5:40 AM - March 23, 2020
5:40 AM - March 23, 2020

Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus updates here.

Gov. Tom Wolf has reached an agreement to push back Pennsylvania’s primary from April 28 to June 2. And on Sunday, Mayor Jim Kenney issued a stay-at-home order for the city of Philadelphia that goes into effect 8 a.m. on Monday. A similar order will go into effect in Delaware.

11:40 PM - March 22, 2020
11:40 PM - March 22, 2020

Wolf, legislative leaders reach deal on moving Pa. primary to June

Gov. Tom Wolf and top lawmakers have reached agreement on postponing the state’s primary election from April 28 until June 2, The Inquirer has learned, with legislation poised to advance Monday and move quickly through the state legislature.

The rescheduling would also give county election officials more flexibility in consolidating polling places this year and make long-term changes to a sweeping election law passed last year.

The deal was reached after multiple conference calls throughout the day Sunday,

State Rep. Garth Everett.
Matt Rourke / AP
State Rep. Garth Everett.

The deal was reached after multiple conference calls throughout the day Sunday, involving leaders of the House and Senate caucuses of both parties and the governor’s office, said State Rep. Garth Everett (R., Lycoming), the chair of the House State Government Committee, which will play a key role in moving the proposed legislation.

“My understanding as of right now is everybody’s on the same page,” he said Sunday night.

—Jonathan Lai, Chris Brennan, and Angela Couloumbis of Spotlight PA

10:47 PM - March 22, 2020
10:47 PM - March 22, 2020

ShopRite says an employee tested positive for coronavirus

An employee of the ShopRite supermarket at Morrell Plaza tested positive for coronavirus, a company spokesperson said in an email Sunday night.

The spokesperson, Daniel Emmer, said the employee was “no longer in the workplace,” and added that colleagues who had been in contact with the person had been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Emmer did not identify the employee, give the person’s gender or age, or say when the employee tested positive for the virus.

He said the store, in the 9900 block of Frankford Avenue in Morrell Park, will remain open after undergoing a thorough cleaning.

Supermarkets have been deemed life-sustaining businesses as many other businesses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have shut down, and many employees have had to deal with increased demand and customer traffic amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Emmer said: “We are proud of the amazing dedication our associates are demonstrating and we thank them for their service to our customers in keeping stores open and shelves stocked with essentials our shoppers need.”

Chris Palmer

9:57 PM - March 22, 2020
9:57 PM - March 22, 2020

Video: No church service? Drive through for communion instead

While church gatherings and public worship services have been suspended in Pennsylvania, the Christ Episcopal Church in Media decided to provide a drive-through sacrament.

Lauren Schneiderman

9:37 PM - March 22, 2020
9:37 PM - March 22, 2020

SEPTA: Don’t ride unless it’s essential

SEPTA issued a statement Sunday night asking riders to “do their part and refrain from using the system for non-essential purposes.”

The transit agency has already been running on limited schedules, and said it will “continue to provide service on all modes of travel" in order to help transport workers with jobs considered essential, and people who need to get to pharmacies, supermarkets, or other life-sustaining businesses.

But it expressed support for Mayor Jim Kenney’s ‘stay at home’ order, saying: “By reserving the system for only those who absolutely need it during this unprecedented crisis, SEPTA can help make sure it provides the safest environment possible for both our riders and employees.”

Chris Palmer

8:37 PM - March 22, 2020
8:37 PM - March 22, 2020

Camden County reports first coronavirus death

A Camden County official on Sunday night reported the county’s first death from the coronavirus.

Louis Cappelli Jr., the county’s Freeholder Director, announced the death on Twitter, saying: “My deepest sympathy to her family members and friends.”

Dan Keashen, county spokesperson, said the victim was a woman in her 80s from Barrington. Additional details were unavailable Sunday night, he said.

Earlier Sunday, Camden County had reported five additional positive cases of the virus, bringing its total number of confirmed positive cases to 24.

Chris Palmer and Pranshu Verma

7:45 PM - March 22, 2020
7:45 PM - March 22, 2020

Senate falls far short of votes needed to advance coronavirus bill

Senate Democrats blocked a massive coronavirus stimulus bill from moving forward Sunday in the Senate as partisan disputes raged over the legislation that's aimed at arresting the economy's precipitous decline.

Negotiations continued even as the initial procedural vote fell short, with 47 senators voting in favor and 47 opposed. The tally was well short of the 60 votes that were needed to move forward. The number of "aye" votes was especially low because five Republicans are quarantined over coronavirus fears.

Although senators of both major parties and Trump administration officials vowed to continue negotiating — around the clock if necessary — the vote was the latest negative signal about ability of Congress to come together on the legislation, which aims to inject close to $1.8 trillion into businesses and households. Policymakers are scrambling to address a spike in layoffs and businesses gasping for assistance as millions of Americans stay home to avoid contagion.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnelln (R., Ky.) speaking on the Senate floor Saturday.
AP
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnelln (R., Ky.) speaking on the Senate floor Saturday.

Ever since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced the legislation Thursday night, senators have missed one self-imposed deadline after another to reach a deal. The vote Sunday evening was delayed three hours so talks could continue after it became clear it would fail, but no resolution was reached and it failed anyway.

“Right now, they’re not there,” President Trump said from the White House with the vote underway. “But I think that the Democrats want to get there. And I can tell you for a fact, the Republicans want to get there. And I don’t think anybody actually has a choice.”

The Washington Post

6:55 PM - March 22, 2020
6:55 PM - March 22, 2020

Pa. Gov Tom Wolf: Containment measures could last longer than initially expected

Gov. Tom Wolf on Sunday signaled that the state may have to further delay reopening schools and many businesses unless the spread of the coronavirus slows.

“I want to be honest with you, and what we face,” Wolf said during an early evening briefing with reporters. “What we are trying to do here is buy time. … We cannot overload our health system.”

He added: “If we aren’t successful, the consequences are going to be even more dire than the consequences that we are facing now.”

Wolf late last week ordered all businesses that aren’t “life-sustaining” to shut down operations. He has also closed schools statewide, and the administration has canceled standardized tests for the 2019-20 school year.

Asked Sunday whether he would consider implementing a stay-at-home directive, similar to what Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced, Wolf said: “That is something that has to be under consideration. And it is for Pennsylvania.”

When asked about whether he would delay reopening schools — which are set to reopen the week of March 30th — the governor said he would decide this week.

Governor Tom Wolf speaking by video feed while Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine on Friday.
Commonwealth Media Services / Commonwealth Media Services
Governor Tom Wolf speaking by video feed while Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine on Friday.

But he also warned it could take more time to reach the point where life will return to normal.

“We all need to change the way we live our lives,” he said. “We will have to do that for a period of time so that we can emerge safe and healthy.”

“When this time is over,” he added, “we’ll need an even greater effort to get ourselves back on our feet -- and back on our feet will mean something different than it did three weeks ago.”

The Democratic governor also said he is in talks with the state legislature to postpone the April 28th primary, although no agreement has been reached.

Angela Couloumbis

6:51 PM - March 22, 2020
6:51 PM - March 22, 2020

President Trump sending extra support to N.Y., Calif., Washington

President Donald Trump announced Sunday evening that the federal government would provide additional support to New York, California and Washington, three of the most affected states in the nation.

“Some of the states are doing really well and some don’t do as well,” Trump said at an evening news conference. “The ones that don’t do as well need more help, but these are three states that really do need help because they are, they are hit very hard.”

Trump said that the National Guard has been activated in those three states, and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would provide new federal medical stations that will lead to 1,000 new beds in New York, 1,000 new beds in Washington and 2,000 new beds in California. The three states will also receive additional protective gear and equipment. Delivery should occur over the next two days, Trump said.

President Donald Trump speaks as Vice President Mike Pence, left, and FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor look on, during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Sunday, March 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky / AP
President Donald Trump speaks as Vice President Mike Pence, left, and FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor look on, during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Sunday, March 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The president did not announce plans to send additional reinforcements to New Jersey, despite the New Jersey having 1,914 confirmed cases as of Sunday afternoon, more than both Washington and California, according to Johns Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center.

Trump expressed gratitude to healthcare workers, law enforcement as well as state and local governments. He reiterated the White House’s guidance to the American people: “It is absolutely critical that Americans continue to follow the federal government's guidelines so important about social distancing non essential travel and hand washing,” Trump said. “Defeating this unseen enemy requires the help and commitment of every single American.”

Trump sent best regards to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who announced that he tested positive Sunday, and journalist Jose Díaz-Balart. The journalist clarified on Twitter Sunday that while his brother, U.S. congressman Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL), had tested positive, he had not.

Cassie Owens

6:25 PM - March 22, 2020
6:25 PM - March 22, 2020

Montco reports first coronavirus death; 33 new cases

Montgomery County officials Sunday reported the county’s first death from the coronavirus — that of a 72-year-old Abington Township man who had been hospitalized for several days.

In addition, county officials reported 33 new positive tests for the virus, bringing the countywide total to 110 cases.

The cases reported Sunday came from 14 different municipalities, officials said, and represented the largest single-day total for positive tests.

However, that likely had to do with the expanded testing increase, said Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh, chair of the county board of commissioners.

Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County commissioners.
TYGER WILLIAMS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County commissioners.

Since a testing site opened on Friday at the Temple University Ambler Campus, in Upper Dublin Township, more than 825 individuals have registered, and about 680 individuals will have completed testing by day’s end Sunday.

The testing site will remain open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., by appointment only as testing supplies allow.

—Angela Couloumbis

5:54 PM - March 22, 2020
5:54 PM - March 22, 2020

IOC to consider postponing 2020 Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Amid mounting criticism from athletes and sports officials concerned about the coronavirus pandemic, the International Olympic Committee said Sunday it would convene four weeks of talks to consider postponing the 2020 games, scheduled for July 24-Aug. 9 in Tokyo.

The IOC asserted, however, that the games would not be canceled.

The IOC said the discussions among Japanese and global sports officials, broadcasters and sponsors will deal with “scenario planning” that would include “the scenario of postponement.”

The announcement represented an abrupt change from previous comments made by Thomas Bach, the IOC president.

Bach had consistently said organizers are fully committed to opening the games on July 24 — despite the coronavirus-related disruptions to training, qualifying events and games preparations.

The chorus of criticisms had swollen in recent days, including from Olympic gold medalists and an IOC member.

The United States governing bodies of swimming and track — two of the three top-tier Summer Games sports — have called on their national Olympic officials to push for a postponement.

—Associated Press

5:41 PM - March 22, 2020
5:41 PM - March 22, 2020

Delaware Gov. John Carney issues stay-at-home order; 56 cases in state

Delaware Governor John Carney ordered people in his state to “stay at home whenever possible,” and all non-essential businesses in Delaware closed to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The orders go into effect at 8 am. Tuesday, he said, and will remain in effect until May 15, “or until the public health threat is eliminated." As with governors of other states in the region, Carney said not enough people were taking earlier restrictions seriously.

”I don’t want Delaware to be the example of what not to do in response to this crisis," Carney said, in a briefing that was live streamed.

Govs. Phil Murphy, New Jersey; Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania; John Carney, Delaware, at an event last May.
DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Govs. Phil Murphy, New Jersey; Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania; John Carney, Delaware, at an event last May.

“I understand these restrictions will have real consequences for real people. I know many businesses will have questions.” As for social activities, he said, “when in doubt, don’t.” Businesses still operating would be held accountable for safe operations, he said. “If you don’t follow the guidelines, we will shut you down.”

Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Delaware’s Secretary of Health said as of Sunday afternoon, the small state had 56 positive cases statewide, including 39 in New Castle County. Six are hospitalized, she said, including three in critical condition. Half the cases, she said, are in the 18 to 49 year old age group.

Of the new restrictions, she said, “No more gatherings on the Boardwalk, no more sleepovers, no more standing outside in a group for ice cream.”

—Amy S. Rosenberg

4:47 PM - March 22, 2020
4:47 PM - March 22, 2020

New Jersey nail salon donates 850 masks

Pinky’s Nail Salons in Atlantic City — which, like all other nail salons in the state, had been shut down by Gov. Phil Murphy amid the coronavirus outbreak — has donated 850 masks to medical facilities, said county executive Dennis Levinson.

“As we all know, medical supplies are in demand and resources are limited so this is a tremendously timely gift,” said Levinson.

Murphy said Sunday the state has only been able to get “a fraction” of the equipment they need from the federal government.

County spokesperson Linda Gilmore said the masks were donated at Meadowview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and will be distributed to hospitals, doctor’s offices, urgent cares, and long term facilities.

Amy S. Rosenberg

3:28 PM - March 22, 2020
3:28 PM - March 22, 2020

NJ Gov. Phil Murphy: 590 new positive tests; death toll rises to 20

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Sunday that another 590 people had tested positive for coronavirus in the state, bringing its total number of confirmed cases to 1,914.

Murphy also announced on an afternoon call with reporters that four more people had died from the virus, raising the state’s death toll to 20.

Coronavirus cases are now present in each county of New Jersey, Murphy said, calling the surge of positive cases “expected,” given newly opened testing sites.

“As we collect more specimens and then process those tests, that's exactly what we're seeing. Some of this is community spread, without question, but the big up here is as a result of the testing,” said Murphy.

“We understand the anxiety. We appreciate it. Who could not be anxious at this time?" the governor continued. “But the more data we have, the more we understand about the raw data, the better we will be able to crack the back of this virus sooner or later. And we will do that together as one New Jersey family.”

Murphy said the state will maintain four primary priorities: getting more personal protective equipment, testing, beds and federal funding.

The governor said the state later today will be announcing telemedicine services for both physical and mental health for more than 3 million New Jersey residents. Murphy said the services will not have co-pays. He advised that the state didn’t have the resources or manpower to test people without symptoms, who he called the “worried and well,” at this time.

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli said as the state works to manage the uptick in cases, it is a experiencing a blood shortage, and she urged healthy New Jersey residents to donate blood.

Persichilli said blood centers were carefully taking precautions and following safety protocols, and said people interested in donating should contact New Jersey Blood Services, Bergen Regional Community Blood Center, or the American Red Cross.

“Novel coronavirus is a new virus. But there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted by donating blood,” she said.

Murphy, meanwhile, emphasized that people otherwise stay home, and reiterated the state’s ban on all gatherings. He also condemned racist incidents that Asian residents in the state have reported.

“To be clear, this repugnant and repulsive behavior is wrong, even in good times,” he said. “But it is even more repugnant and more repulsive now. Our diversity is one of, if not the core strength of our state, and that strength will get us through this.”

Murphy praised healthcare workers in the state and promised that New Jersey would be working its hardest to slow the spread. “We’re going to die trying and I will tell you we will not leave anything on the practice field. We’ll turn over every stone to keep this number as low as we humanly can. But we are also going to be straight with you in terms of what the real reality is as we go through that process.”

Cassie Owens

2:18 PM - March 22, 2020
2:18 PM - March 22, 2020

Philadelphia residents ordered to stay at home starting Monday morning

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration has ordered all residents to stay in their homes except when engaging in life-sustaining activities beginning at 8 a.m. Monday.

The order is an escalation of the city’s previous attempts to encourage social distancing to stem the spread of coronavirus, including bans on large gatherings and restrictions on non-essential commercial activity. The order prohibits all gatherings outside of private residences, city Managing Director Brian Abernathy said.

Philadelphians are still permitted to leave their homes for necessary activities such as buying food or seeking medical care. Outdoor exercise, practiced with social distancing, is also still permitted. Kenney said he decided to issue the “stay at home” order after observing that many people did not get the message.

“There were too many people out, too many people on the street. We had to close our playgrounds because there were literally hundreds of kids playing basketball,” Kenney said at a virtual news conference from City Hall on Sunday. “It just didn’t seem like people were taking it all that serious. Most people are taking it serious, but there still were too many people not taking it serious, and we wanted to ramp up the level of concern.”

To enforce the order, Abernathy said the city will attempt to break up outdoor social gatherings.

“If we see large groups of folks, we will intervene and remind them to go home. We don’t want to get to a point where we’re under martial law or anything like that, but everybody needs to recognize that this is serious,” Abernathy said. “We need people to take this seriously. We need people to stay home.”

Asked what the city will do if residents continue to ignore the new restrictions, Kenney said he will have to reevaluate based on the impact of the new order.

“We’ll address that as we see what the response to this particular new wrinkle is,” Kenney said. “I can’t see us getting to the point where we’re taking folks into custody.”

Sean Collins Walsh

2:10 PM - March 22, 2020
2:10 PM - March 22, 2020

Thousands of Pennsylvania businesses seeking exemptions to Gov. Wolf’s business shutdown order

Pennsylvania has received nearly 10,000 waiver requests from businesses seeking exemptions to Gov. Tom Wolf’s order shutting down non “life-sustaining” businesses.

Dennis Davin, the secretary of Community and Economic Development, said the state has reviewed more than half of the requests as of noon Sunday and hopes to review the rest within the next two days. Davin said the state expects to begin issuing waivers today.

“We are looking at these waivers as they come in with the idea to get all of these approved by the time the enforcement procedures go into place,” he said during a conference call with reporters.

On Thursday, Wolf ordered that all non “life sustaining” businesses must close their physical locations to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The state is scheduled to enforce the order starting 8 a.m. Monday.

The Wolf administration said “life-sustaining” businesses that could remain open include grocery stores, gas stations, farms, and transit systems. On Friday, the state added hotels, manufacturing supply companies, laundromats, and tax preparers, among others, to the list of businesses that can stay open amid the pandemic.

Davin also mentioned that low-interest loans are available through the Small Business Administration and Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA). Loans through PIDA’s Small Business First Fund currently have a 3-percent interest rate, but on the call, Davin said that rate could be lowered soon.

“This program is really for the most vulnerable businesses in Pennsylvania,” David said.

Cassie Owens, Christian Hetrick

2:07 PM - March 22, 2020
2:07 PM - March 22, 2020

Sen. Rand Paul tests positive for coronavirus

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul says he has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. The Republican is the first member of the Senate to report testing positive.

He said in a tweet Sunday that he is feeling fine and is in quarantine.

Paul, a doctor, said he has not had symptoms and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. Paul said he was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.

Two House members, Reps. Mario Diaz Balart of Florida of Ben McAdams of Utah, have tested positive.

The Senate was in session Sunday seeking a bipartisan response to the pandemic.

Associated Press

1:25 PM - March 22, 2020
1:25 PM - March 22, 2020

Pennsylvania discussing a possible ‘shelter-in-place’ order, officials say

Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Pennsylvania officials are discussing a possible shelter-in-place order, but no decisions have been made.

"We’ll be seeing in the coming days which decisions are necessary to protect the public health of Pennsylvania,” Levine said, adding that such an order would not apply to grocery stores.

Since Saturday, there have been 108 new cases of COVID-19 reported. The statewide total is 479 people in 33 counties.

Approximately 47 of those infected have required hospitalization since March 6, Levine said — roughly 10% of cases.

Levine said tests are available not only through the state but through commercial labs including Quest. She reiterated that people with no or mild symptoms should not seek a test, although they can contact their health provider.

"I don’t see a time when we’ll be testing asymptomatic people in the future,” she said.

Sarah Anne Hughes

1:20 PM - March 22, 2020
1:20 PM - March 22, 2020

Some Philadelphia restaurants giving up on 'take-out only’ and shutting down during coronavirus pandemic

After a few days of challenging service and growing health fears, some restaurants and merchants have decided to give up on offering takeout and delivery and have chosen to join the ranks of temporary shutdowns.

Dining rooms and bars were shuttered this week as officials sought to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Owner John Bucci Jr. prepares cheesesteak orders on the grill at John's Roast Pork in South Philadelphia on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Tim Tai / TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Owner John Bucci Jr. prepares cheesesteak orders on the grill at John's Roast Pork in South Philadelphia on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. TIM TAI / Staff Photographer

For some, including John’s Roast Pork in South Philadelphia, the slow sales were not worth it. Owner John Bucci, who pulled the plug Friday, said he barely cracked $1,000 in receipts, a fraction of a typical day.

For others, including OCF Coffeehouses, it was a matter of safety, as staff decided that serving takeout wasn’t worth the health risk, said owner Ori Feibush, who agreed to provide a lump-sum payment and benefits to his 50-plus employees.

Michael Klein

12:11 PM - March 22, 2020
12:11 PM - March 22, 2020

Congressional deal on coronavirus stimulus package teeters

Top-level negotiations between Congress and the White House teetered Sunday on a ballooning nearly $1.4 trillion economic rescue package, as President Donald Trump called for a deal to steady a nation shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin indicated an agreement was within reach, but congressional Democratic leaders raised concerns ahead of a meeting at the Capitol.

With a population on edge, societal norms rewritten, and financial markets teetering, all sides were hoping for an agreement that would provide some relief against the pandemic’s twin health and economic crises, now believed likely to stretch for several months.

In the hours before the closed-door talks were to convene in an otherwise empty Capitol, President Donald Trump's lead negotiator said the plan was meant to prop up the nation's weakened economy for the next 10 to 12 weeks.

“I think we have a fundamental understanding and we look forward to wrapping it up today. It will get done,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Fox News Sunday.

“I think the president has every expectation that this is going to look a lot better four or eight weeks from now,” Mnuchin said. “If for any reason, 10 weeks from now with this virus we haven’t won this, we’ll go back to Congress again.”

But the Democrats cautioned that things weren’t set. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when entering the meeting, declared “From my standpoint, we’re apart."

Associated Press

12:09 PM - March 22, 2020
12:09 PM - March 22, 2020

Pennsylvania police will enforce Gov. Wolf’s business shutdown order starting Monday

The Pennsylvania State Police will begin enforcing Gov. Tom Wolf’s order for all but “life-sustaining” businesses to close their physical operations Monday at 8 a.m.

In a statement, Colonel Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, said “private businesses, organizations, and other noncompliant entities face possible criminal penalties.”

The violations are summary offenses punishable by fines and jail time. Other agencies involved with enforcement include the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, and “local officials, using their resources to enforce closure orders within their jurisdictions."

"Troopers and liquor control officers will make every effort to achieve voluntary compliance by educating business owners and using discretion when appropriate,” Evanchick said. “But our message is clear: COVID-19 is a serious health and public safety risk that requires an extraordinary response from law enforcement and the public.”

Sarah Anne Hughes

12:06 PM - March 22, 2020
12:06 PM - March 22, 2020

Philadelphia family stuck in Peru after country goes on coronavirus ‘lockdown’

As countries around the globe tighten their borders to confront the rapid spread of the coronavirus, a Philadelphia-area family is stuck in a Peruvian hotel with a limited supply of food and medication. Their family is now scrambling to find a way to get them on a flight.

Denise Higney and Daniel Dougherty, both of Philadelphia, are among hundreds of Americans reportedly stuck in Peru after the country closed its borders to international travel amid the spread of the coronavirus.
Courtesy of Christine Robinson
Denise Higney and Daniel Dougherty, both of Philadelphia, are among hundreds of Americans reportedly stuck in Peru after the country closed its borders to international travel amid the spread of the coronavirus.

Christine Robinson, 34, of Buckingham Township, Bucks County, has been working around the clock this week to bring home four family members, to no avail. They include her parents, Joseph and Rocio Higney — both in their 60s and from Doylestown — as well as her sister, Denise Higney, and her sister’s boyfriend, Daniel Dougherty, both 25 and from Philadelphia.

Robinson described Peru as on “lockdown,” and said her relatives had relayed that they can’t leave their hotel in Lima, the nation’s capital, without encountering the military patrolling the streets.

"The uncertainty is just unbearable,” she said.

Anna Orso

11:06 AM - March 22, 2020
11:06 AM - March 22, 2020

New York City’s mayor says coronavirus pandemic is 'only getting worse’

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio rang the alarm bells on Sunday morning, saying the coronavirus pandemic has only started taking its toll on the public, and a dire future is ahead.

“All Americans deserve the blunt truth,” de Blasio said. “It is only getting worse … April and May are going to be a lot worse. … I can’t be blunt enough. If the president does not act, people will die who could have lived otherwise.”

He added that, "all military personnel who are medically trained should be sent to places where this crisis is deep.”

Over 26,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the United States. Pennsylvania has seen two deaths and 397 positive cases. New Jersey’s death toll is up to 16, with 1,327 cases.

Pranshu Verma

10:55 AM - March 22, 2020
10:55 AM - March 22, 2020

Gov. Phil Murphy continues to plead for $100 billion in regional aid, says New Jersey has received “a fraction of our ask” from federal stockpile

Gov. Phil Murphy said Sunday the four states of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut, need the federal government to send $100 billion in “direct cash assistance to allow us to continue to fight.”

Speaking to Martha Raddatz on ABC’s This Week, Murphy also called on the federal government to cover 100 percent of the costs related to the fight against coronavirus, up from the current 75/25 split.

“The economic impact is overwhelming,” he said.

Murphy said the state is “desperate for more personal protective equipment,” including masks. “We’ve got a big ask into the strategic stockpile in the White House,” he said. “They’ve given us a fraction of our ask.”

“We’re turning over every stone,” Murphy said. “Both to protect our health-care workers and to treat the sick.” He said his crack down on social gatherings was intended to “crack the back” of the curve of infection.

Asked about his top health official, Judith Persichilli, saying in an NJ.com interview that “everyone” would get the coronavirus, Murphy said, “My view is we die trying."

”My plea with folks in New Jersey is frankly to just stay home," he said. "Unless you’re essential, unless you’re helping us in the fight, we need you at home. We need you even at home to social-distance.”

He said New Jersey’s second drive-through testing site would open on Monday, in Monmouth County. On Saturday, the state announced 1,327 positives cases with 16 fatalities.

“We are working with the Army Corps to expand health-care capacity,” he said. “The more aggressive we are on the front end, the better a shot we have on the back end of keeping people alive and safe.”

Amy Rosenberg

10:30 AM - March 22, 2020
10:30 AM - March 22, 2020

Fearing ‘desperate people’, bar owner boards up windows in Center City during coronavirus shutdown

Teddy Sourias — whose Craft Concepts Group runs about a half dozen bars and restaurants in the heart of Center City, including Tradesman’s, U-Bahn, Blume, and the Tinsel pop-up — endured a rash of broken windows over the winter.

Each time, the glass replacement cost him $1,500 plus the liquor that was stolen.

Now, with his businesses closed for the foreseeable future because of the coronavirus restrictions, he had them all boarded up Saturday.

Eduardo Saldana (center) of Philadelphia Custom Builders watches as his team boards up the popular Tinsel bar in Center City on Saturday. Gov. Tom Wolf called for the closure of all businesses that are not "life-sustaining," due to the spread of the coronavirus. Restaurants are now takeout or delivery only.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Eduardo Saldana (center) of Philadelphia Custom Builders watches as his team boards up the popular Tinsel bar in Center City on Saturday. Gov. Tom Wolf called for the closure of all businesses that are not "life-sustaining," due to the spread of the coronavirus. Restaurants are now takeout or delivery only.

"I worry about desperate people taking desperate measures,” he said. “People are out of work right now. The longer the shutdown lasts and there is no income, who knows what could happen.”

It’s a better-safe-than-sorry reaction. “We haven’t had anything like this in our lifetime, so we have nothing to compare it to,” he said. “I completely agree with this shutdown and hope everyone complies so we can get this under control and go on with our lives the way we used to.”

Michael Klein

10:10 AM - March 22, 2020
10:10 AM - March 22, 2020

Where to get tested for the coronavirus in the region?

Coronavirus testing sites are popping up throughout the Philadelphia region. If you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, which can include a dry cough and fever, you may be able to get a test in your area. But officials recommend you don’t just show up to the testing sites.

First, call your primary care doctor if you have one, or schedule a virtual consultation if that option is available. Some sites, like the one that opened Saturday morning at Temple University’s Ambler campus and one that opened Friday afternoon in the parking lot at Citizens Bank Park, don’t require a doctor’s referral but might have other restrictions. In most cases, you must have symptoms to get a test appointment. Here are the locations of testing sites:

City

  • West Philadelphia (Penn Medicine)
  • Center City (Jefferson Health)
  • Northeast Philadelphia (Jefferson Health)
  • South Philadelphia by the stadiums (only for people with symptoms who are over 50 and health-care workers with symptoms)

Pa. suburbs

  • Two sites in Radnor (Penn Medicine and Main Line Health)
  • Newtown Square (Main Line Health)
  • Abington (Jefferson Health)
  • Ambler (Temple University campus)

South Jersey

  • Jefferson Health in Cherry Hill
  • Camden County College in Blackwood (coming soon)
  • Cherry Hill (Cooper Health)

Again, you must consult a doctor and get a referral before being tested. Here are some ways you can start the process: Penn Medicine patients can call 215-615-2222 or use the MyPennMedicine app. Jefferson Health patients can go to hospitals.jefferson.edu/jeffconnect. Main Line Heath patients can call 866-225-5654.

Curious what it’s like to get tested? Here’s an inside look at how testing works at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia:

— Erin McCarthy, Astrid Rodrigues

9:25 AM - March 22, 2020
9:25 AM - March 22, 2020

Coronavirus may change Philly offices for good

The coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses in Philadelphia to make changes to their operations to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus. For many companies, this is the first time they’ve let employees work from home en masse. For others, the outbreak has accelerated existing trends in technology, from eateries offering online delivery to studios releasing new movies for streaming.

As the business disruption persists, there’s a growing sense that when the pandemic ends, some changes could endure. Policies and technology used out of necessity now could become permanent later, if businesses and consumers find they’re convenient, efficient, and productive.

“The silver lining could be the technology breakthrough," said Robert Li, a professor at Temple University and director of its U.S.-Asia Center for Tourism & Hospitality. “When a crisis like this happens, it is most certainly tragic, but it may also feed new opportunities.”

Christian Hetrick

8:55 AM - March 22, 2020
8:55 AM - March 22, 2020

Response to coronavirus is unprecedented

Spring arrived muted and virtually overlooked last week, drained of much of the hope and buoyancy normally associated with winter’s end.

What we face next, according to Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, is a “coronavirus winter,” ruled by the menace of molecules coiled deep in a rampaging virus.

This coming season has no known end, no equinox or solstice to mark its conclusion as it stretches ragged and bleak into an unknown future.

Patients receive care for the Spanish flu at Walter Reed Military Hospital, in Washington, D.C.
OSU
Patients receive care for the Spanish flu at Walter Reed Military Hospital, in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, we’re ordered to settle like cats in cages, without rent money, or baseball, or the chance to check on Grandpa.

Was there ever a moment like this?

“At no time in the history of America,” said David Elesh, emeritus professor of sociology at Temple University, “have people been asked to shut down their normal day-to-day lives and convert them as radically as we are being asked.

"In the short term, we’re probably being asked to do more as Americans than ever before.”

Alfred Lubrano

5:00 AM - March 22, 2020
5:00 AM - March 22, 2020

Senate close to passing $1.6 trillion coronavirus package

Congressional negotiators neared agreement Saturday on a sweeping stimulus package meant to blunt the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a deal that is expected to inject upward of $2 trillion into a reeling U.S. economy over the coming months.

Senate Republicans failed to meet a self-imposed 5 p.m. deadline to reach a deal with their Democratic counterparts, but GOP leaders said an accord was within reach — citing key concessions to Democrats on the expansion of unemployment insurance benefits, emergency health-care funding and other matters.

In this image from video, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) speaks on the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Saturday.
AP
In this image from video, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) speaks on the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Saturday.

“Generally speaking, the building blocks of this thing are pretty much in place, and you know now some of the differences come down to the finer points of how some of this stuff gets done,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican leader, following a meeting of key GOP negotiators.

Washington Post

5:00 AM - March 22, 2020
5:00 AM - March 22, 2020

Amtrak is on track to lose $1 billion amid ‘unprecedented’ drop in ridership.

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.

Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas heads on the platform at Penn Station in New York to board the Amtrak #89 train on May 3. Thomas, who lives in New York, put off her plans for retirement in 2016 and purchased a closing hat factory in Bridesburg. Her American Hats opened its first major retail store in the Fashion District Philadelphia Mall in September.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas heads on the platform at Penn Station in New York to board the Amtrak #89 train on May 3. Thomas, who lives in New York, put off her plans for retirement in 2016 and purchased a closing hat factory in Bridesburg. Her American Hats opened its first major retail store in the Fashion District Philadelphia Mall in September.

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.

— Patricia Madej

5:00 AM - March 22, 2020
5:00 AM - March 22, 2020

New Jersey banned all public gatherings, orders businesses to close

Gov. Phil Murphy banned public gatherings of any size in New Jersey on Saturday and ordered all nonessential businesses to close by 9 p.m. that night.

This represented 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.

Pranshu Verma

5:00 AM - March 22, 2020
5:00 AM - March 22, 2020

Governor Tom Wolf and legislators discuss plan to reschedule Pa. primary

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.

“It seems like it’s all coming together. … I think that it’s working, that we all agree,” said Rep. Garth Everett (R., Lycoming), chair of the House State Government Committee, whose aide was on the call. “It’s nice to see that we can all work together.”

Jonathan Lai, Chris Brennan

5:00 AM - March 22, 2020
5:00 AM - March 22, 2020

Today’s front page: ‘From Bad to Worse’

The Philadelphia Inquirer's front page on March 22
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer's front page on March 22