5:00 AM - March 20, 2020
5:00 AM - March 20, 2020

Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus updates here

You know real life is disrupted when your Wawa coffee routine changes. The dominant convenience store in the region says coffee is no longer self-serve. Also, Pennsylvania does not have enough ICU beds, and immigrant detainees could be a petri dish for the virus.

3:20 AM - March 20, 2020
3:20 AM - March 20, 2020

During coronavirus outbreak, telemedicine is an answer — if you’re covered

To its advocates, telemedicine is the perfect remedy for a pandemic.

They see it as the ideal way to literally bridge the gap between providing the sick with treatment for coronavirus as well as other ailments — and the long-term need to keep doctors and nurses physically apart from potentially infectious patients.

While the Trump administration this week lifted national restrictions on the use of telemedicine by Medicare, the new policy did not apply to care provided by community health centers, which serve 81,000 elderly residents in Pennsylvania.

— Craig McCoy

1:50 AM - March 20, 2020
1:50 AM - March 20, 2020

Yes, trout season will go on - but with a catch

Because anglers generally stand far apart, socially-distancing themselves in streams, Pennsylvania plans to proceed with a single-statewide opening day of trout season on April 18 despite the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Fish and Boat Commission will scrap other scheduled earlier special regional and youth openings, as well as prohibit the public from helping with stocking, an event that usually draws some crowds. It will, however, open a single, statewide Mentored Youth Trout Day on Saturday, April 11.

As a result, the commission will continue to stock thousands of trout. On Friday, it will stock Pennypack Creek in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties. Community volunteers will not be allowed to help as in previous years.

In another Covid-19 precaution, anglers will be able to purchase fishing licenses through a mobile app or via the commission’s Outdoor Shop.

— Frank Kummer

12:35 AM - March 20, 2020
12:35 AM - March 20, 2020

Atlantic City resorts donate more than 41,000 pounds of food to local charities

Two casino resorts along the Jersey Shore, ordered closed amid the coronavirus outbreak, have distributed a combined 41,498 pounds of food to local charities to help families struggling through the massive economic impacts of the virus’ spread.

The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa has distributed more than 35,000 pounds of fresh food — valued at more than $50,000 — to local charities like the The Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City and The Community Food Bank of New Jersey. More than 1,000 were served, the hotel said in a press release.

Ocean Casino Resort also donated over 6,000 pounds of food to the Community Food Bank.

— Ellie Rushing

11:25 PM - March 19, 2020
11:25 PM - March 19, 2020

Daniel Dae Kim, TV star and Haverford College grad, tests positive for the coronavirus

TV star Daniel Dae Kim, an Easton native and Haverford College grad, announced Thursday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Best known for his roles on Lost and Hawaii Five-O, and most recently on The Good Doctor, Kim posted a video on Instagram describing what he has gone through and used the opportunity to decry acts of racism against people of Asian descent in connection with the coronavirus pandemic.

Kim, who also has served as an executive producer on The Good Doctor, said in the video recorded at his home in Hawaii:

"Please, please stop the prejudiced and senseless violence against Asian people. Randomly beating elderly, sometimes homeless Asian Americans is cowardly, heartbreaking, and it's inexcusable," he said.

Kim, who was born in South Korea and graduated from Bethlehem’s Freedom High School, said he got the infection in New York City while shooting for the show New Amsterdam.

—Robert Moran

10:40 PM - March 19, 2020
10:40 PM - March 19, 2020

Pa. prisons working on video conferencing for inmates and families amid worry about coronavirus spread

Pennsylvania’s prisons are working to set up video conferences between inmates and family members now that visits have been suspended in an effort to keep the coronavirus from spreading to people inside the institutions. Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said the service should be available soon to family members in their homes.

It had been available previously between Pennsylvania state prisons, allowing family members who wanted to connect with a relative incarcerated at an institution hours away to head to a nearby prison for a video conference and avoid long travel. But now, families will be able to sign up for 45-minute time slots and use their devices in their homes to video chat with an incarcerated family member.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration suspended all prison visits last Friday for at least two weeks and stepped up screening of employees and vendors, including taking temperatures and asking a series of questions.

Anyone with flu-like symptoms or a temperature of 100.4 degrees is not being allowed in. Wetzel said high-traffic areas are being cleaned constantly and crews are cleaning prisons three times in each eight-hour shift, up from once.

There are no confirmed cases in state prisons. Should an inmate test positive or require quarantine, Wetzel said, each prison has a plan to set aside a housing block and limit the number of staff who can enter.

—Associated Press

10:08 PM - March 19, 2020
10:08 PM - March 19, 2020

NJ Transit shifts rail lines to weekend schedule

Beginning Friday, all NJ Transit rail lines, with the exception of the Atlantic City Rail Line, will operate on a weekend schedule with slight modifications, the transit agency announced late Thursday.

The Gladstone Branch service will operate on weekdays only and eight extra trips will operate between Dover and Hoboken on weekdays. The Atlantic City line will operate on its regular schedule.

—Ellie Rushing

9:31 PM - March 19, 2020
9:31 PM - March 19, 2020

N.J. Gov. Murphy signs bills to expand ‘telehealth’ access and speed up licensing of out-of-state professionals to help with the coronavirus threat

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed bills Thursday to expand residents’ access to telehealth and to waive licensure requirements for out-of-state practitioners to increase the state’s medical services amid the growing coronavirus threat.

“Through the expansion of telehealth services as well as the waiving of licensure requirements for out-of-state professionals, we will be able to accept assistance from both in-state and from out-of-state more easily and allow residents to get the help they require,” Murphy said in a news release.

The legislation authorizes all health care practitioners to provide telemedicine services during the state’s public health emergency declaration and directs the Commissioner of Health and the Director of Consumer Affairs to waive any necessary requirements or regulations typically needed to provide the service.

The decision to expand care comes as the state races to avoid a much-anticipated hospital bed shortage as its number of coronavirus cases nearly doubled overnight and rose to 742.

— Ellie Rushing

7:45 PM - March 19, 2020
7:45 PM - March 19, 2020

Which Pa. businesses must close, which are considered ‘life-sustaining’, under new mandatory shutdown order

Empty parking lots at the closed Willow Grove Park Mall in Willow Grove, Pa. on Friday, March 13, 2020.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Empty parking lots at the closed Willow Grove Park Mall in Willow Grove, Pa. on Friday, March 13, 2020.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday issued a mandatory shutdown order to all Pennsylvania businesses not considered “life-sustaining” in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The businesses must close as of 8 p.m. Thursday and enforcement of the order will begin Saturday.

Here’s a list of what must close, and what can stay open.

Businesses that must close:

  • Bars and liquor stores
  • All sports and theater companies
  • Nail and beauty salons
  • Daycares
  • Laundromats and dry-cleaners
  • Real estate and rental services
  • Clothing stores, including department stores

Businesses that can remain open:

  • Grocery stores and pharmacies
  • Restaurants may serve through take-out and delivery only
  • Religious organizations
  • Funeral homes
  • Waste collection
  • Newspaper and book publishers
  • Public transit and airlines

— Ellie Rushing, Angela Couloumbis

7:23 PM - March 19, 2020
7:23 PM - March 19, 2020

PPA still enforcing safety violations

Parking tickets sit on multiple cars parked along Walnut between 15th and 16th streets in Center City.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Parking tickets sit on multiple cars parked along Walnut between 15th and 16th streets in Center City.

Why were cars in Center City ticketed Thursday, despite the PPA’s announcement that it’s “softening” enforcement amid the coronavirus?

Safety issues, said spokesperson Marty O’Rourke.

The tickets seen around 15th and Walnut streets “were issued for rush hour violations,” he said. By late afternoon, multiple tickets were found along 15th Street between Walnut and Sansom Streets, with a majority concentrated on cars nearby along Walnut Street.

Citywide, there were 97 safety violations issued for "stopping prohibited" on Thursday.

The PPA “will monitor that sort of situation as it develops, and if it gets to the point where volume is less and it doesn’t appear to be a safety issue, they will focus on other safety issues,” O’Rourke said.

The PPA has stopped enforcing meters, kiosks, and residential time limits as part of procedural changes to the agency prompted by the coronavirus. Efforts instead will be concentrated on safety violations like double parking, blocking crosswalks, or loading-zone violations.

— Patricia Madej, Heather Khalifa

6:22 PM - March 19, 2020
6:22 PM - March 19, 2020

Three members of Sixers organization test positive for coronavirus

The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Wednesday, March 11, 2020.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Wednesday, March 11, 2020.

Three members of the Philadelphia 76ers organization have tested positive for the coronavirus, the organization announced Thursday after the whole team and staff was tested. The statement did not specify whether those with the virus are players.

“The Philadelphia 76ers, in consultation with medical experts and the NBA, received the recommendation that certain individuals from the organization, including players, coaches and specific basketball operations support staff, be tested for COVID-19,” the team’s statement said. “Three individuals have received positive test results for COVID-19. All other tests results are currently negative. We have reported this information to state and local health authorities as required.”

The individuals are in isolation and are being monitored closely by medical professionals.

— Ellie Rushing

5:45 PM - March 19, 2020
5:45 PM - March 19, 2020

Penn Medicine to screen all employees for coronavirus infection

Penn Medicine on Friday will begin rolling out a program to screen all employees for symptoms of coronavirus infection before they can enter the system’s six hospitals and other patient care locations.

An email sent to the work force on Thursday said entry points will be limited at each location, and each employee will have a temperature check with a thermal scanner. Anyone with a temperature above 100 degrees will undergo a more comprehensive screening for symptoms.

“Penn Medicine remains committed to the safety of our employees, patients, visitors and the community,” the email said. “The outbreak of COVID-19 disease calls on us to employ all means necessary to stop the spread of the virus.”

Penn Medicine, in combination with the University of Pennsylvania, is the largest private employer in Philadelphia, with more than 39,000 employees.

— Marie McCullough

5:09 PM - March 19, 2020
5:09 PM - March 19, 2020

Gov. Tom Wolf orders all Pennsylvania businesses that aren’t ‘life-sustaining’ to close, will enforce order

Empty parking lots at the closed Willow Grove Park Mall in Willow Grove, Pa. on Friday, March 13, 2020.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Empty parking lots at the closed Willow Grove Park Mall in Willow Grove, Pa. on Friday, March 13, 2020.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday announced that he is extending his shutdown order to apply to all but “life-sustaining” businesses as the novel coronavirus continues to spread.

The governor had previously asked nonessential businesses such as salons, theaters, and entertainment venues to close. Life-sustaining businesses that may continue physical operations include gas stations, farms, health care facilities, and transit systems, according to the Wolf administration.

— Angela Couloumbis

4:55 PM - March 19, 2020
4:55 PM - March 19, 2020

Montgomery County to open drive through coronavirus testing site

Montgomery County's reported "drive-through testing" site for the coronavirus is pictured as it is being set up on a parking lot at Temple University's campus in Ambler on Wednesday. Local governments and health care systems are quickly setting up testing sites in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Montgomery County's reported "drive-through testing" site for the coronavirus is pictured as it is being set up on a parking lot at Temple University's campus in Ambler on Wednesday. Local governments and health care systems are quickly setting up testing sites in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Montgomery County announced Thursday that its drive through testing site on Temple Ambler’s campus will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., by appointment only, starting Saturday, March 21.

The tests will only be available for people who meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Fever at or above 100.4 and respiratory symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath
  • Temperature at or above 99.6 and 65 or older
  • A first responder or member of law enforcement, fire, EMS or dispatcher and you have concern for exposure to a patient with suspected coronavirus or respiratory symptoms
  • Health care worker providing direct patient care and testing is not available through your employer

Val Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, said people who are otherwise healthy should just stay at home if they feel sick.

These criteria could become more restrictive or less, based on the future availability of tests.

On Thursday, Arkoosh identified 13 more positive cases of coronavirus in the county, bringing total to 55.

She again emphasized the importance of social distancing.

“It’s okay to go grocery shopping. It’s okay to go to the pharmacy and get your medications, it’s OK to do those essential things,” Arkoosh said. “But play it carefully and try to limit those trips.”

— Ellie Silverman

4:45 PM - March 19, 2020
4:45 PM - March 19, 2020

Cumberland County reports first coronavirus case

Cumberland County has received word from both the New Jersey and Cumberland County Departments of Health that there is one resident of Cumberland County who has tested positive for COVID-19, Jody Hirata, deputy county administrator said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

To protect the privacy of the individual affected, the county is not able to provide any details concerning the individual, however, hospital isolation protocols are being followed.

— Julie Shaw

4:21 PM - March 19, 2020
4:21 PM - March 19, 2020

Coronavirus ‘roller coaster’ will last months, not weeks, experts predict

Summer Kazmarek of Haddonfield and her daughters Vivian (left), 8, and Ansley (right), 10, encounter a closed Crow's Woods Nature Preserve in Haddonfield. Following the lead of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, the borough's Board of Commissioners and the Borough Emergency Management Coordinator declared a state of emergency, closing all public areas due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Summer Kazmarek of Haddonfield and her daughters Vivian (left), 8, and Ansley (right), 10, encounter a closed Crow's Woods Nature Preserve in Haddonfield. Following the lead of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, the borough's Board of Commissioners and the Borough Emergency Management Coordinator declared a state of emergency, closing all public areas due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic

Over the last two months, most Americans have gone from blase to a siege mentality about the new coronavirus.

The concept of staying home and social distancing is now as familiar as it is disruptive, difficult, and economically dreadful.

Public officials, wary of further spooking their communities, have been talking about two or three weeks of closures and other emergency measures, then a reassessment.

But experts who have been running computer simulations of various scenarios are now publishing reality checks. Bottom line: The return to normal will not be soon or smooth.

— Marie McCullough

4:15 PM - March 19, 2020
4:15 PM - March 19, 2020

Rutgers University keeps library open despite protest

Rutgers University is keeping its libraries open, much to the chagrin of the union that represents some of the workers there.

“We have been arguing with Rutgers management for days about closing the libraries, but can no longer wait,” said Rebecca Givan, the vice president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, which represents librarians and more than 8,500 faculty, graduate and post doctoral students. “This is reckless endangerment of our members, staff, students and the wider public.”

In a statement, Rutgers defended its decision, noting that the university has gone to online instruction during the coronavirus outbreak and the libraries provide internet access to students who may not otherwise have it. The libraries, located on all three Rutgers’ campuses, offer internet access through nearly 1,000 terminals.

But the school noted that as of Sunday, staffing would be reduced to one or two librarians, a security guard and employees who provide technology support at each site.

“We still don’t think that’s enough,” said Todd Wolfson, president of the union. “But it’s a step in the right direction.”

Just allowing students to be using the same computer terminals poses a danger, he said. Some of his employees will have to get to their jobs using public transportation, he added.

The university said that a cleaning service would be on hand to service the libraries, and that the security guards would check identifications and not allow more than 50 people to congregate in any one space.

— Susan Snyder

4:10 PM - March 19, 2020
4:10 PM - March 19, 2020

Pennsylvania Dept. of Education cancels PSSA, Keystone exams amid coronavirus outbreak

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has canceled all state standardized tests for this year, as schools are shut down over the coronavirus outbreak.

“Assessments should not be the focus of school leaders right now,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera said in a statement Thursday, describing “extraordinary efforts” in schools to provide meals to students and continue learning.

He said the department will be seeking waivers from federal rules requiring states to conduct the tests.

Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams, or PSSAs, were scheduled to begin April 20. Students in third through eighth grade take those tests.

Keystone tests for high schoolers were to begin May 11.

The state education department said it would release information “on the effects on accountability and school reporting as it becomes available.”

— Maddie Hanna

4:06 PM - March 19, 2020
4:06 PM - March 19, 2020

Dept. of State: U.S. citizens should avoid all international travel

Low traffic outside of the International Check-In at the Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia on Monday. Dozens of presumed positive cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with the case count escalating daily.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Low traffic outside of the International Check-In at the Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia on Monday. Dozens of presumed positive cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with the case count escalating daily.

The Department of State warned all U.S. citizens to avoid international travel on Thursday, issuing its highest level travel alert due to the global coronavirus outbreak.

“In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” the State Department said in a statement.

“U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel.”

There have been over 236,000 cases of COVID-19 across the globe, and 9,790 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

— Rob Tornoe

3:59 PM - March 19, 2020
3:59 PM - March 19, 2020

Pennsylvania AG creates task force to investigate coronavirus scams

As scammers increasingly attempt to take advantage of people with fraudulent products and information on the coronavirus, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has created a joint federal and state task force to increase investigations into the scams. The fraudsters are targeting vulnerable people, like the elderly, by setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts promoting prevention tips and fake local cases to take peoples’ money and get their personal information, Shapiro’s office said in a news release.

They are also asking people to donate to victims, offering phony advice on unproven treatments, and compromising peoples’ data through malicious downloads.

The COVID-19 Fraud Task Force, led by Shapiro in partnership with Scott Brady, United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, will include representatives from the FBI, Secret Service, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, among other offices.

Here are some of the scammers’ common ploys:

  • Offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19.
  • Contacting people by phone and email, pretending to be doctors and hospitals that have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19, and demanding payment for that treatment.
  • Creating fake shops and websites to sell in-demand medical supplies like surgical masks. But the fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.
  • Posing as national and global health authorities and sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.

How to avoid the scams:

  • Check the websites and email addresses. Scammers may use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”
  • Ignore offers for a COVID-19 vaccine, cure, or treatment. If there is a medical breakthrough, you won’t hear about it for the first time through an email, online ad, or unsolicited sales pitch.

People can report instances of fraud or price gouging to the task force’s toll free hotline at 1-888-219-9372 or by emailing pricegouging@attorneygeneral.gov.

— Ellie Rushing

3:48 PM - March 19, 2020
3:48 PM - March 19, 2020

WHYY expands educational children’s programming during the coronavirus pandemic

WHYY, Philadelphia’s public radio and television outlet, is expanding its offerings to provide students shuttered at home by the coronavirus with educational programs that they can watch on-air or access online.

Beginning Monday, WHYY plans to broadcast shows on its main channel (12.1) from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

They include popular programming such as Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum, which allows youngsters to travel back in time to meet historical figures when they were children.

On its secondary digital channel Y2, WHYY said it plans to broadcast programming from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. that targets grades 3 to 12. The content aligns with the Philadelphia school system’s curriculum standards and will cover math, science, social studies and English arts, said Craig Santoro, WHYY’s director of educational programs.

Earlier this week, WHYY extended its regular programming for pre-K through second grade to 6 p.m. Previously, it ended at 3 p.m.

“The evidence is plain that these are going to be tough days,” Santoro said Thursday. “We have these great assets. Let’s use them.”

WHYY 12.1 is available on Comcast 812 and FiOs 512. Y2 is available on 12.2 on local television networks, Comcast 257 and Verizon Fios 474.

— Melanie Burney

3:10 PM - March 19, 2020
3:10 PM - March 19, 2020

Kenney not ruling out possibility of Philadelphia shelter-in-place order

Mayor of Philadelphia Jim Kenney listens during a news conference about the coronavirus at City Hall on Wednesday. Confirmed cases of the coronavirus are escalating across the country, including presumed positives in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Mayor of Philadelphia Jim Kenney listens during a news conference about the coronavirus at City Hall on Wednesday. Confirmed cases of the coronavirus are escalating across the country, including presumed positives in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Mayor Jim Kenney did not rule out the possibility of a shelter-in-place order for the city Thursday, but said he would work in conjunction with Gov. Tom Wolf.

“Some dire situations may be coming and if we get to that place that’s what we’ll have to do," Kenney said.

The mayor also urged Philadelphia’s Chinese-American community to report instances of racism if they face threats.

“We need to know about that so we can deploy our police to keep them safe," Kenney said.

Philadelphia now has 44 cases of the coronavirus, with 10 new cases reported Thursday, said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.

Farley said 20 of the 44 cases are health care workers, which Farley said shows that health care workers are at great risk and must be protected.

He said the city intends to open a coronavirus testing site in South Philadelphia later this week. The site will prioritize testing for healthcare workers displaying symptoms of the virus.

Farley noted that it takes time for the virus to incubate, and he expects the numbers to grow rapidly in the days to come.

“This is about to get real,” Farley said. “We expect that many people in Philadelphia will get this infection.”

— Laura McCrystal, Sean Walsh

2:35 PM - March 19, 2020
2:35 PM - March 19, 2020

Doctors, nurses: ‘Please stay home’

Doctors and nurses around the world are joining health officials in urging people to stay home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and not overwhelm hospitals.

On social media, groups of health care workers have been sharing photos and videos telling the public: “We stayed at work for you. Please stay home for us.”

In Philadelphia, a group of emergency room nurses at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center posed for a photo while holding signs that shared that message.

Our work family caring for your family. Stay home, wash your hands, and practice social distancing in order to keep our families safe. #ppmced #edlife #getmeppe #covid19 #pleasestayhome

Posted by Ronnie Ann on Thursday, March 19, 2020

Similar messages have also been shared by medical workers in other countries, including medical workers in Italy, which has been hard hit by the virus and surpassed China Thursday in coronavirus deaths.

In one viral TikTok video, nurses hold up signs that read: “We have family too but can’t stay home … Help us! Take care of me. I’ll take care of you.”

— Erin McCarthy

2:35 PM - March 19, 2020
2:35 PM - March 19, 2020

Philadelphia officials, business groups launch fund to help people struggling in coronavirus pandemic

Philadelphia officials, along with local nonprofit and business groups, are launching a fund to help people struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The PHL COVID-19 Fund, which is launching with $6.5 million, will offer grants to nonprofit organizations in Philadelphia as well as nonprofits in Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, and Delaware Counties in Pennsylvania, and Camden and Burlington Counties in South Jersey, that assist vulnerable populations.

Mayor Jim Kenney said many area nonprofits are needed more than ever, but are worried that they will not have the money to meet their payrolls and remain in operation.

“These people are also on the frontline of the pandemic and facing new challenges every day,” Kenney said. “The only times I’ve smiled and at least teared up in the last several days is when I’ve been on the phone with leaders of businesses and foundations asking for their contributions. And they’ve all said yes without hesitation.”

Kenney said fundraising will continue and encouraged individuals to make donations. The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey and the Philadelphia Foundation will work with the city to manage the fund and award the grants. Those organizations are donating their administrative efforts, officials said, so 100% of contributions will go directly to the nonprofit grants.

“We need to have the largest fund of any of its kind of any of our peer cities because the need here is the greatest,” said Bill Golderer, executive director of the local United Way branch.

Other contributors to the fund so far include The William Penn Foundation, which committed $3 million, as well as Comcast, Peco, Independence Blue Cross, and the Lenfest Foundation. More information is available at the fund’s website.

Philadelphia is also working to coordinate volunteer efforts through a city-managed portal.

Despite social distancing recommendations, nonprofits still need volunteers to serve people in need, said Amanda Gamble, the chief service officer for the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service.

“The need for volunteers is maybe the greatest that they’ve ever seen,” Gamble said.

Volunteer opportunities include providing no-contact meal deliveries for MANNA, Gamble said.

Additionally, Philadelphia’s managing director Brian Abernathy announced Thursday that Parks and Recreation is closing all of its buildings and playgrounds at least through March 27. Abernathy said the city is reconsidering other restrictions and urged non-essential businesses to remain closed and residents to stay at home.

— Laura McCrystal

2:30 PM - March 19, 2020
2:30 PM - March 19, 2020

Rep. Andy Kim to self-quarantine after coming in contact with coronavirus patient

Congressman, Andy Kim is talking to the people in NJ constituents at Burlington Two Town HallÑ Andy Kim is speaking to the constituents 08-14-2019 AKIRA SUWA / For The Inquirer.
Congressman, Andy Kim is talking to the people in NJ constituents at Burlington Two Town HallÑ Andy Kim is speaking to the constituents 08-14-2019 AKIRA SUWA / For The Inquirer.

Rep. Andy Kim, of South Jersey said Thursday he is going to self-quarantine for two weeks after coming into contact with a fellow House member who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Now is the time to be safe and to take all precautions for each other,” Kim, a 37-year-old Democrat from Burlington County, said in a statement. “The health of our community must be our top priority, so I’ve decided to self-quarantine, and I want to strongly encourage anyone in a similar situation to take the same action. It’s important to follow the CDC guidelines, follow your doctor’s advice, and take the appropriate steps to stay safe and stop the spread of this virus, as I hope others are doing who might have been exposed.”

He said he will continue working full-time with his staff.

— Jonathan Tamari

2:25 PM - March 19, 2020
2:25 PM - March 19, 2020

Growing Pa. coronavirus case number ‘suggests that community spread is happening’

The growing numbers of coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania “suggests that community spread is happening,” Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Thursday.

She said cases are “increasing rapidly” especially in urban areas and in the southeastern part of the commonwealth.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 185 confirmed cases statewide.

"That means it’s so important to do what the governor has asked us to do and told us to do,” she said. “Stay calm, stay home, and stay safe.”

Levine said it’s crucial that businesses deemed “nonessential,” including gyms, hair salons, and concert venues, heed Gov. Tom Wolf’s call to close.

"We are keenly aware of the economic impact of this pandemic,” she said. “The human toll could be much, much worse.”

She said businesses with questions should call 1-877-PA-HEALTH and select option 1 to speak with someone from the Department of Community and Economic Development.

— Sarah Anne Hughes

1:52 PM - March 19, 2020
1:52 PM - March 19, 2020

Dad Vail Regatta canceled amid coronavirus pandemic

Officials of the Dad Vail Regatta announced Thursday that they have canceled the 82nd staging of the event, which had been scheduled for May 8 and 9 on the Schuylkill River, “in order to comply with government recommendations” stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee members have been collaborating daily regarding the 2020 regatta,” DVROC president Jim Hanna said in a statement, “and we are aware and disappointed that the current health crisis has caused many traditional Dad Vail schools to cancel their season, and the impact that has had on coaches and athletes.”

More than 100 men’s and women’s teams and 3,500 rowers competed last year. Hanna said in an interview earlier this week that about 30 teams had registered for the 2020 regatta.

Hanna added that the safety of everyone involved was the regatta’s first concern, and that all emergency health protocols announced by the federal, state and city governments would be followed.

— Joe Juliano

1:58 PM - March 19, 2020
1:58 PM - March 19, 2020

Sandwich shop offers free lunch to students affected by Philadelphia school closures

Tortorice’s, a Rittenhouse sandwich shop, is offering free boxed lunches to Philadelphia students in need. While the shop is struggling like many other small local businesses, the owners say they’re committed to helping where they can.

— Kristen Balderas

1:52 PM - March 19, 2020
1:52 PM - March 19, 2020

Italy’s coronavirus death toll now outnumbers China’s

Italy’s death toll surpassed China’s on Thursday afternoon, a grim marker for a nation with a fraction of China’s population. More than 3,400 people have died in Italy, the European epicenter of the virus, while China has reported more than 3,200 deaths. Across the world, there have been more than 9,300 people have died, more than 150 in the U.S. In China, there was reason for hope Thursday as the country reported no new local cases, only cases that originated from travel.

— Erin McCarthy

1:52 PM - March 19, 2020
1:52 PM - March 19, 2020

Bucks County sees first cases of coronavirus community spread

Officials in Bucks County have seen the first instances of what they believe to be community-spread cases of the coronavirus, they said during a news conference Thursday.

The number of cases in the county has reached 14, including the first pediatric patient in the county, according to David Damsker, the head of the county’s health department.

“We are starting to see first indications of community spread here,” Damsker said. “We know Montgomery County has declared it there, and we know it’s a matter of time before we start to see it here.”

Damsker said that his department has been unable to determine the point of infection with some of the most recently diagnosed cases, but urged county residents not to panic and continue to practice mitigation efforts.

— Vinny Vella

1:31 PM - March 19, 2020
1:31 PM - March 19, 2020

This is what being tested for the coronavirus is like

Drive through testing sites in Philadelphia opened Monday and are serving about 1,000 people a day, hospital officials have said. While the science exists to get back test results in a matter of hours, that’s not what will happen for people using this service. On-site medical personnel are swabbing samples from people’s nose and mouth and sending them to a lab, Quest, for testing. The results could take from three days to more than a week to get back.

Read the accounts of three people who have attempted, with differing levels of success, to be tested.

— Jason Laughlin

1:23 PM - March 19, 2020
1:23 PM - March 19, 2020

New Jersey closes ‘personal-care’ businesses, moves elections as coronavirus cases increase

Gov. Phil Murphy confronted a steep increase in New Jersey’s coronavirus pandemic with another set of social distancing measures Thursday and pleas to the Trump administration for funding and equipment.

“We are doing everything we can to break the back of that curve,” Murphy said. “We are aggressive as any American state in the steps that we’ve taken."

Effective 8 p.m., Murphy has ordered “personal-care” businesses like barber shops, hair salons, spas and other similar businesses to close until further notice.

He is also ordering all local elections scheduled in March and April — including the March 31 election in Atlantic City — to be held on May 12. Additionally, all New Jersey voters will need to vote by mail on that day. Murphy noted this does not apply to the June 2 presidential primary, but said that could change.

All voters living in a locality with a May 12 election will receive a mail-in ballot, even if they have not requested one, Secretary of State Tahesha Way said. Candidates running for office must now digitally collect signatures and file petitions to get on the ballot by the Mar. 30 deadline.

“There’s no greater right in our democracy than the right to vote,” Murphy said. “We want to make sure everyone is safe.”

Murphy said he also intends to sign a bill, expected to arrive at his desk Thursday, giving him the power to suspend evictions and foreclosures in the Garden State immediately.

Murphy noted his team is working with governors from Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut to plead with the federal government for a regional bailout package that would need to be upwards of $100 billion. He will be meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers Thursday afternoon to discuss plans to potentially build temporary hospitals. He will also talk with Vice President Mike Pence and urge more personal protective equipment and supplies be sent to New Jersey. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said nine people have now died because of the coronavirus pandemic in New Jersey.

At least 318 new positive cases arrived overnight, bringing the statewide total to 742. One of the deaths was a man in his 30s from Bergen, another was a male in his 70s from Ocean County.

All others were over 60.

— Pranshu Verma

1:15 PM - March 19, 2020
1:15 PM - March 19, 2020

Meek Mill: ‘People where I’m from don’t have the money to run out and stock the fridge’

Meek Mill has weighed in on the recommendation for Philadelphians to stay home amid the current coronavirus pandemic, saying that many people can’t afford to self-quarantine as health and government officials have urged.

“People where I’m from don’t have the money to run out and stock the fridge,” Mill, a South Philly native, tweeted on Wednesday. “When you from the #otherside you could literally watch the news and feel like they not even talking to you and your family.”

Mill’s criminal justice-focused REFORM Alliance, which the rapper co-founded with celebrities like Jay-Z and 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, this week also detailed its coronavirus prevention recommendations for prisons.

Known as the SAFER Plan, the directive advises governors across the country to adopt strategies such as placing elderly and immunocompromised prisoners under house arrest, suspending probation visits, and providing free hand sanitizer to the incarcerated.

— Nick Vadala

1:12 PM - March 19, 2020
1:12 PM - March 19, 2020

Delaware County doesn’t have a health department, so Chester County is filling in during coronavirus pandemic

Delaware County Council Chairman Brian Zidek expressed his "heartfelt thanks" Thursday at a news conference announcing that Chester County's health department will aid Delaware County's response to the coronavirus.
Screenshot
Delaware County Council Chairman Brian Zidek expressed his "heartfelt thanks" Thursday at a news conference announcing that Chester County's health department will aid Delaware County's response to the coronavirus.

After weeks of relying on the overtaxed Pennsylvania Department of Health for a response to the coronavirus, Delaware County is now receiving some help from its neighbors to the west.

Officials from both suburban counties announced early Thursday that Gov. Tom Wolf approved a request from Chester County’s health department to temporarily provide service to Delaware County. With about 565,000 residents, Delaware County is the most populous county in the state without its own dedicated health department.

Delaware County had 14 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Thursday morning, and Chester County had 10, according to state data.

— Vinny Vella

12:48 PM - March 19, 2020
12:48 PM - March 19, 2020

U.S. confirmed coronavirus case number surpasses 10,000

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has officially surpassed 10,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Of the 10,755 cases in the country, 154 have been fatal, and 106 people have recovered from the virus.

White House Coronavirus Task Force Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told reporters Thursday morning an increase in the number of positive coronavirus cases in the United States is a sign that the federal government is working through a backlog of people waiting to be tested.

Birx said more than 50% of the positive COVID-19 cases originate from 10 counties within three states — New York, Washington, and California. Around the world, nearly 230,000 people had been diagnosed with the virus as of early Wednesday afternoon.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 185 confirmed cases in Pennsylvania and 742 in New Jersey.

— Rob Tornoe, Erin McCarthy

12:37 PM - March 19, 2020
12:37 PM - March 19, 2020

Trump: Procuring hospital supplies should be up to individual states

A medical worker collects samples from individuals who signed up for "drive-through testing" for the coronavirus at a Penn Medicine site in West Philadelphia on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Penn, Jefferson and other area hospital systems have set up drive-through stations to swab for samples that can be tested for the coronavirus.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
A medical worker collects samples from individuals who signed up for "drive-through testing" for the coronavirus at a Penn Medicine site in West Philadelphia on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Penn, Jefferson and other area hospital systems have set up drive-through stations to swab for samples that can be tested for the coronavirus.

President Donald Trump told reporters he hasn’t pulled the trigger to use the Defense Production Act to mass produce needed hospital supplies because it should be up to individual states.

"Governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work,” Trump told reporters during a coronavirus briefing at the White House on Thursday.

“The federal government’s not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we’re not a shipping clerk. The governors — as with testing — the governors are supposed to be doing it.”

Trump invoked the Defense Production Act on Wednesday, but has resisted calls to invoke its power to force manufactures to produce medical items in high demand, including ventilators and hospital masks. Trump has said he would only use the powers granted under the act “in a worst case scenario.”

“We’ll help out, and we’ll help out wherever we can. And we can buy in volume, and in some cases in great volume,” Trump said.

— Rob Tornoe

12:31 PM - March 19, 2020
12:31 PM - March 19, 2020

Two Lehigh University students test positive for coronavirus

Two Lehigh University students who traveled abroad have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, the Bethlehem-based school announced. Neither had returned to campus after they traveled, the school said.

“Both students are at home in isolation, under the medical care of their health providers, and recovering,” the university said in a statement.

— Susan Snyder

12:24 PM - March 19, 2020
12:24 PM - March 19, 2020

Cuomo offers waiver for mortgage payments disrupted by coronavirus, orders businesses to keep workers home

N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a waiver on mortgage payments for 90 days for people disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. He also ordered businesses to keep 75 percent of workers home and waived fees for overdrafts, ATMs, and credit cards.

Cuomo also once again downplayed concerns he would lock-down New York City the way San Francisco and much of northern California has been ordered to “shelter in place.”

“It’s not going to happen,” Cuomo said.

— Rob Tornoe

12:10 PM - March 19, 2020
12:10 PM - March 19, 2020

Prince Albert tests positive for coronavirus

Prince Albert II of Monaco, the son of Philadelphian Grace Kelly, has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the palace has announced.

Albert, 62, had been tested for the disease earlier this week, Metro UK reports. In a statement, authorities said that the royal’s health “does not inspire any concern,” but he would be monitored by his personal physician at the Princess Grace Hospital Center.

Earlier this week, Albert announced strengthened quarantine measures in Monaco, including limiting nonessential travel and the stoppage of building construction.

Albert is reportedly the second known European royal to be diagnosed with COVID-19. Karl von Habsburg, the Archduke of Austria, tested positive on Tuesday.

— Nick Vadala

11:50 AM - March 19, 2020
11:50 AM - March 19, 2020

Why some Philly state stores are boarded up, others not during COVID-19 shutdown

The Fine Wine and Good Spirits Premium Collection at South 11th Street and Wharton Street is boarded up in Philadelphia, Pa. on Thursday, March 19, 2020. Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the closing of all Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores and service centers in Pennsylvania to slow the spread of the coronavirus, effective Tuesday, March 17. The state said it would evaluate the closings at the end of the month.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
The Fine Wine and Good Spirits Premium Collection at South 11th Street and Wharton Street is boarded up in Philadelphia, Pa. on Thursday, March 19, 2020. Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the closing of all Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores and service centers in Pennsylvania to slow the spread of the coronavirus, effective Tuesday, March 17. The state said it would evaluate the closings at the end of the month.

Why is the Fine Wine & Good Spirits store at 11th and Wharton streets in South Philly boarded up as if a hurricane is approaching while another state-run liquor store six blocks to the northwest at Broad Street and Washington Avenue is not?

Shawn Kelly, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, said the agency “is evaluating our locations on a case-by-case basis for precautions to protect and secure our stores during these unprecedented times.”

The PLCB ordered all of its nearly 600 stores statewide to close at 9 p.m. Tuesday due to the coronavirus crisis, after ordering stores in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties to close Monday.

Kelly said the agency has “secured less than two dozen Fine Wine & Good Spirits locations statewide, based on a history for prior break-ins.”

The PLCB, which operates liquor stores in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, declined to identify which counties have boarded-up stores. Kelly said the agency is “not in a position to identify counties or specific numbers in this fluid situation.”

— Chris Brennan

11:30 AM - March 19, 2020
11:30 AM - March 19, 2020

Hundreds of Philly airport workers to lose jobs in wake of pandemic

The International Check-In is mostly empty at the Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Pa. on Monday, March 16, 2020. Dozens of presumed positive cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with the case count escalating daily.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
The International Check-In is mostly empty at the Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Pa. on Monday, March 16, 2020. Dozens of presumed positive cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with the case count escalating daily.

Hundreds of low-wage workers at Philadelphia International Airport are losing their jobs because of the coronavirus, union 32BJ SEIU said.

The union, which represents 1,400 subcontracted workers including wheelchair attendants, baggage handlers, and cabin cleaners, estimates between 600 and 1,000 of its members will be laid off between now and Monday. That could be anywhere between 50% to 80% of its membership at the airport.

Some workers already got layoff notices Wednesday, said union vice president Gabe Morgan, but the union has just begun to learn of the scale of the layoffs. These workers are employed by American Airlines subcontractors PrimeFlight Aviation and Prospect Airport Services.

The layoffs come as the airlines’ leading trade group, Airlines for America, has requested $50 billion in federal assistance, saying the industry is burning through $10 billion per month as cancellations soar and planes are flying with only 20 to 30% of their seats filled

— Juliana Feliciano Reyes and Catherine Dunn

11:15 AM - March 19, 2020
11:15 AM - March 19, 2020

Coronavirus prompts SEPTA to reduce bus, subway, trolley, Norristown High Speed Line service

Service reductions are coming to SEPTA’s buses, subways, trolleys and Norristown High Speed Line starting on Sunday, the transit agency said Thursday.

Changes to SEPTA’s Regional Rail schedules, prompted by plummeting ridership and staffing issues, began earlier this week.

Beginning Sunday, transit services will run on a Saturday schedule throughout the week until further notice.

The Market-Frankford and Broad Street Lines will operate 24 hours. Both lines “provide critical services for essential workers and those who need to access medical care,” according to SEPTA.

Changes were prompted by “an effort to maintain a safe environment for customers and employees,” according to SEPTA.

The authority is grappling with a nose-dive in ridership as more people are staying home to maintain social distancing. Ridership has dropped about 60% on transit and 80% on Regional Rail compared to an average weekday.

In New Jersey, N.J. Transit CEO Kevin Corbett said the agency will need a $1.25 billion from the federal government to survive. This compares to the $4 billion New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it will need. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy earlier put the statewide bailout total at $100 billion.

— Patricia Madej

10:15 AM - March 19, 2020
10:15 AM - March 19, 2020

Gov. Murphy says N.J. could need $100 billion in federal aid to recover from coronavirus blow

Gov. Phil Murphy cautioned New Jersey residents Thursday that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be far-reaching and said the Garden State could need at least $100 billion in federal aid to recover.

He said he hoped the state would do better than Italy.

“God willing, we’ve gotten out ahead of this," he said.

Murphy said the state will likely need at least that amount of aid from the federal government to blunt the economic impact of closing down most non-essential businesses and asking residents to stay home between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The governor also acknowledged North Jersey is still the epicenter of the disease in the state, but South Jersey residents should expect an increase in positive cases.

“The south has been less hit,” Murphy said. “I’m sure over time, sadly, that will change.”

— Pranshu Verma

10:00 AM - March 19, 2020
10:00 AM - March 19, 2020

Stocks rebound slightly after opening down

Stocks opened down on Thursday as investors remain concerned about the economic impact of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak but then rebounded slightly.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down just 90 points from Wednesday’s close, after dropping as much as 584 points at the start of trading. The Nasdaq was up 1.5 percent (about 111 points), while the S&P 500 remained down slightly.

The Dow has dropped around 30 percent since it peaked in mid-February, closing below 20,000 point on Wednesday for the first time since early 2017.

— Rob Tornoe

9:15 AM - March 19, 2020
9:15 AM - March 19, 2020

State to use liquor board to slap restaurants, bars that remain open

Kevin Lang, bartender at Kostas on Girard Avenue, cleans the bar area in advance of the latest restrictions due to the coronavirus in Philadelphia, PA on March 16, 2020. The bar and restaurant plans to sell beer to go and take-out food.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Kevin Lang, bartender at Kostas on Girard Avenue, cleans the bar area in advance of the latest restrictions due to the coronavirus in Philadelphia, PA on March 16, 2020. The bar and restaurant plans to sell beer to go and take-out food.

Restaurants and bars in Pennsylvania that remain open and offer sit-down service despite the governor’s direction to shut down could face a police citation and a suspension of their liquor license.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday ordered all restaurants and bars in Pennsylvania to close to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but the state has released few details about how and when it might enforce the edict.

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board released a guidance stating that, effective Wednesday night at 8 p.m., restaurants and bars that defy the mandate could be cited by the State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement and have their operating authority suspended by the PLCB.

Any licensed establishment that still continues to operate, the board said, risks closure and liquor license revocation.

Takeout sales are permissible for restaurants, breweries, limited distilleries, and limited wineries.

— Anna Orso

8:00 AM - March 19, 2020
8:00 AM - March 19, 2020

China reports no new local coronavirus infections for first time

China reported its first day with no new local COVID-19 infections on Thursday, a hopeful sign that mitigation efforts are effective in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

The milestone comes about three months after the outbreak began, forcing the country to take draconian measures to lock-down the country.

The county did report 34 new cases in the past 24 hours, but all stem from travel overseas, according to China’s National Health Commission. Just eight deaths were reported for Wednesday, all of which occurred in Hubei province, where Wuhan — the city where the pandemic originated — is located.

Overall, there have been over 81,000 cases of COVID-19 in China, and 3,249 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

— Rob Tornoe

7:55 AM - March 19, 2020
7:55 AM - March 19, 2020

Food stores offering special hours to protect high risk coronavirus population

Non senior citizen shoppers wait outside the Whole Foods Market on South Street in Philadelphia, March 18, 2020. Whole Foods Market has instituted Senior citizen only shopping from 7:30-8 a.m. each morning. The store hours are now: Senior citizen shopping 7:30-8 a.m. the store is open to the general public 8 a.m.-8 p.m, the early close is for cleaning and restocking.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Non senior citizen shoppers wait outside the Whole Foods Market on South Street in Philadelphia, March 18, 2020. Whole Foods Market has instituted Senior citizen only shopping from 7:30-8 a.m. each morning. The store hours are now: Senior citizen shopping 7:30-8 a.m. the store is open to the general public 8 a.m.-8 p.m, the early close is for cleaning and restocking.

In an effort to support social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak, many grocery stores have started providing hours just for shoppers who are considered at high risk: those 60 and older and people who have compromised immune systems. Here’s when and where you can go if you fall into that category:

Some of these stores also offer grocery delivery. Check with the individual stores.

— Erin McCarthy

6:10 AM - March 19, 2020
6:10 AM - March 19, 2020

Report: Mother, three children die from coronavirus after family dinner in N.J.

The matriarch of a large family and her two eldest children have died from coronavirus after attending a family gathering in New Jersey, the New York Times reports.

The Times said Grace Fusco — mother of 11, grandmother of 27 — died Wednesday not knowing her daughter Rita Fusco-Jackson, of Freehold, N.J., died Friday and her son Carmine Fusco, of Bath, Pa., had died hours earlier on Wednesday. The children were both in their 50s.

Four other children remain hospitalized, three of them in critical condition, the Times said, quoting a relative, Roseann Paradiso Fodera.

Carmine Fusco lived for the last seven or eight years in Pennsylvania, where he trained harness racing horses in Wind Gap, according to the Morning Call.

The family had strong ties to harness racing.

According to the Times, someone who attended a recent Fusco family gathering had contact with a harness racing trainer who became New Jersey’s first coronavirus-related death on March 10.

Carmine Fusco was a partner in Wingate Farm, a standardbred training facility in Bushkill Township, Pa., Dan Markowitz, an owner of the facility, told the Morning Call. Fusco had about 20 horses there and raced them at tracks such as Mohegan Sun Pocono and Yonkers Raceway.

“Everybody in the business knew him, that’s for sure,” Markowitz said

“This thing is terrible,” Markowitz said. “It’s unbelievable — this virus.”

The family had gathered at Grace Fusco’s Freehold home for a dinner March 10, the Times said.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he sent his condolences to the Fusco family.

“Nobody is above this,” Murphy said. “Even if you’re a young person.”

New Jersey has reported five coronavirus deaths as of Wednesday; Pennsylvania just the one.

Update, 4:38 p.m.: A fourth member of the family has died from coronavirus, NJ.com reported. Vincent Fusco, the son of Grace Fusco, died Thursday CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, a family spokesperson told the outlet.

— Joseph A. Gambardello

5:21 AM - March 19, 2020
5:21 AM - March 19, 2020

Can the coronavirus really live for three days on plastic? Yes, but it’s complicated

For more than a week, people have been sharing an eyebrow-raising report that the novel coronavirus can live for 24 hours on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

It can, but the details are more complicated, according to scientists who published the research behind those figures on Tuesday. The short version: Levels of the virus drop dramatically within a few hours, the authors wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The key is what scientists refer to as a virus’ half-life, or rate of decay: how much time it takes for half the microbes in a given sample to die.

— Tom Avril

5:15 AM - March 19, 2020
5:15 AM - March 19, 2020

Coronavirus cancels the Philly area’s first day of spring tradition: free Rita’s

The spring equinox occurs at 11: 49 p.m. today, the earliest the season of renewal has begun in 124 years.

But times are different and the coronavirus is changing lives everywhere.

As a result, one Philly-area tradition has been cancelled. Rita’s Water Ice has called off its annual first day of spring water ice giveaway in “light of the increasing concerns around COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the precautionary risks associated with large gatherings.”

Stores, however, remain open for takeout.

— Joseph A. Gambardello

5:05 AM - March 19, 2020
5:05 AM - March 19, 2020

‘It’s heartbreaking’: Coronavirus puts Philly homeless services in survival mode

Betty Brady, left, and Erica Steele, center, prepare for their day outsideat Broad Street Ministries, in Philadelphia, March 19, 2020. Some guests said that the closure of the public libraries has left them with few places to go during the day, although many hang out at the Hub of Hope, but they say they are unable to read a variety of books and periodicals, or use the internet for job searches, as they do at the libraries. The coronavirus has been spreading across the globe since January, and now has been identified in the Philadelphia region, all non-essential businesses are closed. Cities around the United States, including Philadelphia, are increasing social restrictions and implementing cleaning strategies in an attempt to slow the virus’ spread.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Betty Brady, left, and Erica Steele, center, prepare for their day outsideat Broad Street Ministries, in Philadelphia, March 19, 2020. Some guests said that the closure of the public libraries has left them with few places to go during the day, although many hang out at the Hub of Hope, but they say they are unable to read a variety of books and periodicals, or use the internet for job searches, as they do at the libraries. The coronavirus has been spreading across the globe since January, and now has been identified in the Philadelphia region, all non-essential businesses are closed. Cities around the United States, including Philadelphia, are increasing social restrictions and implementing cleaning strategies in an attempt to slow the virus’ spread.

The other day, a client outside the Catholic Worker Free Clinic in Kensington asked physician assistant Katie Huynh, an impossible question: Amid the coronavirus pandemic, was it safer to sleep in a shelter or on the street?

"I had to tell them it’s safer for the coronavirus to sleep on the street. So I think that we’re going to see a lot more people avoiding shelters,” she said. “But then that leaves you vulnerable for more violence, that you’ll be injured physically or have your belongings stolen.”

It’s just one of many unprecedented strains that coronavirus containment efforts have heaped on Philadelphia’s patchwork safety net of homeless services — from sit-down meal soup kitchens, to shelters where beds are normally packed closer than the CDC-recommended six-foot radius.

The city, meanwhile, is rushing to ramp up shelter capacity and food distribution.

— Samantha Melamed

5:00 AM - March 19, 2020
5:00 AM - March 19, 2020

How to apply for unemployment benefits in Pa. amid the coronavirus shutdown

As businesses and restaurants shut down Monday to slow the spread of the coronavirus, thousands of Philadelphia’s low-wage service workers are effectively jobless — and it’s unclear how long this period will last.

If you lost your job during the pandemic, file your unemployment claim online. Only do it by phone (1-888-313-7284) if the online form won’t work; it will probably take a long time to get through.

You’re likely eligible if anything about the coronavirus crisis has stopped you from working, and the benefits in Pennsylvania range from $68 per week to $561 per week.

— Juliana Reyes

4:59 AM - March 19, 2020
4:59 AM - March 19, 2020

Front Page: First Pa. Death Reported

Front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer for Thursday, March 19, 2020.