8:34 PM - August 5, 2020
8:34 PM - August 5, 2020

13 humanities nonprofits in Philly get coronavirus relief grants

Allison Boyle looks around inside the Philadelphia's Magic Gardens art gallery, during the first day of reopening in Philadelphia, Pa. Friday, July 10, 2020.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Allison Boyle looks around inside the Philadelphia's Magic Gardens art gallery, during the first day of reopening in Philadelphia, Pa. Friday, July 10, 2020.

Thirteen nonprofits in Philadelphia have been selected as recipients of emergency relief grants to help them offset economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council announced on Tuesday.

The privately-operated council said it picked 140 organizations statewide to receive a total of $780,500. The award amounts ranged from $3,000 to $10,000 and the recipients included museums, historical societies, libraries, and other cultural institutions, the council said.

The money comes from PHC CARES and is funded by the national Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which became law in March.

The 13 Philadelphia nonprofits are:

  • Historic Rittenhouse Town Inc. - $3,000
  • Global Philadelphia Association - $5,000
  • Glen Foerd on the Delaware - $5,000
  • Awbury Arboretum Association, Inc. - $6,000
  • The Carpenters’ Company of the City and County of Philadelphia - $6,000
  • The Friends of Laurel Hill & West Laurel Hill Cemeteries - $7,000
  • Christ Church Preservation Trust - $7,500
  • Scribe Video Center, Inc. - $7,500
  • Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks - $7,500
  • Mighty Writers - $7,500
  • Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens - $7,500
  • African American Museum in Philadelphia - $10,000
  • Historic Philadelphia, Inc. - $10,000

— Robert Moran

4:42 PM - August 5, 2020
4:42 PM - August 5, 2020

Outdoor dining expands in Philly through sidewalk cafes and streeteries

Tables and chairs for diners along the sidewalk and in the road on 13th Street in Center City in Philadelphia, Pa. on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Tables and chairs for diners along the sidewalk and in the road on 13th Street in Center City in Philadelphia, Pa. on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

In an example of trying to make lemonade out of lemons, cities and towns are allowing restaurants and other food businesses to set up temporary outdoor restaurants, given that indoor dining is curtailed (in most of Pennsylvania) or eliminated entirely (in Philadelphia and all of New Jersey) during the pandemic.

The outdoor move seems to be popular in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia records show that 473 new permits have been issued citywide for temporary sidewalk cafes and “streeteries” that reserve lanes of traffic to allow restaurants to place socially distanced tables on the street.

The Center City District, which released a report on the topic on Wednesday, counted 146 businesses within its boundaries, totaling more than 3,600 outside seats. Of the 146 businesses, 35 are located in streeteries. Businesses are also planning for full-street closures on weekends.

The district’s last annual survey, in 2019, counted 188 eating and drinking premises with outdoor seating within its boundaries, indicating that 78% of premises that had outdoor seating last year have restored that service.

The district, putting its best spin on a dire situation facing the hospitality industry, said Center City is “slowly and cautiously beginning to recover” based on this expansion of takeout and outdoor seating.

Citing safety during the pandemic, on July 1 Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf allowed restaurants to open indoors at 50% of capacity but on July 15 tightened the limit to 25%, citing a spike in coronavirus cases. Alcohol can only be served during meal transactions, and no bar service is allowed. Restaurateurs say that a 25% indoor occupancy, which includes staff, is effectively a death sentence.

Indoor seating has not been allowed in the city limits since mid-March. The soonest it will be allowed is Sept. 1, Mayor Jim Kenney said.

The CCD also said that at the beginning of 2020, restaurants, food service, and retail in greater Center City accounted for 39,600 jobs, 13% of all jobs in the downtown. Citywide, these sectors provided 103,946 jobs, accounting for 15% of the total employment in Philadelphia.

— Michael Klein

4:00 PM - August 5, 2020
4:00 PM - August 5, 2020

Philadelphia Catholic League football, other fall sports pushed back due to COVID-19 concerns

The Philadelphia Catholic League on Wednesday announced plans to push back the start of fall sports because of COVID-19 concerns.

Under the new format, approved by the league’s board of governors, football teams will begin heat acclimatization Aug. 31 and open their seasons the weekend of Sept. 18-19.

Teams in sports such as soccer, field hockey, girls’ volleyball, and cross-country will begin practice Sept. 14 and open their seasons the weekend of Oct. 2-3.

“The PCL is committed to a safe return to competition, but the safety and welfare of our student-athletes, coaches, and athletic staffs is the primary focus,” said Archbishop Ryan principal Joseph McFadden, chairman of the league’s board of governors.

The PCL decision follows similar moves made in recent days by the Inter-Ac League as well as some schools in the Central League and the Suburban One League. New Jersey also has pushed back the start of fall sports for high school athletes.

— Phil Anastasia

3:10 PM - August 5, 2020
3:10 PM - August 5, 2020

Two airlines tighten mask requirements

A JetBlue plane flies past the American flag in Washington.
Susan Walsh / AP
A JetBlue plane flies past the American flag in Washington.

Two major U.S. carriers, JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines, announced plans Wednesday to tighten their mask requirements.

Both airlines said they are prohibiting face coverings with exhalation valves or vents. They also will no longer allow customers to claim exemptions to wearing a mask, joining American, Southwest and Spirit airlines. Delta allows “rare” exemptions, but recently began requiring passengers seeking one to complete a “Clearance-To-Fly” screening with a medical professional.

“We continue to hear from our customers that added space onboard and travel flexibility are incredibly important to them during this time,” Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s president and chief operating officer, said in a news release, “and we want them to know we are listening because we are all in this together.”

JetBlue said its strengthened face-covering policy goes into effect Aug. 10, while Alaska Airlines said its policy begins Aug. 7. The two carriers said masks will be required at airports as well as on flights, with children under 2 years old the only exception.

They said customers who refuse to wear a mask at the airport will not be allowed to board and those who refuse to wear a mask during a flight could be suspended from future travel.

“Our tougher policy shows how important this issue is to us and our guests,” Max Tidwell, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of safety and security, said in a news release. “If you don’t wear a mask, you won’t be flying with us.”

— Washington Post

1:45 PM - August 5, 2020
1:45 PM - August 5, 2020

‘Unseemly’: Fauci says he and his family continue to receive death threats

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus crisis hearing on July 31.
KEVIN DIETSCH / AP
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus crisis hearing on July 31.

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, called the death threats he and his family continue to receive “unseemly” during an interview Wednesday with CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta.

“Getting death threats for me and my family, and harassing my daughters to the point where I have to get security, it’s amazing,” Fauci said during an interview with Gupta for the Harvard School of Public Health. “I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that people who object to things that are our public health principles are so set against it and don’t like what you and I say — namely in the word of science — that they actually threaten you.”

The Washington Post reported in April the government stepped up Fauci’s security after he faced growing threats. Since then, members of the Trump administration have sought to discredit Fauci due to his sobering assessments of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the White House anonymously offered reporters what they described as “opposition research” against Fauci, who is a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force. Peter Navarro, President Donald Trump’s top trade advisor, publicly criticized Fauci in a column published in USA Today, where he claimed Fauci was “wrong about everything.” Dan Scavino, the White House deputy chief of staff for communications, shared a cartoon mocking Fauci’s public health warnings.

Fauci has called the administration’s attempts to discredit him “bizarre.”

— Rob Tornoe

1:24 PM - August 5, 2020
1:24 PM - August 5, 2020

Murphy: Virus is still spreading ‘too quickly and too widely’ in N.J.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks with Jim Fakult, president of Jersey Central Power & Light, in Jackson, N.J., on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.
Amy Rosenberg / Staff
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks with Jim Fakult, president of Jersey Central Power & Light, in Jackson, N.J., on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

New Jersey’s COVID-19 transmission rate has dropped this week to 1.32, but Gov. Phil Murphy said that “coronavirus continues to spread too quickly and too widely across New Jersey.”

“We all need to be in this fight together. This is no time for complacency, for selfishness, or for thinking that someone else can wear a face mask but not you,” Murphy said. “Please do your part.”

This week the Garden State is asking travelers from 34 states plus Puerto Rico to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli announced the launch of a summer ad campaign on social media, billboards, radio, and TV that will encourage people to get tested and emphasize the importance of contact tracing. The ads will run in several languages and will be targeted toward at-risk populations like seniors, farm workers and frontline workers. The messages will also target people under 30, due to a growing number of cases among younger individuals and reports of crowded house parties that could lead to clusters of infections.

“We must continue to emphasize the message that when young people gather in crowded spaces without the proper precautions, they are putting their loved ones at risk. They may affect their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles,” Persichilli said.

Murphy acknowledged that it’s hard to enforce his new ban on gatherings of more than 25 people when a party is held in a private home, but urged local officials and parents to discourage the behavior.

“Please, cut the inside stuff out,” he said.

Edward Lifschitz, the department of health’s medical director, said the growing number of cases among young people may be a factor in the state’s low hospitalizations. But he said those cases could eventually lead to higher numbers of serious cases or deaths.

“We’re seeing somewhat of a younger population getting ill, which in the short term is good, they’re less likely to have serious outcomes,” he said. “However for the state as a whole it’s very concerning because those younger people can infect other people, they themselves can sometimes become sick, and while we’re not seeing it yet, we’re always trying to figure out what we might be seeing two, four, six, eight weeks down the road if this continues.”

— Allison Steele

1:15 PM - August 5, 2020
1:15 PM - August 5, 2020

Philly reports 106 new coronavirus cases as downward trend continues

Corona virus daily life pictures outside Liberty Place at 16th and Chestnut St. in Center City Philadelphia streets on Monday, August 3, 2020.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Corona virus daily life pictures outside Liberty Place at 16th and Chestnut St. in Center City Philadelphia streets on Monday, August 3, 2020.

Philadelphia reported 106 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday — the same number that officials reported Tuesday as they announced new cases were decreasing in the city.

The city’s Department of Public Health reported no additional deaths from the coronavirus Wednesday.

For the week that ended Saturday, there was an average daily case total of 123, a decrease from 166 the previous week. Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday that he was not sure why cases had unexpectedly decreased, but called the development “good news.”

— Laura McCrystal

1:00 PM - August 5, 2020
1:00 PM - August 5, 2020

Biden won’t travel to Milwaukee to accept presidential nomination due to coronavirus pandemic

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in respond to the coronavirus during a press conference at the Hotel Du Pont, in Wilmington, DE.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in respond to the coronavirus during a press conference at the Hotel Du Pont, in Wilmington, DE.

Joe Biden will not travel to Milwaukee to accept the Democratic presidential nomination because of concerns over the coronavirus, party officials said Wednesday, signaling a move to a convention that essentially has become entirely virtual.

It is the latest example of the pandemic’s sweeping effects on the 2020 presidential election and the latest blow to traditional party nominating conventions that historically have marked the start of fall general election campaigns.

Neither the Biden campaign nor DNC officials offered details about how Biden might accept the nomination, which even in the pandemic could be a made-for-screen event that reaches tens of millions of voters via television and online.

A DNC official said all speakers and presenters for the Aug. 17-24 convention are now expected to speak from remote locations.

— Associated Press

12:40 PM - August 5, 2020
12:40 PM - August 5, 2020

New coronavirus cases in Pa. continue to decline

Pennsylvania reported 705 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, continuing a downward trend that began at the end of July. The seven-day average of new cases is now below 800 for the first time since July 18, according to an Inquirer analysis.

The Department of Health said 148,934 coronavirus tests were administered between July 29 and August 5, with 5,625 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 3.8%. Overall, 115,714 Pennsylvania residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

At least 7,244 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting the coronavirus, with 12 new deaths reported Wednesday. Of the state’s deaths, 4,941 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

— Rob Tornoe

11:40 AM - August 5, 2020
11:40 AM - August 5, 2020

Can Philly’s beloved diners survive the pandemic?

Dining Car diner along Frankford Avenue is open and has adjusted to the coronavirus pandemic with outdoor dining using tents and tables separated for social distancing on Saturday, July 25, 2020.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
Dining Car diner along Frankford Avenue is open and has adjusted to the coronavirus pandemic with outdoor dining using tents and tables separated for social distancing on Saturday, July 25, 2020.

Even before COVID-19, Philly’s diner scene was evolving. There have been transformations (the Continental, Silk City, Midtown IV) and losses: Midtown II, Little Pete’s, Oak Lane, two locations of the Trolley Car. Hours at many establishments have been scaled back as fast-casual chains and 24/7 convenience stores have flourished.

Like all restaurants, diners have been forced to adapt, moving outdoors, beefing up takeout operations, struggling to break even however they can.

But will customers come to eat pancakes in a parking lot? How long can takeout club sandwiches and dinner specials sustain restaurants used to seating 100 customers at a time? And if they can’t make ends meet in a pandemic, will diners — a waning American institution — fade even faster?

“The business was good until what is happening now,” said Abdul Elkhouly, who started operating Coatesville’s Double D Diner in 2002. “All the business I have, all the good stuff I have for the last 20 years — gone.”

“It’s 90 degrees outside. Drinking coffee and eating eggs in a parking lot next to Route 70, you know, it’s not like drinking a beer outside,” said Nick Fifis, of Ponzio’s Diner in Cherry Hill.

— Jenn Ladd

10:20 AM - August 5, 2020
10:20 AM - August 5, 2020

UConn becomes first FBS team to cancel college football season

The University of Connecticut announced it is canceling its 2020 football season on Wednesday, becoming the first NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision team to skip football due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“After receiving guidance from state and public health officials and consulting with football student-athletes, we’ve decided that we will not compete on the gridiron this season,” David Benedict, UConn’s athletic director, said in a statement. “The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk.”

Student-athletes also released their own statement about the decision:

As a team we are in full support of the decision to not compete in 2020. We have many health concerns and not enough is known about the potential long term effects of contracting COVID-19. Additionally, we have not had the optimal time to train mentally & physically to be properly prepared to compete this season. We love this game and love competing. We came to campus in the beginning of July knowing there would be challenges presented by the pandemic but it is apparent to us now that these challenges are impossible to overcome.

— Rob Tornoe

10:00 AM - August 5, 2020
10:00 AM - August 5, 2020

New Jersey investigating wild mansion party as infection rates increase

Officials in New Jersey are investigating a large house party at a mansion over the weekend as the state’s coronavirus infection rate continues to inch up.

The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office told NJ Advance Media that it is investigating the gathering in Alpine, N.J. after videos posted on social media revealed a massive pool party featuring hundreds of guests — many without masks.

One neighbor, speaking to NBC New York, compared the gathering to wild pool parties often seen in Las Vegas. The network also obtained a flier for the event from its promoter, which billed the gathering as a “lavish experience pool party.”

“Disconcerting in the extreme that we are forced to deal with something that shouldn’t be happening, especially in the time of this pandemic,” Alpine Mayor Paul Tomasko told the New York Post on Tuesday. “We didn’t expect to see very much more of this, but we’ve been surprised and disappointed that we have.”

On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced new restrictions on indoor gatherings after a rash of house parties and indoor gatherings were traced to the state’s rising transmission rate, which is now 1.48 — twice what it was in mid-June.

Murphy addressed the weekend gathering during his coronavirus press briefing on Monday.

“I am aware only generally of the party in Alpine, and I’ve not liked what I’ve heard,” Murphy said. “I understand it was more outside than inside, but based on the description, there was close congregation and not a lot of face coverings.”

“If in fact people are bused in and there was a promoted party, that’s not gonna end well,” Murphy added.

— Rob Tornoe

7:40 AM - August 5, 2020
7:40 AM - August 5, 2020

New cases rising in Delaware County, decreasing in Southwestern Pa.

Pennsylvania’s moving seven-day average for new daily cases has been decreasing since July 30 and was 804 on Tuesday, though the day’s number of new cases returned to the 800s after two weekend days of lower numbers.

Over the last seven days, results came back positive for 3.9% of people statewide who were tested for the virus, according to the Department of Health. And new cases in Allegheny County and Southwestern Pennsylvania have started to fall over the last two weeks after rising sharply in late June and mid-July.

— John Duchneskie

7:30 AM - August 5, 2020
7:30 AM - August 5, 2020

SEPTA says its ventilation system is robust amid decline in ridership

Morning commuters at Suburban Station in Center City Philadelphia. SEPTA Regional Rail arrive from the suburbs and stations within city limits at Suburban Station on Monday morning June 22, 2020.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Morning commuters at Suburban Station in Center City Philadelphia. SEPTA Regional Rail arrive from the suburbs and stations within city limits at Suburban Station on Monday morning June 22, 2020.

As commuters around the city reckon with how safe public transportation is amid the pandemic, SEPTA is assuring riders that the transit agency’s ventilation system is robust.

”Air flow rates on our two Subway/Elevated fleets are excellent with air being pushed through filters every 2 to 3 minutes,” a spokesperson tweeted through the company’s account. “This is in addition to fresh air that enters each time doors are opened.”

The tweet was in response to a question posed by Twitter user @lyndon_bae_j, who shared New York subway trains’ circulation rates of 18 times an hour, and asked SEPTA for a comparison. “Big peace of mind if it’s anywhere as high as NY subway cars,” the @lyndon_bae_j wrote.

The SEPTA rate is higher than New York’s 18 times an hour, and as the New York Times notes, “much higher than the recommended air-exchange rates in restaurants, where recycled air is replaced eight to 12 times per hour, or in offices, where it is replaced six to eight times an hour.

A recent New York Times-conducted survey of transportation agencies suggests that public transportation is not a large source of coronavirus transmission, as long as riders abide by mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines.

The findings come as millions of residents in cities across the country continue to shy away from public transportation for fear of contracting the virus. SEPTA ridership is currently at 30 to 35% of pre-pandemic levels, though spokesperson John Golden said it is projected to steadily increase.

To improve mask-wearing and social-distancing compliance, which is currently at 81.4%, SEPTA has introduced Social Distancing Coaches, a program that started Tuesday and will run through Aug. 27. With fare revenue accounting for approximately 40% of SEPTA’s operating budget, increasing ridership in a healthy and safe manner is top priority, according to the agency.

”We want riders to know that we’re doing everything we can to stop the spread and that their safety is paramount,” Assistant General Manager for Customer Experience and Advocacy Kim Scott Heinle said.

— Hadriana Lowenkron

7:15 AM - August 5, 2020
7:15 AM - August 5, 2020

‘Good news’ on coronavirus case totals in Philly

Pedestrians along 40th and Chestnut St. battle heavy rain and blowing wind on Tuesday morning August 4, 2020.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Pedestrians along 40th and Chestnut St. battle heavy rain and blowing wind on Tuesday morning August 4, 2020.

The number of new coronavirus cases is decreasing in Philadelphia, but officials are not sure why, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday.

After case averages slowly climbed over the course of July, the rate of people testing positive for the virus has dropped below 5% — the lowest the city has seen since the pandemic began.

But Farley cautioned that it was too early to tell whether the decline would continue and said it was “really unclear” why cases were decreasing. In the week that ended Saturday, the city saw an average of 123 new cases per day, a decrease from an average of 166 new daily cases for the previous week.

“They’re not falling by much, and this could be temporary,” Farley said. “I’m certainly pleased to see the numbers go down, but I can’t say whether they’re going to continue to go down.”

Reporting 106 new cases, he urged residents to continue social distancing and recommended vulnerable people stay home. Still, he said any decrease was “good news” and speculated that it could be a result of more people wearing masks.

Last week’s daily average came as a surprise after Farley had warned that cases were likely to continue rising. Test results have been delayed several days from some laboratories, making it difficult to determine trends in new cases and to trace and quarantine people exposed to the virus. But Farley said Tuesday that wait times from some large labs have started to improve.

— Justine McDaniel, Laura McCrystal and Maddie Hanna

7:00 AM - August 5, 2020
7:00 AM - August 5, 2020

Wednesday morning roundup

  • The United States reported 57,540 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday and at least 1,399 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 4.7 million Americans have contracted the virus since the start of the pandemic, and at least 156,839 have died, by far the most in the world.
  • A potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by Novavax generated a promising immune response among 131 healthy participants during the drug’s phase one trial. Researchers around the world are developing more than 165 vaccines against the coronavirus, and 27 vaccines are in human trials, according to the New York Times.
  • The White House and congressional Democrats agreed to try and reach a deal on extending federal unemployment benefits and offering a new round of stimulus checks by the end of this week.
  • With its finances battered by the pandemic, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is laying off 85 employees. An additional 42 have accepted voluntary separation agreements, reducing the number of employees by about 23%.
  • California has been underreporting the number of new coronavirus cases due to a technical issue, the state’s top health official said Tuesday. California has reported over 526,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, more than any other state.