6:52 AM - March 30, 2020
6:52 AM - March 30, 2020

Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus updates here

In his 25 years as an industrial designer, Tod Corlett has devised lighting systems and electronic signs, and guided student projects in such diverse realms as furniture and footwear. On March 18, the Jefferson University professor got an urgent call from his dean with a new kind of challenge: Can you make us a ventilator?

Read about Corlett and his colleagues learning how to MacGyver a ventilator and more on coronavirus in the Philadelphia area.

11:20 PM - March 29, 2020
11:20 PM - March 29, 2020

After first Pa. inmate tests positive, all state prisons to be quarantined

All Pennsylvania state prisons were to be quarantined Sunday night as the Department of Corrections began taking steps to try to contain the coronavirus after an inmate at a Montgomery County prison tested positive during the weekend.

According to an email sent to prison staffers, obtained by The Inquirer, Corrections Secretary John Wetzel called for the system-wide quarantine to begin at 10 p.m. Sunday, and he planned to meet with senior facility leadership Monday morning.

Pennsylvania has 25 state correctional institutions housing about 45,000 inmates, according to department statistics.

Advocates and corrections officers have worried about the likelihood of the virus spreading rapidly in prisons and jails, where it can be virtually impossible to practice social distancing.

Three corrections employees have also self-reported positive tests, according to a department website, though officials did not say where the employees worked.

The department had said earlier Sunday that six facilities were already under some form of quarantine due to possible cases among inmates or staff.

Mike Newall and Chris Palmer

10:45 PM - March 29, 2020
10:45 PM - March 29, 2020

Folk legend John Prine in critical condition with coronavirus symptoms

The family of John Prine says the legendary singer-songwriter is critically ill and has been placed on a ventilator while being treated for COVID-19-type symptoms.

A message posted on Prine’s Twitter page Sunday said the “Angel from Montgomery” singer has been hospitalized since Thursday and his condition worsened on Saturday.

John Prine performing at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., last year.
Amy Harris / Amy Harris/Invision/AP
John Prine performing at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., last year.

Prine’s wife and manager Fiona Whelan Prine earlier this month said that she had tested positive for the coronavirus. She said the couple were quarantined and isolated from each other.

The 73-year-old Prine, one of the most influential in folk and country music, has twice fought cancer. Most recently, he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013 and had part of a lung removed.

In April 2018 he appeared with Kurt Vile in a concert at the Merriam Theater.

—Associated Press

10:00 PM - March 29, 2020
10:00 PM - March 29, 2020

An impromptu birthday parade in Haddon Heights

Susannah Jaremko turned 3 on Saturday, when the rain soaking the region seemed to exacerbate the forced isolation of the coronavirus pandemic.

So on Sunday, some friends decided to try and brighten things up.

One by one, at 3 p.m., congregants of the First Presbyterian Church of Haddon Heights — where Jaremko’s mother serves as pastor — drove by Jaremko’s house to wish her a happy birthday, waving, cheering, with some even throwing out cards or gifts.

The Jaremko’s (Kyle, Susannah and Pastor Eliza Jaremko) stand just outside of their Haddon Heights home and react as church members drive by honking and wishing Susannah a happy birthday on Sunday. Little Susannah Jaremko, is the daughter of Pastor Eliza Jaremko of the First Presbyterian Church of Haddon Heights. She turned 3 on Saturday but because of coronavirus pandemic there was no party. So church members did a happy birthday drive by past her home.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
The Jaremko’s (Kyle, Susannah and Pastor Eliza Jaremko) stand just outside of their Haddon Heights home and react as church members drive by honking and wishing Susannah a happy birthday on Sunday. Little Susannah Jaremko, is the daughter of Pastor Eliza Jaremko of the First Presbyterian Church of Haddon Heights. She turned 3 on Saturday but because of coronavirus pandemic there was no party. So church members did a happy birthday drive by past her home.

Her parents, Eliza and Kyle Jaremko, said they were touched by the gesture, and by the ability to see so many of the people they have not been able to catch up with during social distancing. Eliza Jaremko said she has been preaching to an empty sanctuary while streaming services live on Facebook.

Even from a distance, then, they found it refreshing to be surrounded by their friends — and fun to have a unique birthday celebration for their daughter.

“There were more people there today than I’ve ever had at a birthday party,” Kyle Jaremko said. “And just for a moment, I kind of forgot about what was going on around us, and it was just really about her and her church family and friends.”

—Chris Palmer

9:24 PM - March 29, 2020
9:24 PM - March 29, 2020

A different kind of karaoke in Center City

In the age of social distancing, even sing-alongs need to be re-imagined.

About 25 neighbors (and their dogs) came out on the 2200 block of Saint James Place in Center City on Sunday evening for a “neighborhood karaoke” — socially-distanced "stoop singing” on the street.

Whitney Covalle (right) and her husband Matt and son Charlie,10, head up the street with her music stand for the “neighborhood karaoke" she organized for some socially-distanced 'stoop' singing” on her street the 2200 block of Saint James Place on Sunday.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Whitney Covalle (right) and her husband Matt and son Charlie,10, head up the street with her music stand for the “neighborhood karaoke" she organized for some socially-distanced 'stoop' singing” on her street the 2200 block of Saint James Place on Sunday.

Whitney Covalle organized the event. The mother of two is a former high school music teacher in Chicago public schools, working on her Phd. in music education at Temple University.

She was inspired by Chicagoans singing Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” from balconies, and by her neighbor Lisa Heller, who wanted to expand the block’s Sunday happy hour to include the singing of “loud cheerful songs.” As the music person, Covalle was called upon to get the idea going.

"Music is in my soul. I’ll take any opportunity to bring people together to sing,” she said.

Kristin and Jonathan Beatty dance with daughter Vivian, 4, as they participate in “neighborhood karaoke."
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Kristin and Jonathan Beatty dance with daughter Vivian, 4, as they participate in “neighborhood karaoke."

An attempt last week was postponed by cold weather, but it turns out Sunday was Covalle’s 42 birthday.

Folks sang — and danced — to the the Bee Gees “Stayin Alive” to The Police - “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” by The Police, with a few “slide” dances thrown in, and Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

"I’m partial to Motown,” Covalle said.

Tom Gralish and Chris Palmer

9:10 PM - March 29, 2020
9:10 PM - March 29, 2020

New York State deaths rise past 1,000

New York state surpassed a grim milestone Sunday as its death toll from the coronavirus outbreak climbed above 1,000, less than a month after the first case was detected in the state.

New York City reported in the evening that its toll had risen to 776.

A cyclist and a dog walker are seen along and otherwise empty street in Manhattan Sunday.
Mary Altaffer / AP
A cyclist and a dog walker are seen along and otherwise empty street in Manhattan Sunday.

The total number of statewide deaths isn’t expected to be released until Monday, but with at least 250 additional deaths recorded outside the city as of Sunday morning, the state’s total fatalities was at least 1,026.

The first known infection in the state was discovered on March 1 in a health care worker who recently returned from Iran. Two days later, the state got its second case, a lawyer from the suburb of New Rochelle.

—Associated Press

8:56 PM - March 29, 2020
8:56 PM - March 29, 2020

Two more coronavirus deaths in Bucks County

Two more Bucks County residents have died as a result of the coronavirus, officials said Sunday, bringing the county’s death toll to three.

In a news release, county officials said one victim was a woman in her 90s with “severe and longstanding pulmonary issues,” while the other was a man in his 80s, also with pre-existing health issues. The county did not identify either person.

A Bucks County resident in his 60s died on Saturday, the county said. At least 40 people have died from the virus in Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Bucks Counties each reported new COVID-19 deaths during the weekend.

Bucks County officials said 249 residents have tested positive for the virus, and 18 people remain hospitalized for it, including seven on ventilators in critical condition.

New confirmed cases were reported for the first time Sunday in Tinicum Township and Dublin and Langhorne Manor Boroughs, the county said. Residents of 39 Bucks municipalities have tested positive for the virus.

Chris Palmer

8:06 PM - March 29, 2020
8:06 PM - March 29, 2020

NJ State Police official ‘overstated’ number of positive cases among officers

New Jersey State Police Col. Patrick J. Callahan “overstated” the numbers of law-enforcement officers who have tested positive for the coronavirus, state police said Sunday.

On Saturday he had said during a state briefing that more than 700 police officers had tested positive and had quarantined at home.

On Sunday, however, state police said in a news release that while 1,272 officers had been “quarantined,” the actual number of those testing positive was 163. In addition, it said that 1,435 officers were “out for other reasons,” but did not elaborate.

At Saturday’s briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy reported that two officers “were in tough shape” but “God willing, sounded like they were improving.”

—Anthony R. Wood and Amy S. Rosenberg

7:16 PM - March 29, 2020
7:16 PM - March 29, 2020

Church at the drive-in: How one Pa. religious community is adapting to the coronavirus

To say “amen,” just honk your horn and flash your lights.

That’s what hundreds of worshipers did in Cumberland County Sunday morning. The Big Spring Inter-church Council brought together congregations from the Harrisburg-Carlisle area for church at Cumberland Drive-In Theatre.

Pastor Barry Van Hussey, of the Christian Life Community Church of Newville, Cumberland County, preaches to those assembled in their cars, at the Cumberland Drive in theater, who are listening in on their radios.
MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Pastor Barry Van Hussey, of the Christian Life Community Church of Newville, Cumberland County, preaches to those assembled in their cars, at the Cumberland Drive in theater, who are listening in on their radios.

“As we continue to navigate through these mandated shutdowns, suspensions, and uncertainties revolving around the COVID-19 pandemic, we as the Church still have a big job to do,” reads an explanation posted on Facebook from Newville Assembly of God, one of the participating churches. “Thus, we are thinking Outside the Box 📦.”

Churches around the country are finding creative ways to continue “gathering” as the Lenten season winds down. This was the second week of “Church at the Drive-In” in Newville, where 300 cars appeared for 10:30 a.m. service.

Cassie Owens, Michael Bryant

6:30 PM - March 29, 2020
6:30 PM - March 29, 2020

President Trump: Restrictions will remain in place until April 30

President Donald Trump announced Sunday that White House guidelines encouraging social distancing to help combat the spread of the coronavirus would stay in place through the end of April.

During an evening news conference in the Rose Garden, Trump told reporters that because the forecasted peak for the death toll is two weeks away, it would not be ideal to stop mitigation efforts too soon.

President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing in the Rose Garden of the White House on Sunday.
Patrick Semansky / AP
President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing in the Rose Garden of the White House on Sunday.

“I want the American people to know that your selfless, inspiring and valued deference are saving countless lives. You’re making the difference,” Trump said. “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won. That would be the greatest loss of all.”

Trump had previously expressed a desire to roll back restrictions by Easter, but Sunday characterized that as “just an aspiration.”

“When you hear the potential travesty, you don’t want to have a spike up,” Trump said.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also reiterated that the U.S. death toll, which is currently around 2,400, could escalate to 100,000 to 200,000 if precautions aren’t followed, a projection he made on CNN Sunday morning.

“I think it’s entirely conceivable that if we do not mitigate, to the extent that we’re trying to do, that you could reach that number,” Fauci said at the news conference. “What we’re trying to do is not let that happen.”

Trump praised the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA to reporters for rapidly building temporary hospitals, pointing to the conversion of the Javits Center in New York City, which is slated to open Monday with roughly 2,900 beds. He also mentioned Project Airbridge, a public-private partnership to fly in supplies from abroad to help efforts in the U.S. The first flight, which arrived in New York Sunday, carried 80 tons of equipment and protective gear, including 135,000 N95 masks.

When asked why Florida has received 100 percent of their requests while other states had not, Trump said that Florida had been “aggressive” but that all governors had been “very committed.” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was among those he complimented in particular.

“He's got a pretty hot spot right there right next to New York,” Trump stated. “And we're doing hospitals. We're doing ventilators. We're getting a lot to Governor Murphy.”

On the topic of whether economic conditions during the pandemic could lead to deaths, Trump confirmed that he expects surges in depression, anxiety, suicide and addiction.

Cassie Owens

5:50 PM - March 29, 2020
5:50 PM - March 29, 2020

Delaware governor orders all out-of-state travelers to self-quarantine for two weeks

Anyone who crosses into Delaware from another state must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days, Gov. John Carney ordered on Sunday.

In a statement issued Sunday evening, Carney said: “Now’s not the time to visit Delaware.”

His order applies to anyone who has entered Delaware in the past two weeks from another state, and anyone who travels across the state’s lines moving forward. It does not apply to people simply passing through, to those traveling into the state to care for family members, or to healthcare workers or other people assisting essential businesses. The order goes into effect Monday at 8 a.m.

Carney’s announcement said it was a “criminal offense” to violate the order but did not specify how it might be enforced. He did say that law enforcement officers may conduct traffic stops on cars with out-of-state license plate in order to ask public health and quarantine-related questions.

Carney last week instructed all Delaware residents to stay at home and ordered all nonessential businesses to close.

Chris Palmer

5:00 PM - March 29, 2020
5:00 PM - March 29, 2020

Sea Isle City closes its beaches and promenade to the public

Sea Isle City has joined Ocean City in restricting its most cherished attractions in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Mayor Leonard Desiderio announced on the Shore town’s website Friday that despite warnings against gatherings, the beach and promenade had remained a “prime spot for social gatherings that we’ve been ordered by Governor Murphy to stop.”

“While we understand that the beaches and promenade are desirable locations for permitted activities, such as running and walking, we must consider the potential for unnecessary close contact occurring,” Desiderio said.

In this file photo, folks drag their belongings off the beach just before 4 on a summer afternoon.
In this file photo, folks drag their belongings off the beach just before 4 on a summer afternoon.

The beaches and promenade were ordered closed effective immediately. Shore towns have asked second home owners to remain at their primary homes and struggled to keep people from descending onto the Boardwalks in nice weather.

Last week, Ocean City ordered its Boardwalk and beaches closed to the public after crowds gathered in the nice weather and disregarded social distancing guidelines.

Amy S. Rosenberg

4:35 PM - March 29, 2020
4:35 PM - March 29, 2020

First Pennsylvania inmate tests positive for coronavirus

An inmate at a state prison in Montgomery County has tested positive for the coronavirus, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced Sunday, the first person in state custody to be confirmed as having the virus.

Officials did not identify the inmate, housed at State Correctional Institute Phoenix, or provide an age or gender. But Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said in a statement that the person had “underlying health conditions” and was being treated at the prison’s infirmary.

An interior of one of the inmate housing units at the new State Correctional Institution Phoenix in Collegeville.
WILLIAM THOMAS CAIN / For The Inquirer
An interior of one of the inmate housing units at the new State Correctional Institution Phoenix in Collegeville.

Inmates on the person’s housing unit were being quarantined, the department said, and staffers were tracing the inmate’s interactions in order to further isolate those who interacted with the person.

Phoenix, in Collegeville, was one of six state prisons on Sunday to place at least part of its facility on lockdown, according to the department’s website. Several others had quarantined housing units pending test results for inmates, while one prison — SCI Waymart, in Wayne County — was fully quarantined because an employee had tested positive.

The department said that three employees had self-reported positive tests for the coronavirus. All employees who test positive are directed to stay home in quarantine until they are cleared by a medical professional to return to work, the department said.

Inmate advocates and corrections officers have expressed concern about the virus spreading rapidly through prisons, where it is virtually impossible for people to practice social distancing.

On Saturday, the department was set to begin sending new male inmates and parole violators to SCI Retreat in Luzerne County for an initial quarantine period, while transferring most of the people currently held there to other prisons in the state.

Chris Palmer

4:15 PM - March 29, 2020
4:15 PM - March 29, 2020

At Atlantic City International Airport, nonchalance, Florida tans and a 92-year-old grandmother

POMONA, N.J. — Nobody seemed overly concerned about flying on Sunday, the day after a federal advisory was issued strongly urging people in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut not to travel.

At least, that seemed to be the case for the people arriving and departing from Atlantic City International Airport — even 92-year-old Betty Scottino, of Hammonton, arriving home from For. Myers to her waiting grandson.

Betty Scottino, 92, leaves the Atlantic City International Airport with her grandson Ed Bober of Hammonton on Sunda. Scottino arrived into the airport from Florida on a near empty flight.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Betty Scottino, 92, leaves the Atlantic City International Airport with her grandson Ed Bober of Hammonton on Sunda. Scottino arrived into the airport from Florida on a near empty flight.

“Not at all,” said Alexia Glass, flying out of ACY to get home to Atlanta, where she works as a model. “I have to go to Florida first.”

“No,” said a restaurant owner who said he was on his way to his other house in Florida, when asked if he was concerned.

“There’s no travel ban," he said. “Eventually the hospitals won’t be overflowing. I’m not nervous at all about it.”

The advisory was issued in a late-night tweet by President Trump, who earlier Saturday had threatened a stricter quarantining of the three states. It urged against nonessential travel. Both Gov. Murphy and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the advisory just echoed their own guidelines for their states.

Arriving from Fort Lauderdale, Joseph Thompson, 68, of Vineland, a retired mason, said he felt like, well, the president as he stretched out in the first row of a Spirit Airlines flight that had four passengers on it.

“I feel like a king. I had the whole airplane to myself,” Thompson said. "I felt like I was Donald Trump.”

Amy S. Rosenberg

3:25 PM - March 29, 2020
3:25 PM - March 29, 2020

With funerals banned, Hammonton residents host a driving procession

The many mourners of 40-year-old Alena Lombardelli, of Hammonton, who died of breast cancer earlier this week, were not ready to let current restrictions stop them from showing the family how much she was loved.

On Sunday, they gathered outside St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, wrapped their cars in pink ribbons, and then began on a “stay in your car” procession past the family’s house.

“Someone suggested that everyone meet at the church, stay inside their cars and drive by the family’s home to show them how much they are loved,” said attorney James Leonard, who posted about it on Facebook. He said there were several hundred people in line, “sitting in their cars waiting to pay their respects."

Mourners of 40-year-old Alena Lombardelli, of Hammonton, who recently died of breast cancer, wrapped their cars in pink ribbons and staged a "stay in your car" procession past the family's house on Sunday, March 29, 2020.
Courtesy of James Leonard
Mourners of 40-year-old Alena Lombardelli, of Hammonton, who recently died of breast cancer, wrapped their cars in pink ribbons and staged a "stay in your car" procession past the family's house on Sunday, March 29, 2020.

”Such a simple but brilliant idea," he said. “Despite what we are going through, we are still human beings.”

The mother of two children, Emma and Luke, Lombardelli, the owner of MiaLane Design, died on March 26, after a 2½ year battle with breast cancer.

Amy S. Rosenberg

2:45 PM - March 29, 2020
2:45 PM - March 29, 2020

N.J. bakery selling ‘Fauci donuts’

Stephen Simon likes to make donuts inspired by currents events, but this time, he wasn’t sure exactly how he would.

“I didn’t know if I was going to touch this one because it’s very, very sensitive,” said Simon, owner of JB Bakery in Burlington, N.J.

Then he noticed that a bakery in Rochester, N.Y. was making donuts depicting Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the immunologist who’s delivered frequent updates on the pandemic to the American public.

Stephen “Steve the Baker” Simon at JB Bakery in Burlington puts out some of his “butterscotch COVID cream” filled donuts dipped in “quarantini sprinkles” - with the face of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Mar. 29, 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Stephen “Steve the Baker” Simon at JB Bakery in Burlington puts out some of his “butterscotch COVID cream” filled donuts dipped in “quarantini sprinkles” - with the face of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Mar. 29, 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,

“I saw the how the other donut shop did it,” Simon explained. “I said I can do it better than that.”

If you want the Fauci donuts at JB’s, go early. Since Simon, who goes by “Steve the Baker,” introduced them, they’ve been selling out every day. Simon admits that he lost some sleep over the recipe.

This Fauci special has butterscotch “COVID” cream, “quarantini” sprinkles, and the famous doctor’s face right in the center. The butterscotch is a touch they normally don’t add to cream donuts. That’s to align with the times, Simon said: “Everything now is so unusual.”

The donuts have been popular with nurses, Simon said. Seeing them excited over the donuts makes him glad.

“They’re the ones who are dealing with this on the front lines,” Simon said before returning to make more Fauci donut dough. “I think everyone in the food industry is doing what they can to help the first responders. This is what JB’s is doing.”

— Cassie Owens

2:25 PM - March 29, 2020
2:25 PM - March 29, 2020

Philadelphia nearing 900 positive cases, with 8 deaths; Nursing homes should ban visitors, officials say

Health officials in Philadelphia on Sunday said that they had presumptively confirmed 84 more cases of COVID-19 in the city, bringing the city’s total confirmed cases to 890. Seventy-eight people had been hospitalized with the virus.

Officials said the city’s total cases are likely higher, because two of the labs handling testing do not issue reports over the weekend. State data shows Philadelphia with 35 fewer positive cases.

Another four people have died from the virus in Philadelphia, bringing the city total to 8. The four recent deaths were persons in their 70s and 80s, the health department said, and three had been living in nursing homes.

Across Pennsylvania, more than 60 people in nursing homes have tested positive for the virus, said state health secretary Rachel Levine said in a separate press conference on Sunday.

Philadelphia health commissioner Thomas Farley, echoing Levine’s words at the earlier press conference, said it was imperative that nursing homes ban visitors, require staff to wear masks, and screen regularly for symptoms.

— Aubrey Whelan

2:00 PM - March 29, 2020
2:00 PM - March 29, 2020

New Jersey’s positive cases top 13,300, with 161 total dead

New Jersey saw another 2,316 people test positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Twitter, bringing the statewide positive case total to 13,386. An additional 21 people have also died, increasing the statewide death toll to 161.

New Jersey stands second in the nation for the number of positive coronavirus cases, behind New York. On Saturday, President Donald Trump floated the idea of quarantining residents from New Jersey, New York and Connecticut to limit the spread of the disease.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called that a “war on states.” Gov. Phil Murphy said the Garden State is already doing more than most states to stop the spread.

Trump later relented and the Centers for Disease Control issued a travel advisory urging residents of the three states to not engage in domestic travel for 14 days.

— Pranshu Verma

1:05 PM - March 29, 2020
1:05 PM - March 29, 2020

Pa. positive cases approach 3,400, with at least 43 dead; Officials preparing for ‘potential surge’

An additional 643 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Pennsylvania as of midnight Sunday, state health officials said this afternoon, bringing the state’s total cases to 3,394.

The virus’s death toll in Pennsylvania rose to at least 43.

More than 316 people have required hospitalization because of the virus, and 110 required treatment in an intensive care unit. Sixty four people in the state have needed ventilators to breathe. Health secretary Rachel Levine said that 10.4 percent of tests for the virus have returned positive. More than 30,000 people have tested negative for COVID-19.

“Ten percent is what we expected,” she said. “And so if it was rising consistently more than 10 percent, that would be concerning.”

She said the state is continuing to monitor cases “to deal with a potential surge” in cases and hospitalizations, but could not say when one might occur, adding that the state is consulting “a number of different models” to predict when a surge might hit.

Levine noted that about 5 percent of the nursing homes across the state have had patients test positive for COVID-19. Elderly patients, who are often already medically fragile, are particularly vulnerable to the virus.

“We are working to prevent exposures to residents in nursing homes to COVID-19. Please, do not visit them. We are seeing community spread of this virus in most areas of Pennsylvania, and we need to make sure that our loved ones stay safe,” Levine said, adding that her mother lives in a personal care home, and that she herself is no longer able to visit her.

The state has confirmed 64 cases in 36 nursing homes across Pennsylvania, Levine said, adding that that total makes up less than 0.1 percent of the state’s nursing home population. Most of the nursing homes with cases are in Southeast Pennsylvania, Levine said, but did not provide further details on where the homes are located.

— Aubrey Whelan

12:26 PM - March 29, 2020
12:26 PM - March 29, 2020

Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration lays off 2,500 employees due to budget crisis

The Wolf administration has laid off about 2,500 part-time and seasonal employees and interns as the financial fallout from the coronavirus deepens, straining Pennsylvania’s cash flow, Spotlight PA has learned.

The affected workers, which include temporary clerical staff and employees who help out in departments across state government during busy periods, were placed on “leave without pay” Friday. There is currently no timeline to recall them back to work, according to Gov. Tom Wolf’s Office of Administration.

Some of the departments impacted include revenue and transportation, state officials said. It wasn’t immediately clear which other departments were affected, though several employ seasonal workers, including the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which oversees state park facilities, and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

Employees who work for the state health and labor departments, which are central to the coronavirus response, were not cut, state officials said.

“While we work to fund the increased need for essential state services, there has been, and will continue to be, a decline in revenue coming into the state,” the Office of Administration, to which the governor’s office referred questions, said in a statement. “The state is taking a measured approach to the COVID-19 outbreak and that includes managing our finances.”

Angela Couloumbis, Rebecca Moss

12:03 PM - March 29, 2020
12:03 PM - March 29, 2020

SEPTA suspends overnight service on Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines for coronavirus cleaning starting Monday

SEPTA will suspend overnight service on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines starting Monday so staff can have more time to clean vehicles and stations as the coronavirus crisis intensifies in Philadelphia.

Trains will be suspended from 1 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. daily to allow for cleaning. SEPTA has been running overnight service on both lines since last week, but ridership has been very low, officials said.

Crew may also use this window of time to do maintenance and track work.

— Pranshu Verma

11:33 AM - March 29, 2020
11:33 AM - March 29, 2020

New study predicts over 81,000 coronavirus deaths in United States; NIH Director Anthony Fauci says it could be 100,000 to 200,000

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the country, researchers at the University of Washington have estimated how many might die from the crisis.

In Pennsylvania, researchers predict over 3,000 may die by August due to complications from COVID-19. New Jersey was predicted to have over 4,100 deaths, while the national toll was predicted to reach 81,000.

Estimates are based on states implementing “strong social distancing orders.”

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health, predicted somewhere between 100,000 to 200,000 could die in the United States because of the coronavirus, with “millions of cases” expected.

He also emphasized it may be too early to start making projections, given the impacts of the virus are “such a moving target.”

— Pranshu Verma

11:10 AM - March 29, 2020
11:10 AM - March 29, 2020

700 New Jersey police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus

New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick J. Callahan said there are more than 700 police officers quarantined at home “and the same amount who have tested positive from all 21 counties."

”We track every single police officer who is positive and who is quarantined at home," Callahan said at Gov. Murphy’s briefing on Saturday. He said the state Attorney General has granted waivers so that police departments can get the addresses of COVID-19 positive cases if they are dispatched to those homes.

“At least [that] gives the responding officer a heads up in order to make sure they properly don masks as well as gloves,” Callahan said.

Murphy said two officers “were in tough shape” but “God willing, sounded like they were improving.” He said two sites were dedicated to those on the front lines, who he defined as “health-care workers ... first responders, and not very far behind essential retail workers.”

“Getting them tested and and protected are our highest priorities,” he said.

Departments who have reported positive cases among their ranks include Newark, Jersey City, N.J. Transit, the Port Authority, Fanwood, Hazlet and the State Police, according to N.J.com.

— Amy S. Rosenberg

10:30 AM - March 29, 2020
10:30 AM - March 29, 2020

Gov. Wolf requests Trump declare Pa. a ‘major disaster area’ due to coronavirus

Gov. Tom Wolf has asked President Donald Trump to declare Pennsylvania a “major disaster area” to unlock federal assistance that would aid in the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has taxed our commonwealth and our communities in ways that are almost incomprehensible,” Wolf said. “I am calling on the President and the federal government to make available to us the assistance that will make a tangible difference in the lives of our friends and neighbors, and the dedicated public servants who are working in overdrive to support them.”

Getting the declaration would allow state officials to get additional assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Fifteen other states — including New Jersey, New York and Washington — have received the designation.

— Pranshu Verma

10:00 AM - March 29, 2020
10:00 AM - March 29, 2020

New York City mayor says he only has one week left of supplies and ventilators

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned he only has one week of medical supplies and ventilators left to deal with the onslaught of coronavirus cases that has ravaged the city.

“It feels like a wartime environment,” de Blasio said on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper. He added that frontline health workers are “literally trying to figure out what’s going to happen just days from now.”

A nurse stands outside the emergency entrance to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx Saturday as she demonstrates with members of the New York Nursing Association in support of obtaining an adequate supply of personal protective equipment for nurses coming in contact with coronavirus patients. A member of the New York nursing community died earlier in the week at another New York hospital.
Kathy Willens / AP
A nurse stands outside the emergency entrance to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx Saturday as she demonstrates with members of the New York Nursing Association in support of obtaining an adequate supply of personal protective equipment for nurses coming in contact with coronavirus patients. A member of the New York nursing community died earlier in the week at another New York hospital.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit New York the hardest. The state leads the nation with over 50,000 positive cases and more than 700 deaths.

— Pranshu Verma

9:15 AM - March 29, 2020
9:15 AM - March 29, 2020

Tax deadline delayed due to coronavirus could cause ‘significant disruption’ for Pa. budget process

With the coronavirus outbreak leading to layoffs, business closures, and a record spike in unemployment claims, Pennsylvania has delayed the deadline for filing personal income tax returns, offering taxpayers much-needed relief.

But it also could create a cash crunch for the state and put lawmakers in the difficult position of trying to pass a budget without knowing how badly tax revenues have been affected by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.

The delayed filing deadline — which the Department of Revenue moved from April 15 to July 15 to correspond with federal changes by the IRS — will cause “significant disruption to the budget process,” Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) said.

The state typically collects a large chunk of income tax revenue in March and April as people file right before the deadline, Corman said. With the delay, actual and projected revenues will be “very difficult to know” by the June 30 deadline for passing the budget.

“That will be a challenge for all of us like we’ve probably never seen before,” Corman said, adding that lawmakers might need to pass a short-term budget because of the uncertainty.

Charlotte Keith

8:45 AM - March 29, 2020
8:45 AM - March 29, 2020

Coronavirus inspiring Philly DIY art projects

In the last few weeks, his world narrowed to the distance between his home and the nearest grocery store, Mark Strandquist observed uneasily the creeping desolation settling over his neighborhood.

“What you’re seeing is empty businesses, empty schools, empty playgrounds. What is the emotional toll that takes?” Strandquist said. But as artists, he and his friends also couldn’t help noticing that all those plywood boards looked a lot like blank canvases. It gave them an idea, he said: “How can we replace some of that emptiness with images of hope, resilience, anger, and also dreams of a future that is hopefully not far off?"

A new mural painted by Dora Cuenca, promotes hand washing and good health practices during the coronavirus at a hand-washing station outside Broad Street Ministries in Philadelphia, last week. To help encourage hand washing and protect the vulnerable, Broad Street Ministries partnered with Mural Arts Philadelphia, StreetsDept.com, and HAHA MAG to install portable hand-washing stations and informational murals in four different locations across the city in a collaborative sanitation project. The other locations are: 839 South St., 2774 Kensington Ave., and the 1700 block of Vine Street.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
A new mural painted by Dora Cuenca, promotes hand washing and good health practices during the coronavirus at a hand-washing station outside Broad Street Ministries in Philadelphia, last week. To help encourage hand washing and protect the vulnerable, Broad Street Ministries partnered with Mural Arts Philadelphia, StreetsDept.com, and HAHA MAG to install portable hand-washing stations and informational murals in four different locations across the city in a collaborative sanitation project. The other locations are: 839 South St., 2774 Kensington Ave., and the 1700 block of Vine Street.

That impulse was the spark for one of a growing number of DIY public art projects that have sprouted from the gloom of Philadelphia’s pandemic response — turning boarded-up storefronts and silent sidewalks into one big, plein-air exhibition bearing messages of solidarity and comfort.

The rush of creative energy is coming from all angles: professional artists, shut out of museums and galleries, and families, stranded and stir-crazy at home.

— Samantha Melamed

7:15 AM - March 29, 2020
7:15 AM - March 29, 2020

CDC advises residents of New York, New Jersey, and Conn. not to travel for two weeks

Federal health officials on Saturday urged the residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to refrain from “non-essential” domestic travel for 14 days, citing the high concentration of COVID-19 cases in those states.

The nonbinding travel advisory was issued late Saturday night by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hours after President Donald Trump indicated he might enforce a quarantine in the New York City area.

Trump abandoned that idea — which had been attacked by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — and endorsed the travel advisory, which the CDC said does not apply to employees of “critical infrastructure” industries such as public health, trucking, and food supply.

“The Governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will have full discretion to implement this Domestic Travel Advisory,” the advisory said.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he had spoken Saturday with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who briefed him on the advisory. Murphy, a Democrat, said the guidance “does not change the rules that have been established and in place for over a week” under his executive order imposing a statewide business shutdown and banning public gatherings.

“If you have been working as part of our frontline response effort, from health care workers to supermarket workers, we still need you on the job,” Murphy said in a statement.

Andrew Seidman

7:10 AM - March 29, 2020
7:10 AM - March 29, 2020

Coronavirus U.S. death toll passes 2,000

Confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in the United States surpassed 2,000 Saturday, according to the Washington Post and CNN.

Johns Hopkins University reported that confirmed deaths rose to more than 30,000 around the world. The U.S. ranked sixth in deaths, after Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France. Italy alone had more than 10,000 dead.

The U.S. death toll has risen abruptly in recent days, up from just over 1,000 on Thursday.

Rhode Island announced its first two deaths from the coronavirus, leaving just three states with zero reported deaths: Hawaii, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The risk of death from COVID-19 is greater for older adults and people with underlying health problems. In most cases, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough and milder cases of pneumonia.

Associated Press, Washington Post

5:00 AM - March 29, 2020
5:00 AM - March 29, 2020

Philadelphia region braces for coronavirus tsunami

A sobered and mostly shutdown Philadelphia region labored on Saturday to quickly transform a basketball arena, hotel, and other venues into medical sites ahead of a feared wave of coronavirus sickness and death.

New cases and fatalities were reported around Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, Delaware, Bucks, and Montgomery Counties, while the number of infections topped 11,000 in New Jersey and an additional 32 people died as Gov. Phil Murphy pleaded with residents to stay home.

“No one is getting graded on a curve for social distancing,” Murphy said. “This is a pass-fail test. This is life and death.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer front page on Sunday, March 29
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer front page on Sunday, March 29

Jeff Gammage, Maddie Hanna, Laura McCrystal