life gone.

— Barbara Laker

11:15 AM - May 13, 2020
11:15 AM - May 13, 2020

Pa. State Police not planning enforcement clampdown in counties that reopen without state approval

As officials in some Pennsylvania counties have threatened to defy Gov. Tom Wolf and move themselves into the “yellow phase” of reopening as soon as this week, a Pennsylvania State Police official said Tuesday that the agency is not yet planning a major clamp down on people or businesses violating the governor’s orders in those places.

Lt. Col. Scott Price, deputy commissioner for operations, said during a conference call with reporters that the agency has largely focused on educating people about the importance of staying at home during the shutdown, rather than issuing citations. He believed that strategy would continue even if some counties began encouraging people and businesses to reopen before Wolf’s administration approved, and he said there were no current plans to increase the number of troopers in jurisdictions that have threatened to reopen themselves.

“When we do see [potential violations], we’ll make enforcement the last resort,” Price said.

State Police have issued just eight citations during the shutdown, he said: One to a business that defied Wolf’s closure order, and seven to people who had flouted the stay-at-home order. In one of those instances, Price said, several youths were cited for holding a party at a motel.

Troopers have issued more than 350 warnings, Price said. He cautioned that police were authorized to enforce the governor’s order, but said citations were only likely for people or businesses who deliberately or repeatedly refused to comply with the regulations.

“We think people want to do whats right under the circumstances, but there’s some confusion,” Price said. “We largely think what we’re encountering has been simply misunderstanding rather than willful noncompliance.”

Chris Palmer

10:58 AM - May 13, 2020
10:58 AM - May 13, 2020

Pa. to collect data on sexual orientation, gender identity of COVID-19 patients

Pennsylvania will begin collecting data on the sexual orientation and gender identity of coronavirus patients, state health officials said Wednesday.

The announcement came as a handful of national advocacy groups have released reports showing members of the LGBTQ community may be more susceptible to complications associated with COVID-19. Studies show the population is more likely to be smokers, more likely to have underlying medical conditions, and has greater rates of being uninsured.

Many states, including Pennsylvania, have reported some demographic information about coronavirus patients including race and gender, but have not broken down cases by sexual orientation or gender identity. Bills have been introduced in multiple states, including New Jersey, requiring state officials to collect such information.

The move by Pennsylvania to begin collecting this data was recommended by the governor’s Health Disparity Task Force, chaired by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, which convened in April to study how the virus has spread in and impacted vulnerable populations.

— Anna Orso

10:43 AM - May 13, 2020
10:43 AM - May 13, 2020

Chester County officials take cautious approach on reopening

Saloon 151 is shown in West Chester is shown on Monday, May 11, 2020. A look at West Chester during the coronavirus pandemic. These counties are still in the red zone on the Pa state map but people are starting to grumble about businesses being closed.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Saloon 151 is shown in West Chester is shown on Monday, May 11, 2020. A look at West Chester during the coronavirus pandemic. These counties are still in the red zone on the Pa state map but people are starting to grumble about businesses being closed.

As officials in Bucks and Delaware counties ask the governor for more clarity and greater priority for the Philadelphia region in regards to an eventual economic reopening, Chester County officials on Wednesday again indicated they would err on the side of caution despite relatively low coronavirus case counts.

They extended the county’s essential-services-only operation through June 4, the commissioners announced in a statement. This applies only to county-run services. Essential services include the 9-1-1 center, the county prison, the county-run care facility Pocopson Home, the county youth center, the coroner’s office, and emergency court proceedings.

Since the essential-services-only model went into effect on March 14, 60 percent of the county’s programs have been able to operate remotely, the commissioners said.

— Erin McCarthy

10:35 AM - May 13, 2020
10:35 AM - May 13, 2020

When a ventilator wasn’t enough, this coronavirus patient went on ECMO. It was not a sure thing.

Family and staff gather around Daniel Bisset Jr., center, as he is discharged from Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. Bisset was treated for COVID-19 with a procedure called ECMO.
Geisinger Health
Family and staff gather around Daniel Bisset Jr., center, as he is discharged from Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. Bisset was treated for COVID-19 with a procedure called ECMO.

For people hospitalized with the coronavirus, doctors first try giving oxygen through “noninvasive” methods. If that fails, patients are placed on a ventilator. When even that is not enough, some patients are placed on an ECMO machine — extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

The devices have been used for more than 800 COVID-19 patients worldwide, and the procedure is not a sure thing. It only saves lives about half the time.

In Philadelphia, two dozen patients have been placed on the machines so far at Temple University Hospital and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.

Daniel Bisset Jr., 48, spent 10 days on ECMO at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville and faced a grueling recovery.

— Tom Avril

5:00 AM - May 14, 2020
5:00 AM - May 14, 2020

IRS deadline for direct deposit of stimulus checks is noon today. Get your coronavirus cash fast.

Timestamp 05/13 09:45am

You'll get a paper check if you don't file by noon today to get direct deposit of your coronavirus pandemic stimulus payment.
Eric Gay / AP
You'll get a paper check if you don't file by noon today to get direct deposit of your coronavirus pandemic stimulus payment.

Still want your stimulus check by direct deposit? Then it’s time to act, Philadelphia.

Noon today is the deadline for entering your bank account information on the IRS website’s Get My Stimulus Payment portal.

The IRS link to the “Get My Payment” feature is available here. You can use a bank account, PayPal, Venmo and other apps.

If you can’t enter your information, or don’t have your 2019 or 2018 tax returns, then you’ll have to wait weeks to get a paper check, instead of getting the quicker direct deposit for your Economic Impact Payment.

— Erin Arvedlund

9:20 AM - May 13, 2020
9:20 AM - May 13, 2020

As student deposits for fall lag, colleges extend deadlines; New Jersey universities look to keep students in state

Courtney Kelly, executive director of admissions at Widener University, , a places a lawn sign at the home of incoming student Tuesday during visit of neighborhoods in Delaware County where new students live.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Courtney Kelly, executive director of admissions at Widener University, , a places a lawn sign at the home of incoming student Tuesday during visit of neighborhoods in Delaware County where new students live.

James Paul became increasingly anxious as the coronavirus spread in hard-hit New Rochelle, N.Y., where he attended college.

“It was one of the worst places to be in the world at one point,” said Paul, of Maplewood, N.J.

Now, he doesn’t want to go back and is considering transferring to Stockton University in Galloway Township.

Ten New Jersey universities, including Stockton, hope they can persuade more of the 120,000 Garden State students who attend college elsewhere to come home, too.

Their plea comes as freshman deposits were down at some schools by double-digit percentages as the traditional May 1 deadline passed. Stockton was down 17% and Rowan University 16%, though the percentages were changing daily, and the schools — like many others in the region — extended their deadlines to give families more time to decide.

— Susan Snyder

9:09 AM - May 13, 2020
9:09 AM - May 13, 2020

Paul Manafort released from Pa. federal prison due to coronavirus concerns

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s onetime presidential campaign chairman who was convicted as part of the special counsel’s Russia investigation, has been released from federal prison to serve the rest of his sentence in home confinement due to concerns about the coronavirus, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Manafort, 71, was released Wednesday morning from FCI Loretto, a low-security prison in central Pennsylvania, according to his attorney Todd Blanche. Manafort had been serving more than seven years in prison following his conviction.

His lawyers had asked the Bureau of Prisons to release him to home confinement, arguing that he was at high risk for coronavirus because of his age and preexisting medical conditions. Manafort was hospitalized in December after suffering from a heart-related condition, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press at the time.

— Associated Press

8:07 AM - May 13, 2020
8:07 AM - May 13, 2020

Churches in Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton to reopen for private prayer

Churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton are now allowed to open for private prayer for the first time since they were shuttered on April 1 due to the coronavirus.

The 99 parishes will have to follow certain public-health guidelines set forth by a task force of their peers to be able to reopen, a diocese spokesperson said. No more than 10 people are to be in a church at one time; social distancing has to be practiced; and the faithful must wear masks.

The Diocese of Trenton, which covers Burlington, Monmouth, Ocean, and Mercer counties, was the only one in the region that closed churches for private prayer.

While public Masses and other in-person gatherings have been suspended, the Diocese of Camden and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have not ordered churches to be closed, allowing the pastors of the nearly 300 parishes Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey to open or close churches for private prayer as they saw fit, church officials said.

— Erin McCarthy

6:30 AM - May 13, 2020
6:30 AM - May 13, 2020

Pa. officials revoked coronavirus shutdown business waivers the night before publishing list of recipients

A closed DTLR Villa store at 15th and Chestnut streets in Philadelphia.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
A closed DTLR Villa store at 15th and Chestnut streets in Philadelphia.

Late last Thursday evening, Tiffany Kuhn was at her home outside Harrisburg reading an e-book on her cellphone when a notification popped up that she had an email from Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration.

When she opened her inbox, Kuhn said, her blood pressure “went through the roof.” The letter from the administration, sent at 9:30 p.m., informed her that the waiver she had received six weeks earlier to operate her mobile notary business during the pandemic had suddenly, and without explanation, been rescinded.

Kuhn’s waiver was revoked by the Department of Community and Economic Development, which has overseen the much-criticized process of awarding exemptions to thousands of companies across Pennsylvania that applied for the right to remain open despite Wolf’s business shutdown order.

The timing has raised suspicions among business owners and some GOP lawmakers. Just hours before the administration disclosed the first details about which businesses received waivers, state officials were still revoking exemptions without explanation, according to several interviews with business owners.

As a result, the names of those businesses weren’t on a list of recipients that the administration eventually made public late Friday afternoon, just after the deadline set by Republican lawmakers who had subpoenaed the information. Other businesses said the state revoked their waivers after the list was published, and also without explanation.

— Angela Couloumbis and Charlotte Keith / Spotlight PA

6:00 AM - May 13, 2020
6:00 AM - May 13, 2020

PGW is under pressure to restore services to Philly residents who got disconnected before coronavirus hit

The PGW service center in the 5200 block of Chestnut Street .
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
The PGW service center in the 5200 block of Chestnut Street .

A nonprofit law firm that represents Philadelphia’s poorest residents says the city’s gas utility should do more to restore service to consumers who were shut off before the coronavirus pandemic.

Philadelphia Gas Works has already waived late fees and said it won’t turn off gas for consumers who can’t pay their bills during the crisis. Still, the utility has not relaxed its payment requirements for consumers whose services were disconnected earlier due to nonpayment. By contrast, Peco, the electric utility, and the Water Department have restored service to customers without requiring immediate repayment.

It’s unclear how many people are seeking gas. Under state law, utilities can’t shut off service for low-income residents during winter, so terminations have effectively been on hold since December. There were roughly 7,300 PGW households whose heat-related service was terminated in 2019 and remained without service at the start of the winter, according to a survey from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the state regulatory agency.

— Christian Hetrick

5:45 AM - May 13, 2020
5:45 AM - May 13, 2020

Graphing the decline

5:30 AM - May 13, 2020
5:30 AM - May 13, 2020

Morning Roundup: N.J. and Philadelphia are moving toward reopening, though officials still don’t know exactly when it will happen

New Jersey officials announced Tuesday new plans to bolster testing capacity and contact tracing ahead of reopening the state, declining to give a start date for recovery but saying the coronavirus’ grip had loosened enough in the last two weeks to allow the state to begin moving forward.

In Philadelphia, too, officials said that it remained too early to say when the city could reopen but that planning for that eventuality was underway. New cases of the virus and related hospitalizations in the city continued to decrease, with 224 additional cases and 15 deaths reported Tuesday.

In another signal of how abnormal life this summer may be, Mayor Jim Kenney announced that the Wawa Welcome America Festival — the city’s traditional Independence Day celebration — will be held virtually this year, with events and a July Fourth concert broadcast on television instead of being held on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Pennsylvania reported 837 new cases for a total of 57,991 infections and a death toll to date of 3,806 as health officials announced guidance for long-term-care facilities suggesting mass

New Jersey reported Tuesday an additional 898 cases, bringing the total to 140,743, and 198 deaths, increasing the state’s toll to 9,508. In addition to new positives and hospitalizations dropping statewide, the growth of cases and deaths in the state’s long-term-care facilities is also beginning to slow, said Gov. Phil Murphy.

“We have seen the trend lines that we’ve needed to see," Murphy said. “The multiple stresses on our state have been consistently, and in some cases dramatically, lessening.”

— Justine McDaniel, Pranshu Verma and Laura McCrystal

5:00 AM - May 13, 2020
5:00 AM - May 13, 2020

Today’s Inquirer Front Page

The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Wednesday, May 13, 2020.
Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Wednesday, May 13, 2020.