New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy banned public gatherings of any size and ordered a statewide business shutdown as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus there rose to 1,327. Delaware, meanwhile, prohibited access to beaches in the state.
Allegheny County reported a death from the coronavirus Saturday. It is Pennsylvania’s second reported death due to the virus. There are now 397 cases in the commonwealth. In Philadelphia, officials reported the first confirmed case of coronavirus in a nursing home resident.
A drive-through testing site opened Friday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Montgomery County opened its own drive-through site Saturday, and 540 people signed up to get tested.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus and what should you do if you think you have it? Read answers to frequently asked questions here.
Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus updates here
// Timestamp 03/22 10:00am
Congressional leadership will meet later Sunday to discuss a nationwide coronavirus stimulus. New Jersey has banned all public gatherings. Legislators say next week will be key in deciding whether to push Pa. primary.
» LIVE COVERAGE FOR MARCH 22: Senate close to passing coronavirus stimulus package; governor and legislators discuss rescheduling Pa. primary
Pennsylvania governor, lawmakers in talks to postpone primary to June 2 because of coronavirus
// Timestamp 03/21 9:53pm
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and key members of the state legislature are preparing a proposal to postpone the April 28 primary election until June 2, The Inquirer has learned.
While no agreement has yet been reached, lawmakers and members of the governor’s administration have discussed the idea for the last several days. On Saturday, state officials and lawmakers and staffers of both parties and chambers held a call to discuss the proposal.
County elections officials have been pleading with the state to postpone the primary, saying it is all but impossible to prepare for an April 28 election at a time when institutions are pulling out of hosting polling places and poll workers are declining to work — not to mention the possibility of endangering public health with in-person voting. Some elections offices have been temporarily closed or have been functioning with skeleton staffs as part of government shutdowns to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.
“It’s certainly an issue we’d like to address sooner rather than later. They need certainty either that we’re going to have an election in April or certainty that we’re not,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre), who said “it’s probably appropriate” to postpone the election.
—Jonathan Lai, Chris Brennan
Amtrak is on track to lose $1 billion amid ‘unprecedented’ drop in ridership
// Timestamp 03/21 7:53pm
In need of about $1 billion in supplemental funding to battle an “unprecedented” drop in ridership, Amtrak has now taken “aggressive” steps to cut the pay of top staff and other measures, the company confirmed Saturday.
Daily ridership is down 90% systemwide while future bookings are down 85% year-over-year, according to Amtrak.
“Amtrak and our state partners estimate we need approximately $1 billion in supplemental funding through the remainder of the year to make up for the unprecedented loss of ridership and revenue and to minimize employee and service impacts,” an Amtrak spokesperson said in a statement.
The company’s management employees now face temporary salary reductions — including a 100% reduction for its CEO — effective until at least Sept. 30, or the end of its fiscal year, according to an internal memo from Stephen Gardner, senior executive vice president and chief operating and commercial officer.
The pay cuts take effect for the first pay period in April, reflected in the employees’ April 17th paychecks. Incoming CEO William Flynn will succeed Richard Anderson on April 15.
‘Likely’ innocent death-row inmate tested for coronavirus symptoms
// Timestamp 03/21 7:25pm
A Philadelphia court on Saturday ordered that Walter Ogrod, a man on death row for a 1988 killing that authorities now say he “likely” did not commit, be taken to an outside hospital for testing and treatment of coronavirus symptoms that he developed this month.
Ogrod, 55, has had symptoms of infection since March 11, when he was taken to a prison infirmary with a cough and fever. He is housed at the State Correctional Institution Phoenix in Montgomery County.
Until Saturday the county was home to Pennsylvania’s highest concentration of coronavirus cases. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office supported the emergency motion.
Earlier this month, the office asked a judge to vacate Ogrod’s conviction; the next scheduled court date on the matter has been postponed at least until June as a result of efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
—Allison Steele, Samantha Melamed
Rowan University says a student and employee have tested positive for coronavirus
// Timestamp 03/21 7:15pm
A student and an employee at Rowan University have tested positive for the coronavirus, the university said in an email to staff Saturday evening.
They include a student who lived in Holly Pointe Commons on the Glassboro campus and an employee who works on the Stratford campus at the School of Osteopathic Medicine.
The student hasn’t been on campus since March 13, and the employee not since March 9, the school said. “We are relieved to say that both are expected to fully recover,” the school said.
Part of the campus remains open, Rowan spokesperson Joe Cardona said. “We have told the great majority of employees to work from home,” he said. “Our Rowan medicine offices will continue to see patients, however.”
Three inmates at Delco’s jail have tested positive for coronavirus
// Timestamp 03/21 6:58pm
Three inmates at Delaware County’s jail have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Saturday.
The GEO Group, the private-prisons company that manages the George W. Hill Correctional Facility, has been dealing with the global pandemic since March 13, when a maintenance supervisor at the jail tested positive for the virus and was placed under quarantine.
Health department officials believe the supervisor contracted the virus from his son, a Lower Providence police officer whose son was being treated by a cardiologist who tested positive after traveling overseas.
As a precaution, 11 inmates who had contact with that worker were isolated from the rest of the jail’s population, and 23 other staffers were told to self-quarantine at home.
Of those 11, one inmate has now tested positive for the virus, officials said. The rest were medically cleared by the state Department of Health, but remain in isolation “in an abundance of caution,” according to a statement from GEO.
Two other inmates who were not a part of that original group later developed symptoms and tested positive as well.
A total of five staff members, including the maintenance supervisor, have also tested positive for coronavirus since March 13. Four of them remain at home on self-quarantine and the fifth has been released from an unspecified local hospital, according to a GEO spokesperson.
Other staffers who came into contact with inmates or co-workers who tested positive have been issued personal protective equipment, and will be placed on quarantine if they exhibit symptoms.
The facility remains on “restricted movement,” the spokesperson said, and all visitors aside from lawyers have been barred from the jail.
An afternoon of “Bach, Beatles and other bops" in Collingswood
// Timestamp 03/21 6:26pm
After the coronavirus pandemic forced music venues to close and concerts to be canceled, Pauline Worusski decided the world could use some live music. So she invited neighbors to stop by her Collingswood home Saturday afternoon for some “Bach, Beatles and other bops.”
With doors and windows open, Worusski played the piano for an hour, taking requests and serenading about a dozen listeners — appropriately distanced, of course — with songs ranging from a Mozart sonata to “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
Worusski, who is the music director at the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Haddonfield, said she would do the same thing every Saturday from 2 to 3 p.m. until the pandemic ends.
—Tim Tai, Tom Gralish
Pennsylvania extends income tax filing deadline to July 15
// Timestamp 03/21 4:45pm
Pennsylvania has extended the deadline for filing personal income taxes to July 15, in line with the new federal tax deadline.
“This is a necessary step that will give Pennsylvania taxpayers extra time to file their returns and make tax payments during a difficult time for everyone,” Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell said in a statement Saturday.
The department of revenue said it would waive penalties and interest on 2019 personal income tax payments through the new July 15 deadline, which applies to both final 2019 tax returns and payments, and estimated payments for the first and second quarters of 2020.
It also advised residents to file taxes electronically if possible, enabling the department to process the returns even as commonwealth offices are closed. Federal officials earlier this week delayed the federal tax return deadline to July 15.
Hundreds register for drive-through COVID-19 tests in Montgomery County
// Timestamp 03/21 4:33pm
More than 500 people have signed up to get tested for coronavirus at the drive-through site Montgomery County opened on Saturday, officials said.
The testing site, at Temple University’s Ambler campus in Upper Dublin Township, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. by appointment only.
As of 3 p.m. Saturday, 540 people had registered to get tests by appointment over the coming days “and as long as supplies are available,” officials said.
Testing is reserved for high-risk individuals such as people with fevers “at or above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and respiratory symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath,” the county said. More criteria can be found here.
“Based on the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance, we want to remind everyone to please stay at home and practice social distancing and proper hygiene whenever it’s necessary to leave your home,” Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement.
Officials also said Saturday that nine more people in Montgomery County had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, raising the total number of countywide cases to 77. The new cases ranged from a 10-year-old boy in Lower Merion who was being monitored at home to an 84-year-old Lower Merion woman who was hospitalized.
—Andrew Seidman, Maddie Hanna
Camden, Burlington Counties report nine new confirmed cases
// Timestamp 03/21 4:10pm
Camden County officials reported four new cases of the coronavirus Saturday. The county now has a total of 19 confirmed cases.
The confirmed cases include: a man in his 70s from Gloucester Township who is hospitalized; a man in his 50s, isolating at home in Cherry Hill; a Cherry Hill woman in her 30s isolating at home; and a woman in her 20s isolating at home in Pennsauken.
Burlington County officials reported five new positive cases, bringing the county total to 25. The new cases include a 61-year-old Cinnaminson man, a 48-year-old Mansfield man, a 56-year-old Mount Laurel man, a 78-year-old Mount Laurel woman, and a 62-year old Evesham man.
The state of New Jersey has had 1,327 residents test positive, Gov. Phil Murphy said Saturday.
— Laura McCrystal, Maddie Hanna
Philly confirms first case of coronavirus in a nursing home
// Timestamp 03/21 2:18pm
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Tom Farley has called for all nursing homes to stop accepting visitors after the city on Saturday announced the first confirmed coronavirus case in a facility for seniors.
“We have been trying very hard to avoid this,” Farley said at a news conference. “I would expect that there may be more of these in the future.”
The nursing home resident was one of 18 new confirmed coronavirus cases the city announced Saturday, bringing Philadelphia’s total to 85. Confirmed cases, however, likely account for only a fraction of the number of infected people in the city due to the speed at which the disease is spreading, the time it takes infected people to show symptoms, and the widespread shortages of testing kits.
Nursing homes are especially dangerous environments for the coronavirus because seniors and immunocompromised individuals are the most at risk to die from the disease and because the contained facilities can become fertile grounds for the virus to be transmitted. Farley said that, in addition to nursing homes, he believes all hospitals should keep visitors out.
— Sean Collins Walsh
Philly Mayor Jim Kenney criticizes federal response, calls for aid
// Timestamp 03/21 2:05pm
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney on Saturday criticized the federal government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and called on Congress to send direct federal aid to U.S. cities.
“It’s been clear that the federal response has been deficient, with mixed messages and very slow actions,” Kenney said Saturday at the city’s first virtual news conference since the crisis began. “At the same time states and cities across the country have been stepping up.”
Federal funding typically flows through state governments. Kenney, however, has joined 303 mayors in signing a letter to Congress asking that $250 billion in aid be sent directly to municipalities.
“Funneling federal aid through state governments may make sense during normal times, but these are not normal times. It is not sufficient now. It adds bureaucracy and delays,” Kenney said. “Cities like Philadelphia need this aid because we have the largest concentrations of people, because we have high levels of poverty, and because time is crucial.”
He highlighted the shortage of testing kits in cities like Philadelphia as one area where direct aid could benefit urban areas.
Kenney, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, avoided attacking him by name in his comments Saturday, the first in which he spoke out against the federal response to coronavirus. As recently as Friday, he declined to comment on Trump’s handling of the crisis.
“I’m not going to get into politics. I’ve made very clear my feelings about the president, but this is more important a period of time that we try to be nice to each other as best we can,” he said in an interview Friday. “Even though we may have some complaints, we’ll keep those complaints quiet.”
He clarified Saturday that he will continue to refrain from criticizing Trump individually.
“I said I had no comment about him personally, but the response from the federal government has been deficient,” Kenney said at the news conference. “I don’t have a political complaint as far as an individual person. We’re talking about the system as a whole.”
— Sean Collins Walsh
Vice President Pence says he will get tested for virus
// Timestamp 03/21 1:31pm
Vice President Mike Pence said he and his wife would be tested for the coronavirus Saturday, after a staffer of his tested positive for the highly contagious virus.
Neither Pence nor President Donald Trump had direct contact with the staffer, and the White House’s doctor has “no reason to believe I was exposed,” Pence said at a press briefing Saturday.
Still, he said he would be tested for the virus. The staff member has had “mild cold symptoms” for a day and a half, Pence said. He said the White House has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to trace the staffer’s contacts with others.
— Maddie Hanna
New Jersey bans all public gatherings, orders businesses to close
// Timestamp 03/21 1:27pm
Gov. Phil Murphy has banned public gatherings of any size in New Jersey, and ordered all nonessential businesses to close by 9 p.m. Saturday.
This represents his strictest efforts yet to tame the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in New Jersey, which has now claimed 16 lives and seen 1,327 people test positive for the disease.
“Any place people congregate is a place where coronavirus can be spread,” Murphy said. “This is no time for people to be acting selfishly.”
Businesses that do not have to close include grocery stores, medical offices, food banks, marijuana dispensaries, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, hardware stores, banks, laundromats and liquor stores. A full list of exempt businesses can be found at covid19.nj.gov.
Murphy also signed an executive order ensuring his orders supersede any conflicting direction from county or local officials. He also reiterated if any resident disobeys these orders, they could face prosecution.
“For the folks monkeying around,” Murphy said, “we will take action.”
He also pleaded with residents to not flock to the Jersey shore if they have a second residence there, for fear an influx of residents may tax beach towns not used to high populations in the off-season.
Murphy’s order to close nonessential businesses comes shortly after Gov. Tom Wolf demanded Thursday that businesses that are not “life-sustaining” must close. Governors in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Delaware are trying to synchronize social distancing measures throughout the region.
Murphy’s ban on public gatherings is stricter than Pennsylvania’s, which asks residents to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said New Jersey has ramped up its efforts to increase bed capacity and estimated 2,000 beds could become available in the next five to six weeks.
She said the Army Corps of Engineers is prepared to build temporary hospitals in New Jersey, with particular attention paid to South Jersey, which faces a hospital shortage compared to the northern part of the state.
Murphy reiterated residents should only seek information about the coronavirus pandemic from “reputable media organizations,” warning there is a flood of wrong information floating around the community.“
Please do not feed into this disinformation campaign of others,” Murphy said, “you do not help anyone spreading rumors.”
— Pranshu Verma
Delaware governor orders closure of beaches
// Timestamp 03/21 1:13pm
Delaware Gov. John Carney prohibited access to beaches in his state Saturday.
"We saw too many people on the beaches yesterday and we weren’t seeing the kind of social distancing that we need in order to slow the spread of coronavirus,” Carney said in a news release.
The order will take effect at 5 p.m. Saturday.
The order includes exceptions for exercise or walking dogs.
— Laura McCrystal
Pennsylvania reports ‘exponential rise’ in confirmed cases
// Timestamp 03/21 12:33pm
The number of new coronavirus cases being reported each day in Pennsylvania has continued to rise, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Saturday.
"We are still seeing an exponential rise in Pennsylvania and the United States,” Levine said. "We are actually seeing a spike in cases because more people are being infected,” rather than because of increased access to testing.
There were 103 new cases reported since Friday, Levine said. The previous daily rise was 83.
She could not say when Pennsylvania will see a flattened curve, meaning new cases declining instead of rising.
“We’re in new ground here,” Levine said, adding that she cannot currently say when schools or some businesses will be allowed to reopen their physical spaces.
On Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all but “life-sustaining” businesses to close. Levine said there are discussions about a shelter-in-place order, but no decision has been made. Regarding reports that some areas in the U.S. are urging people not to get tested to ration health care supplies, Levine said it’s not necessary for people with no or mild symptoms to be tested in Pennsylvania.
”We want to prioritize testing to patients who have symptoms,” Levine said, adding that the state also wants to prioritize health-care workers, seniors, and people with preexisting conditions. Levine also confirmed that the Allegheny County Health Department has reported its first COVID-19 death, bringing the statewide total to two.
"Each day we tell you how important it is to stay calm, to stay home, and to stay safe,” Levine said. "This is more than just a catchy phrase. This virus is deadly. And we need to practice social distancing to minimize its spread and its impact.”
— Sarah Anne Hughes
Pennsylvania’s second coronavirus death reported in Allegheny County
// Timestamp 03/21 11:20am
A person in Allegheny County has died from the coronavirus, the county’s health department said Saturday.
It is the second reported death in Pennsylvania due to the coronavirus.
Allegheny County officials said the adult had been hospitalized. They did not immediately provide additional information out of respect for the person’s family, but more details are expected at an
afternoon news conference.
On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced the state’s first coronavirus death, a 55-year-old man from Northampton County. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania has been growing rapidly, passing 250 on Friday.
— Maddie Hanna
New Jersey shuts down libraries
// Timestamp 03/21 10:15am
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered New Jersey libraries to close Saturday in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“While many of these facilities are an important part of the fabric of our communities," Murphy said in a statement, "it’s critical that we take this opportunity to slow the spread of coronavirus seriously.”
His order applies to municipal, county, and state-run libraries, in addition to libraries and computer labs at public and private colleges and universities. Later today, Murphy is likely to order all nonessential businesses in New Jersey closed, and potentially limit or ban public gatherings.
Rutgers University faced criticism this week for keeping its libraries open. The university said it was necessary so students could have access to the internet while ordered to study remotely.
A union representing some Rutgers workers said Saturday’s decision came too late.
“It is an outrage that the president of the university, a medical doctor, insisted on leaving faculty and
staff in an unsafe workplace for so long," Rebecca Givan, vice president of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT said. “Rutgers has many other options for ensuring that students have access to the technology they need to complete their work for the rest of the semester."
Rutgers President Robert Barchi is a medical doctor. Before joining Rutgers, he was president of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
— Pranshu Verma, Susan Snyder
PA National Guard activated to help at Montco testing site
// Timestamp 03/21 9:55am
As a drive-through testing site for the coronavirus opens Saturday morning in Montgomery County, about 80 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard are activated to assist there.
National Guard members set up tents and unloaded gear at the testing site in Upper Dublin Township, according to videos and photos shared Friday by the Pennsylvania National Guard.
The site, at Temple University’s Ambler campus, is open for testing by appointment only, county officials said. Appointments can be made online. The site will be open between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.
Residents are eligible if they meet one of these criteria:
Have a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher and respiratory symptoms
Are 65 or older with a temperature of 99.6 or higher
Are first responders with concern of exposure to a patient or with respiratory symptoms
Are health-care workers providing patient care who are unable to get testing through their employers and have potential exposure to a patient or respiratory symptoms
— Laura McCrystal
‘It’s Always Sunny’ stars raise money for Philabundance
// Timestamp 03/21 9:03am
The stars of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are helping to raise money to feed Philadelphia residents in need.
Rob McElhenny and Kaitlin Olson launched a GoFundMe page Friday for Philabundance and pledged to match all donations up to $25,000.
“Please help them feed our most at-risk!” McElhenny tweeted.
As of 9 a.m. Saturday, they had raised more than $17,000.
— Laura McCrystal
Officials seek mask donations as they face shortage
// Timestamp 03/21 8:45am
As health-care workers are facing a shortage of protective gear, officials are asking for help.
Montgomery County Commissioner Valerie Arkoosh issued a public call for face mask donations at a Friday afternoon news conference.
“We are taking masks of any type, so if for instance maybe you are a landscaping business or a business that uses certain cleaning products that requires a mask,” Arkoosh said. “If you are at the moment not working and you have masks that you would be willing to donate to the county, we can use masks of any type.”
Arkoosh asked Montgomery County residents with masks to donate to call the county at 610-631-3000.
Residents of other counties have reached out with donations as well. Anisha Gupta, a paper conservator at the American Philosophical Society Library & Museum in Philadelphia, said she reached out to the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management to donate masks. Conservators have medical-grade masks and gloves because they work with chemicals, Gupta said.
A member of the Philadelphia Fire Department responded to her email quickly, she said — and was happy to accept the donation.
“One of my coworkers will go through what we have in our conservation lab on Monday (we have a variety of masks and respirators) and let the fire department know,” Gupta said in an email Saturday.
— Laura McCrystal
At coronavirus test site outside Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphians seek reassurance
// Timestamp 03/21 05:15am
Ana Avila was inside one of about a dozen cars waiting to enter the new coronavirus testing site outside of Citizens Bank Park. The 24-year-old mental health worker had been nervous since learning one of her patients had been in contact with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia cardiologist who tested positive for coronavirus.
Her patient began showing symptoms, then so did she shortly after — a dry cough, fever around 104, and shortness of breath, all symptoms of the coronavirus. Avila went to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania last Thursday, but she says she was told she had pneumonia and was sent home without being tested for the coronavirus.
Now, more than a week later, her symptoms continue. She hoped the new site, which opened Friday outside the Phillies’ home, would be able to test her.
— Ellie Silverman
Philly’s new normal? From the airport to the Acme, foot traffic shows a changed city
// Timestamp 03/21 05:00am
It took a single week to remake one of the nation’s most walkable cities with its vibrant restaurant scene into a shelter-in-place society.
Home to 1.6 million people, Philadelphia was also typically visited daily by thousands of tourists and suburban commuters. We studied Google’s pedestrian foot traffic data from Thursday to learn how a pandemic has quickly altered daily routines across the city.
Foot traffic at places like the Reading Terminal Market and the Rocky Steps plunged, while Acme’s increased.
— Chris Williams and Dylan Purcell
Struggling Pa. towns brace for financial gut punch
// Timestamp 3/21 5:00am
Municipalities in Pennsylvania could have to dip into reserves, cut services, or borrow money to cover budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus.
Many towns in the state are already struggling financially, and the economic impact of the coronavirus and the state’s business shutdown will result in decreased tax revenues.
“It’s going to hurt no matter what we do,” said Jasson Urey, a township manager of Greenville in northwestern Pennsylvania.
— Charlotte Keith of Spotlight PA