8:20 AM - April 1, 2020
8:20 AM - April 1, 2020

Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus coverage here

What’s it like to be in prison during the coronavirus? Soap becomes a commodity that is literally fought over. And, SEPTA makes some big changes to their services to mitigate spread of coronavirus. And a Pa. congressman said the U.S. coronavirus trajectory is more like South Korea than Italy. But is that true?

1:44 AM - April 1, 2020
1:44 AM - April 1, 2020

With language, internet challenges slowing access to relief funds, Philly bodega owners struggle to stay open

At the Jesús Grocery Store on 22nd Street and Lehigh Avenue on Friday, five customers at a time visited the bodega.

Francisco Peralta, 45, owns the store and has been serving a predominantly African American community in North Philadelphia for the last four years. He said Friday’s brisk business was the first time he’d seen such activity in recent days.

“Either people got paid or the weather seems appealing [to go out], but if things continue as we’ve seen, I’ll have to close the store in two weeks,” he said of the previous dramatic drop in business.

“If we don’t have access to loans that guarantee our sustainability during this crisis, most bodegas will soon be out of business,” he said, wearing gloves and a mask as he stood behind the counter.

— Jesenia De Moya Correa

12:23 AM - April 1, 2020
12:23 AM - April 1, 2020

N.J. Gov. Murphy defends his statewide stay-at-home order; resists criticizing Pa.'s partial one

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy didn’t go so far as to criticize Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf or any of the other leaders of states that have not enacted statewide stay-at-home orders in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus as, for instance, New Jersey and New York have.

But during an interview on CNN Tuesday night Murphy defended his decision to impose a statewide order while acknowledging the inherent inconveniences and sacrifices.

“We’re putting our people through hell and back and by the way, we have to, this is a war,” Murphy told host Anderson Cooper. “We have to behave like it’s a war. There’s no time to panic but it is certainly no time for business as usual. The last thing we need is if we crack the back of this, and we will … for that to get undone.”

After Cooper again tried to elicit comment about states without border-to-border stay-at-home orders —such as Pennsylvania, where Wolf’s directive applies to 33 of the 67 counties — Murphy again defended his statewide directive rather than criticize others. Sort of.

“I don’t know how you can come to a different conclusion,” he said.

— Diane Mastrull

9:47 PM - March 31, 2020
9:47 PM - March 31, 2020

Camden and Bucks Counties each report three more coronavirus deaths

Camden and Bucks Counties on Tuesday each reported three new deaths resulting from the coronavirus — bringing the total in each county to six.

Camden County’s health department described the victims there as a Cherry Hill woman in her 90s, a Camden woman in her 50s, and a Winslow Township man in his 60s. The county also reported 41 new COVID-19 cases.

In Bucks County, the new victims were a man in his 90s and another in his 80s. The third victim was a woman in her 60s. Two were not known to have had the coronavirus until after they died.

Thirty-one more residents in Bucks County tested positive for COVID-19. Twenty-nine were hospitalized, with nine in critical condition.

At least 63 people have died in Pennsylvania because of the coronavirus.

Earlier in the day, New Jersey reported 69 new deaths for a total of 267 virus-related fatalities.

— Anthony R. Wood

8:45 PM - March 31, 2020
8:45 PM - March 31, 2020

SEPTA to start new coronavirus protections, including rear-door boarding and suspension of onboard fare payments

A Septa bus driver appears from her driver window wearing a face mask and holding a spray can of Lysol at a bus stop on Center City, Philadelphia, Pa.Tuesday, March 31, 2020.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
A Septa bus driver appears from her driver window wearing a face mask and holding a spray can of Lysol at a bus stop on Center City, Philadelphia, Pa.Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

A host of changes to SEPTA transit service, including rear-door boarding, suspension of onboard fare payment, and rider limits will begin Wednesday as the union representing thousands of SEPTA workers called for better protections against the spread of the coronavirus.

SEPTA riders will now be asked to board and exit all buses and trolleys using rear doors as a social distancing measure.

Riders with disabilities can still board using front doors.

— Patricia Madej

7:34 PM - March 31, 2020
7:34 PM - March 31, 2020
A woman wearing a surgical mask makes her way past a mural on the west side of the Save-A-Lot store at 22nd and Lehigh, where she was shopping, thats depicts many ranges of emotions on the subjects' faces Tuesday.. The city of Philadelphia is continuing to cope with the spread of the coronavirus as most people stay at home to avoid being exposed.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
A woman wearing a surgical mask makes her way past a mural on the west side of the Save-A-Lot store at 22nd and Lehigh, where she was shopping, thats depicts many ranges of emotions on the subjects' faces Tuesday.. The city of Philadelphia is continuing to cope with the spread of the coronavirus as most people stay at home to avoid being exposed.

— Michael Bryant

6:37 PM - March 31, 2020
6:37 PM - March 31, 2020

More than 100,000 Americans are expected to die from COVID-19, White House models project

Between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans are projected to die from the coronavirus, with millions more becoming infected, according to White House models presented Tuesday.

By April 15, the country is projected to have more than 2,200 deaths per day, the models predict, which are based on current intervention measures.

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 3,500 Americans had died from the virus and more than 170,000 had been infected.

“We are going to do everything we can to get it significantly below that,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is helping coordinate the coronavirus response. “But this is what we need to anticipate.”

President Donald Trump urged the country to follow social distancing guidelines, which were extended Sunday though April 30, saying it is a “matter of life or death.”

“It’s not the flu, it’s vicious,” Trump said, reversing some of his earlier statements this month.He said that the next two weeks will be “very painful” but then there will be “a burst of light.”

— Ellie Rushing

6:33 PM - March 31, 2020
6:33 PM - March 31, 2020

American Medical Association OKs healthcare workers bringing own face masks, respirators to jobs

The American Medical Association said Tuesday that it supported healthcare workers working during the coronavirus outbreak to bring and use their own face masks and respirators if they had them at home.

The association’s statement came the same day the Joint Commission, which provides accreditation to thousands of healthcare organizations in the U.S., issued their own similar statement. The commission called homemade masks “an extreme measure” and said they ought to be used when more adequate protection is not on hand.

— Katie Park

6:24 PM - March 31, 2020
6:24 PM - March 31, 2020
A backboard is pictured at Mander Playground in Philadelphia's Strawberry Mansion section on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, after the city removed hoops to enforce social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. The city directed residents to only leave home for essential activities and individual exercise, banning team sports such as basketball.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
A backboard is pictured at Mander Playground in Philadelphia's Strawberry Mansion section on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, after the city removed hoops to enforce social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. The city directed residents to only leave home for essential activities and individual exercise, banning team sports such as basketball.

— Tim Tai

6:20 PM - March 31, 2020
6:20 PM - March 31, 2020

Cape May shuts down beaches, promenade

The city of Cape May said Tuesday that it had shut down its beaches and the promenade as a precaution during the coronavirus outbreak.

The announcement came in line with an executive order from Gov. Phil Murphy, which required residents to stay at home except for necessities, and for nonessential businesses to close to the public.

People who violate the rules Cape May put in place could be arrested and charged with being disorderly, according to the city’s decree.

On Tuesday, Cape May County also closed its campgrounds until further notice and reported seven additional coronavirus cases, bringing the county’s total case number to 26.

— Katie Park, Oona Goodin-Smith

5:45 PM - March 31, 2020
5:45 PM - March 31, 2020

Philly cops can enforce ‘stay-at-home’ order with citations, $100 fines

A City of Philadelphia public service advertisement lights up the side of a bus stop shelter on the 1000 block of Market Street Mar. 30, 2020 for the "Stay at Home Order" as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
A City of Philadelphia public service advertisement lights up the side of a bus stop shelter on the 1000 block of Market Street Mar. 30, 2020 for the "Stay at Home Order" as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues.

Philadelphia police officers may issue citations and fines to people who violate Mayor Jim Kenney’s “stay at home” order, city Managing Director Brian Abernathy said Tuesday.

Previously, the city had hoped to convince residents to practice social distancing through its messaging campaign and by having officers break up outdoor gatherings through verbal instructions.

But after struggling to persuade enough residents in some neighborhoods, such as Kensington, to follow the order without direct enforcement, Managing Director Brian Abernathy said at a news conference Tuesday that officers may, at their discretion, issue citations for disorderly conduct or failure to disperse to people who violate the order.

Both infractions could carry fines of $100, Kenney spokesperson Mike Dunn said.

Under Kenney’s order, residents can only leave their homes for life-sustaining activities, such as buying food or seeking medical care. Outdoor exercise like walking and running is permitted, as long as residents practice social distancing by staying at least six feet apart from others. Team sports like basketball, however, are not permitted.

Limiting interpersonal interactions through social distancing is key to the public health strategy of slowing the spread of the disease so that the country’s healthcare system has enough resources to effectively care for those infected.

— Sean Collins Walsh

5:40 PM - March 31, 2020
5:40 PM - March 31, 2020

Montco officials call on Exelon to reassure public that 2,000 new station workers won’t thwart social distancing

Montgomery County chair Valerie Arkoosh called on the Exelon company Tuesday to reassure the public that the company’s recent decision to bring close to 2,000 temporary workers to the Limerick Generating Station would not jeopardize the county’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Arkoosh said local officials learned earlier this month that Exelon planned to bring 1,800 people from around the state and country to the nuclear power site to stay in local hotels and work on a refueling project at the site.

After speaking with executives about the company’s pandemic response site plan, Arkoosh said, “We concluded that the plan was not adequate…and asked Exelon to postpone this refuel.”

Exelon proceeded with the refueling, she said, and promised to commit to mitigation measures already underway in the county, including social distancing.

But on Tuesday, she said, the county department of public safety learned that employees might not be adhering to some of those guidelines.

“Exelon has a responsibility to speak to the public on this matter and answer the public’s questions about the overall safety of this operation,” she said, “And the steps that Exelon is taking to protect the employees in the plant, first responders, residents in our communities and the workers brought into the plant.”

Lacey Dean, director of nuclear communications for Exelon, said in a statement that Limerick had strict procedures in place to keep the public, employees and contractors safe, including the use of social distancing.

“As part of Limerick’s comprehensive COVID-19 safety precautions, all workers must pass a symptom screening and body temperature check prior to entry every shift,” she said. “We’re also requiring social distancing, remote work where possible, frequent hand washing, and increased facility cleaning and disinfection.”

She also said that the refueling operation was critical to ensuring that power will remain available to the region as the demand for electricity increases in the warmer months.“

Limerick‘s clean and reliable power is vital to the region’s hospitals and health-care facilities; federal, state and local response centers and over a million homes and essential businesses as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

— Allison Steele

5:24 PM - March 31, 2020
5:24 PM - March 31, 2020

When people defy social distancing directives during a pandemic, what are others to do?

A new sign sits outside Giuseppe’s Market at Samuels and Son Seafood in Philadelphia, PA on March 30, 2020. The sign asks people to be mindful of social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
A new sign sits outside Giuseppe’s Market at Samuels and Son Seafood in Philadelphia, PA on March 30, 2020. The sign asks people to be mindful of social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak.

Judging from the empty sidewalks and streets, Philadelphians are largely doing an admirable job complying with the coronavirus social distancing orders. But clearly not everyone — to the dismay of those eager to help stop the spread of the deadly virus.

The city actually wants those with complaints about violations of Mayor Jim Kenney’s stay-at-home order to call 311.

“All Philadelphia residents must remain home or at their place of residence unless they are engaged in essential personal activities that are spelled out in the order. We are optimistic that all residents will recognize the severity of the situation and will voluntarily stay home,” a city spokesperson said.

In Philadelphia, violators are not being charged, at least not yet.

In New Jersey, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has urged the public and business owners to comply with the governor’s emergency orders and warned that those who fail to do so will be held accountable. Twenty-four people have been arrested for violating the order prohibiting large gatherings, Grewal said. To report social distancing violations in New Jersey, members of the public can call local police departments or note them at covid19.nj.gov/violation.

— Mensah M. Dean, Ellie Rushing

5:07 PM - March 31, 2020
5:07 PM - March 31, 2020
A home in Haddonfield displays a "positive" yard sign March 31, 2020 as New Jersey Gov. Murphy announced Tuesday that 2,196 new residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 18,696.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
A home in Haddonfield displays a "positive" yard sign March 31, 2020 as New Jersey Gov. Murphy announced Tuesday that 2,196 new residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 18,696.

— Tom Gralish

5:00 PM - March 31, 2020
5:00 PM - March 31, 2020

Philly Juvenile Justice Services Center employee tests positive for coronavirus amid growing call to release children

An employee at the Juvenile Justice Services Center in West Philadelphia has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, a union official said Tuesday.

The employee is a counselor supervisor, according to Cathy Scott, president of the city’s union for white-collar workers, District Council 47 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The diagnosis marks the second known coronavirus case among Scott’s members, following a social worker with the Department of Human Services who was hospitalized last week.

City officials had previously said they did not intend to preemptively release juveniles who were in detention due to the coronavirus.

Mayor Jim Kenney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Calls to release children from detention have been growing following the discovery of coronavirus cases among staff or residents in facilities in Louisiana, Minnesota, Texas, Connecticut, and New York.

Philadelphia’s juvenile detention center opened at 48th Street and Haverford Avenue in 2012, replacing the long-troubled Youth Services Center.

— Sean Collins Walsh

4:55 PM - March 31, 2020
4:55 PM - March 31, 2020

Why the gig workers delivering your groceries and beer don’t have any labor rights

A masked food delivery bicycle rider makers his way in the rain, going south on 10th Street in a deserted Center City on Monday, March 23, 2020, the first day of the stay at home policy mandated by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney as an answer to the growing spread of the coronavirus.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
A masked food delivery bicycle rider makers his way in the rain, going south on 10th Street in a deserted Center City on Monday, March 23, 2020, the first day of the stay at home policy mandated by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney as an answer to the growing spread of the coronavirus.

As efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus force Philadelphians into isolation, consumers are increasingly relying on gig workers to deliver groceries, takeout, and beer.

Instacart had the busiest few weeks of the grocery delivery app’s history, CEO Apoorva Mehta said, announcing it would more than double its workforce by adding 300,000 more workers. Philadelphia’s homegrown “unicorn” delivery app, GoPuff, launched an effort to deliver essential items to health-care workers.

But even as their work is deemed “essential” in the face of government-mandated business closures, the delivery workers who power these apps are in a precarious position. There is no law that requires companies such as Instacart or GoPuff to keep their workers safe on the job. And if they get sick or hurt on the job, they do not qualify for sick pay or worker’s compensation.

— Juliana Feliciano Reyes

4:19 PM - March 31, 2020
4:19 PM - March 31, 2020

Roots Picnic postponed to August

Questlove performs with The Roots during the annual Roots Picnic at the Mann Center in Philadelphia's West Fairmount Park on Saturday, June 1, 2019. This is the event's first time at the Mann Center.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Questlove performs with The Roots during the annual Roots Picnic at the Mann Center in Philadelphia's West Fairmount Park on Saturday, June 1, 2019. This is the event's first time at the Mann Center.

The Roots Picnic, the annual music fest held and hosted by Philadelphia hip-hop band The Roots, is postponed from May 30 to Aug. 1.

The event website said all tickets already purchased would still be valid. The 13th annual festival, organized by the band of Tonight Show fame, is to be held this year at the Mann Center at Fairmount Park.

— Katie Park

4:10 PM - March 31, 2020
4:10 PM - March 31, 2020

Wissahickon Valley Park bridges reopen to mitigate visitor crowds

Four bridges in Wissahickon Valley Park will reopen, providing more bike and pedestrian access within the park and potentially mitigating the crowds eager for fresh air amid the coronavirus pandemic, Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation announced Tuesday.

The bridges, located along the Wissahickon Bike Trail between Forbidden Drive and Hermit Trail, and parallel to Lincoln Drive, had been closed since late February after a car accident damaged one of the bridges.

The bridges had always planned to be reopened, a spokesperson for the department said, but “their reopening now does allow for greater social distancing as more residents use our parks for physical activity and fresh air while we practice social distancing and the stay at home order is in effect.”

“Later in 2020, the four bridges will be closed to undergo substantial rehabilitation, which will include reinforcing and re-decking the structure of the bridges,” as an “investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure,” the spokesperson said.

— Ellie Rushing

4:07 PM - March 31, 2020
4:07 PM - March 31, 2020

Montgomery County inmate isolated after showing coronavirus symptoms

A 75-year-old man and a 66 year-old man, both from Horsham Township, are the seventh and eighth Montgomery County residents to die from the virus, Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County board of commissioners, said on Tuesday. She also announced 58 new COVID-19 cases in the county, making a total of 564.

Arkoosh also said an inmate at the county jail is being isolated after showing symptoms. Yesterday, she confirmed that three correctional officers had tested positive for the coronavirus.

— Allison Steele

3:59 PM - March 31, 2020
3:59 PM - March 31, 2020

Coronavirus debate: Could blood pressure meds make COVID-19 less — or more — deadly?

Mary E. Whelan, MSN, RN, CEN, Director, Emergency Services, in the entrance to the new emergency response tent during a media tour of the facility at Doylestown hospital, the emergency response tent will centralize diagnosis and initial treatment for those with respiratory symptoms suggesting COVID-19, in Doylestown, PA, March 30, 2020.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Mary E. Whelan, MSN, RN, CEN, Director, Emergency Services, in the entrance to the new emergency response tent during a media tour of the facility at Doylestown hospital, the emergency response tent will centralize diagnosis and initial treatment for those with respiratory symptoms suggesting COVID-19, in Doylestown, PA, March 30, 2020.

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, medical experts are debating whether blood pressure-lowering drugs that are taken by many millions of people worldwide might make COVID-19 more deadly — or less so.

Several professional medical organizations have said no evidence exists to justify changing guidelines for prescribing the drugs, called angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEI) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB). The medications are mainstays of treating hypertension, heart disease, heart failure, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease.

Now, two separate reviews of existing studies — one published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the other in Mayo Clinic Proceedings — speculate that the drugs may be helpful for coronavirus patients.

— Marie McCullough

2:55 PM - March 31, 2020
2:55 PM - March 31, 2020

Despite virus concerns, some Catholics still receiving Communion on the tongue at Philly’s cathedral

Social distancing guidelines are being adopted across much of the globe, but some religious organizations are drawing criticism for their reluctance to do their part to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

That includes the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

While the archdiocese two weeks ago suspended public Masses indefinitely at its more than 250 parishes, dozens of people lined up to receive Holy Communion in person during Sunday’s live-streamed service at Philadelphia’s cathedral.

They waited side-by-side in the tight line for a priest to place the communion wafer in their hands — or directly on their tongue. Public health advocates — and even some clergy — reacted with alarm.

“What I see is a bunch of vulnerable people potentially getting exposed,” said Aimee Palumbo, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Temple University.

The Rev. Dennis Gill, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Divine Worship, defended the practice of priests placing wafers directly on churchgoers’ tongues: “That’s the traditional way of receiving Holy Communion. And people have a right to accept Holy Communion in whatever method they choose.”

But the archdiocese may already be rethinking its policies regarding the Cathedral Masses.

“The whole idea is to prevent the gathering of people — that’s what we’re trying to avoid,” Gill said. “And if that’s still happening, we may need to reevaluate the policy.”

— William Bender, Jeremy Roebuck

2:50 PM - March 31, 2020
2:50 PM - March 31, 2020

Pennsylvania schools will be able to apply for grants for laptops, educational materials

Pennsylvania school districts will be able to apply for grants next week to help buy laptops or instructional materials for use during the coronavirus closures.

Priority will be given to schools with the “highest percentages of students lacking access to resources,” according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which announced the $5 million in state-funded grants Tuesday. It said federal money would also be used for the grants when it becomes available.

Grant applications will be available April 6 and must be submitted by school districts by April 10. The department is making two online learning platforms — Odysseyware and Edgenuity — available to districts, which they can subscribe to at no cost. It also says it has partnered with public television stations to provide educational programming.

Pennsylvania schools are closed indefinitely under orders extended by Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday.

— Maddie Hanna

2:42 PM - March 31, 2020
2:42 PM - March 31, 2020

Walmart to begin checking employee temperatures, offering masks and gloves

Ruth Cole, director of clinical services in the Montgomery County Office of Public Health, takes the temperature of KYW Newsradio reporter Jim Melwert before he enters a news conference about the coronavirus at the county's emergency operations center in Eagleville, Pa., on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Ruth Cole, director of clinical services in the Montgomery County Office of Public Health, takes the temperature of KYW Newsradio reporter Jim Melwert before he enters a news conference about the coronavirus at the county's emergency operations center in Eagleville, Pa., on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.

Walmart will institute temperature checks of all its store and warehouse employees and offer personal protective equipment in an attempt to protect workers and customers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Employees at all Walmart stores and warehouses will have their temperature checked at the beginning of their shift. If an employee has a temperature at or above 100 degrees, they will be sent home and asked not to return to work until they are fever-free least three days. Walmart said impacted employees will still be paid.

The company said it could take three weeks before all locations have infrared thermometers.

Walmart also said it would provide masks and gloves for all employees who want to wear them. The company said the masks will arrive in one to two weeks.

“They will be high-quality masks, but not N95 respirators – which should be reserved for at-risk healthcare workers,” the company said in a statement.

Walmart employs 2.2 million associates around the world, including about 1.5 million in the United States, according to the company’s website

— Rob Tornoe

2:37 PM - March 31, 2020
2:37 PM - March 31, 2020

Reading Terminal Market sees a surge in delivery orders as Philadelphia stays at home

Bags for home delivery sit waiting to be picked up by a delivery person at the Reading Terminal Market on March 31, 2020. Customers can order online for home delivery.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Bags for home delivery sit waiting to be picked up by a delivery person at the Reading Terminal Market on March 31, 2020. Customers can order online for home delivery.
At the Reading Terminal Market on March 31, 2020, Kayla Minkler, right, who normally works at Beck’s Cajun Cafe, packs up an order of food from the market for home delivery.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
At the Reading Terminal Market on March 31, 2020, Kayla Minkler, right, who normally works at Beck’s Cajun Cafe, packs up an order of food from the market for home delivery.

— Michael Bryant

2:19 PM - March 31, 2020
2:19 PM - March 31, 2020

Predicting Pennsylvania’s coronavirus peak is ‘not simple,’ officials say

While Pennsylvania residents may want specifics on when the coronavirus will peak and how bad it will get, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Tuesday that sort of forecasting is “not simple.”

“Modeling is very complex,” Levine said, adding that the state has been working with the University of Pittsburgh on state-specific projections. She compared modeling to weather forecasts, where the outcomes can change wildly based on factors like wind or temperature changes.

For example, Levine said there’s emerging information that the percentage of people who need hospitalization in the U.S is lower than in China. She added that a model must factor in Pennsylvania’s mitigation efforts, like a stay-at-home order that now applies to 33 of the state’s 67 counties. But if people do not stay home, Levine said “we will see the worst-case scenarios in all these models,” including the overwhelming of hospitals.

So far, 514 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been hospitalized. Of those, 159 have required treatment in an ICU and 94 have required a ventilator. Pennsylvania has 4,843 confirmed positive cases as of Tuesday, Levine said.

When asked how well Pennsylvania residents have complied with the stay-at-home order, Levine said the state has talked to county and law enforcement officials and believe compliance overall has been good.

“This is what we do know: if we do not all stay home and stay safe, then we will see the worst-case scenarios,” Levine said. “We are in a global pandemic ... This is an emergency,” Levine said. “Under these circumstances, please stay at home.”

— Sarah Anne Hughes, Justine McDaniel

2:06 PM - March 31, 2020
2:06 PM - March 31, 2020

New Jersey reports deadliest day yet in coronavirus pandemic

New Jersey saw its deadliest day yet for the coronavirus, with 69 more people dying due to the disease, bringing the statewide total to 267, Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday.

Murphy, after announcing the numbers, reaffirmed residents must follow social distancing orders, in order to tame the spread of the disease which continues to ravage the Garden State. He also said another 2,196 people have tested positive, bringing the statewide total to 18,696.

“I cannot be any clearer in my call,” Murphy said, “stay at home, before this hits home.”

Murphy noted he spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as plans for a second coronavirus bailout take shape. In this round, he is specifically urging congressional leadership to revoke President Donald Trump’s provision that limits New Jersey homeowners from deducting property taxes.

Murphy said another shipment of 260,000 pieces of personal protective equipment has arrived to New Jersey. He also said the state now has a total of 280,000 N95 masks on hand, nearly 400,000 surgical masks, 150,000 gloves and over 74,000 face shields. He indicated New Jersey still needs more.

“We appreciate every single piece of PPE we are receiving,” Murphy said, “but we need a lot more. And I continue to push our case with the White House, with FEMA, with everyone I speak to.”

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli noted at least 81 of the state’s 375 long-term care facilities now have a positive coronavirus patient under their care. In order to limit the spread amongst the state’s most vulnerable population, she is ordering all individuals entering nursing homes and long term care facilities to wear masks, and for seniors to be masked when receiving care from staff.

Persichilli noted that 47% of the state’s residents who have died are over 80. At least 42% of the people who died had an underlying health condition. Murphy also noted every municipal and private water company has agreed to suspend shut-offs during the pandemic, ensuring no New Jerseysan will go without water during this time.

The Commissioner of Environmental Protection Catherine McCabe also reminded residents New Jersey parks remain open for passive leisure activities like walking, hiking and bike riding. Park entry fees are waived during the crisis, but bathrooms will remain closed.

— Pranshu Verma

1:14 PM - March 31, 2020
1:14 PM - March 31, 2020

Philadelphia reports 5 more coronavirus deaths: ‘Every person in the city is at risk’

Philadelphia officials announced five additional deaths from the coronavirus Tuesday, increasing the city’s total deaths to date to 14.

The city also announced 242 new confirmed cases of the virus, increasing the city’s total cases to 1,315.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said there have been an increasing number of cases in African-Americans in Philadelphia, which he said shows that the virus is affecting everyone in the city.

“Every racial group, every person in the city is at risk," Farley said.

Seven of the city’s deaths to date have been residents of nursing homes, Farley said.

Farley also provided an age breakdown for 12 of the city’s 14 deaths from the coronavirus: one person was in their 40s; one in their 50s; six in their 70s; three in their 80s; and one over age 90.

It has been two weeks since Philadelphia ordered businesses to close and began social distancing guidelines. But Farley said that is still too soon to judge whether those measures are working.

Farley said the city’s map showing how many confirmed cases exist in each zip code is also inconclusive at this point.

“We don’t have enough tests in each zip code to say with confidence that those maps really tell us where the virus is and isn’t," he said.

— Laura McCrystal

1:12 PM - March 31, 2020
1:12 PM - March 31, 2020

How much diabetes, smoking, and other risk factors worsen your coronavirus odds

Medical staff at the coronavirus testing site at Doylestown hospital, in Doylestown, PA, March 30, 2020.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Medical staff at the coronavirus testing site at Doylestown hospital, in Doylestown, PA, March 30, 2020.

Doctors have been warning for months that “underlying conditions” raise your risk of getting hit hard with the coronavirus, based on the experience of other countries. But which conditions, and how much difference does each one make?

The first comprehensive U.S. numbers were published Tuesday afternoon, illustrating just how much worse the consequences of an infection can be for those with heart, lung, and kidney problems.

Hospitalizations status was listed for 7,162 infected patients for whom medical history was available:

  • Among 784 patients with diabetes, half were hospitalized, including 148 (18.8%) in intensive care.
  • Among 656 patients with chronic lung disease, one-third were hospitalized, including 94 (14.3%) in intensive care.
  • For 213 infected people with kidney disease, two-thirds were hospitalized, including 56 (26.2%) in intensive care.

— Tom Avril

12:52 PM - March 31, 2020
12:52 PM - March 31, 2020

U.S. coronavirus death count surpasses China

The number of coronavirus deaths in the United States surpassed China on Tuesday, a grim marker as COVID-19 continues to spread quickly throughout the country.

As of Tuesday morning, at least 3,415 Americans have died after contracting coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, while 3,309 have died in China, where the outbreak began in Hubei province.

Since last week, the U.S. already had the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world. As of Tuesday, over 175,000 Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, and White House experts expect millions could end up contracting the virus over the next few months.

— Rob Tornoe

12:13 PM - March 31, 2020
12:13 PM - March 31, 2020

To avert ‘enormous’ deficit, Philadelphia Orchestra musicians take 20% pay cut as special fundraising begins

The house lights are still on in Verizon Hall with empty seats as the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra warm up minutes before their concert at the Kimmel Center Mar. 12, 2020. The Orchestra cancelled all rehearsals, performances, and events through March 23 to limit community transmission of the coronavirus. The program, which included Beethoven’s Symphonies No. 5 and 6, was shown in a live webcast and is scheduled to be broadcast on public radio and television at some later date.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
The house lights are still on in Verizon Hall with empty seats as the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra warm up minutes before their concert at the Kimmel Center Mar. 12, 2020. The Orchestra cancelled all rehearsals, performances, and events through March 23 to limit community transmission of the coronavirus. The program, which included Beethoven’s Symphonies No. 5 and 6, was shown in a live webcast and is scheduled to be broadcast on public radio and television at some later date.

Faced with an abrupt and unprecedented loss of ticket revenue, musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra are taking a pay cut. Players voted last week to approve an across-the-board 20% reduction in compensation starting April 1 and lasting through the middle of September.

Pay cuts have also been instituted for orchestra staff on a sliding scale up to 20% depending on salary level, and music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin will give up 20% of his paycheck, said orchestra president and CEO Matías Tarnopolsky.

Tarnopolsky himself took a voluntary 25% cut in pay effective March 13, the day after the orchestra streamed and broadcasted Beethoven from a Verizon Hall bereft of live listeners at the onset of the coronavirus physical-distancing era.

Ticket sales account for between 35% and 40% of the orchestra’s income, depending on the year. All concerts through May 10 have been canceled, and the rest of the season is in doubt. With its Beethoven symphony cycle scrapped and major events like mid-May performances of Elektra seeming unlikely, the orchestra sees lost ticket income amounting to $5 million by Aug. 31.

— Peter Dobrin

11:55 AM - March 31, 2020
11:55 AM - March 31, 2020

Secretary of State Pompeo tells Americans abroad to return immediately or risk being stuck where they are

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Americans who are currently abroad to return home “immediately,” or risk being forced to stay in their current locations.

“We do not know how long the continued commercial flights in some countries will operate,” Pompeo warned during a Tuesday briefing. “We can’t guarantee the U.S. government’s ability to arrange charter flights indefinitely where commercial options no longer exist."

Pompeo said the State Department plans to bring home thousands more Americans “in the coming days and weeks,” and urged citizens abroad who wish to come home to register with their nearest embassy at Step.State.Gov.

— Rob Tornoe

11:40 AM - March 31, 2020
11:40 AM - March 31, 2020

Philadelphia Chinese community to donate 25,000 masks to protect doctors, nurses dealing with coronavirus pandemic

Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps volunteer and nurse Marina Spitkovskaya puts on a mask before the city's coronavirus testing site opened next to Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia on Friday, March 20, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps volunteer and nurse Marina Spitkovskaya puts on a mask before the city's coronavirus testing site opened next to Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia on Friday, March 20, 2020.

Philadelphia’s Chinese community is donating 25,000 protective masks to help doctors and nurses at three local hospitals, officials announced on Tuesday.

The Philadelphia Chinese Community Organizations United (PCCOU), led by Board Secretary Waiman Ip, raised money from Chinatown and area groups and business-owners to buy the gear, which will go to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Temple University Hospital, and Penn Hospital.

Chinatown businesses were among the first to be hit by the economic repercussions of the pandemic.

“Our Chinatown community is doing our best to help our hospitals, because COVID-19 is affecting all of us,” Ip said. “We need to respect each other and work together to overcome this crisis.”

PCCOU is the umbrella organization for more than 40 Chinese associations in the Philadelphia metro region.

— Jeff Gammage

11:35 AM - March 31, 2020
11:35 AM - March 31, 2020

Federal judge orders release of 13 immigrant detainees in Pa. due to coronavirus concerns

Immigration Detention Center at the York County Prison.
Jose F. Moreno / File Photograph
Immigration Detention Center at the York County Prison.

A federal judge in Harrisburg ordered the immediate release Tuesday of 13 immigrants from detention centers across Pennsylvania, saying authorities have not taken adequate measures to protect them from the threat of a coronavirus outbreak behind bars.

The group, from countries across the globe, are all being all held in county jails that contract with ICE and face deportation proceedings or pending asylum claims. They appear to be the largest group of immigrants detainees in the nation subject to a court-ordered release since the pandemic’s start.

Each has underlying medical conditions that lawyers with the ACLU of Pennsylvania said make them more at-risk should an outbreak erupt behind bars.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ordered their release on personal recognizance bonds from facilities in York, Clinton and Pike Counties before the end of the day Tuesday. "It would be heartless and inhumane not to recognize [the] petitioner’s plight,” the judge wrote. “Should we fail to [order their release] … we will be party to an unconscionable and possibly barbaric result.”

Jones’ order comes amid increasing alarm from public health advocates, public defenders and even some prosecutors who warn that the close quarters of jails, prisons and detention centers make proper hygiene and social distancing impossible. It follows a similar decision Thursday from a judge in Manhattan who released 10 immigrants facing deportation proceedings there.

— Jeremy Roebuck

11:20 AM - March 31, 2020
11:20 AM - March 31, 2020

Amazon employees walk off job at a N.J. center after worker there tested positive for the coronavirus

At least one worker at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Robbinsville, N.J., has tested positive for COVID-19, the company said, confirming in part a report that caused several workers to stage a walkout there on Monday.

Employees at the site were initially notified about two confirmed cases at the facility, according to a text message sent Monday by the company and shared with The Inquirer on Tuesday. According to the message, the affected employees were last on site March 23 and 28, respectively.

However, a company spokesperson said that, as of Tuesday morning, said she could only confirm one case.

The walkouts were reported by multiple news organizations and on social media. An Amazon spokesperson said any associate who came in close contact with the individual was alerted and asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Workers in at least three Amazon facilities in New Jersey — Robbinsville, Edison, and Teterboro — have tested positive for COVID-19. Nationally, at least 12 facilities have been impacted by positive coronavirus cases.

According to its website, Amazon workers diagnosed with COVID-19, or asked to self-quarantine, receive two weeks of pay. All employees can take unlimited unpaid leave through the end of April.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has called on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate the firing of Chris Smalls, an assistant manager at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse, who claims he was terminated for leading a walk-out at the facility on Monday. Amazon claims Smalls was fired for "violating social distancing guidelines” when he refused to self-quarantine after coming into close contact with a co-worker who had contracted COVID-19.

— Rob Tornoe

11:10 AM - March 31, 2020
11:10 AM - March 31, 2020

There’s no school but there will be a spring break for Philly schools

Students run outside during dismissal at Masterman Public School in Philadelphia on Friday, March 13, 2020. Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Friday that all Pennsylvania schools will close for two weeks amid the outbreak of the coronavirus.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Students run outside during dismissal at Masterman Public School in Philadelphia on Friday, March 13, 2020. Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Friday that all Pennsylvania schools will close for two weeks amid the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Though in-person Philadelphia schools’ classes are canceled indefinitely, in line with Gov. Tom Wolf’s Monday order that all Pennsylvania schools will remain closed for the foreseeable future, city students and school district employees will have spring break next week as planned.

In a letter to parents sent Tuesday, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. reaffirmed Wolf’s order by announcing the indefinite closure of its schools until further notice.

Hite said the district will be observing its long-planned spring break from April 6 through 10.

“I understand that this will not look or feel like a traditional spring break, but we do want to recognize that our educators need time with their families and away from work, just as they do during the traditional school year,” Hite wrote.

Principals will reach out to families about distribution of loaner Chromebooks for those students who need them, Hite said. The superintendent has said he expects instruction to begin the following week, by April 17.

Teachers are expected to begin virtual instruction the week after spring break. Principals in the meantime have been asking for volunteers to help sort and sanitize Chromebooks.

— Kristen Graham

10:55 AM - March 31, 2020
10:55 AM - March 31, 2020

14 Philly firefighters test positive for the coronavirus

Fourteen Philadelphia firefighters have tested positive for the coronavirus, said Mike Bresnan, president of Local 22 IAFF, the firefighter’s union.

None of the firefighters have been hospitalized, and all are self-quarantining at home, Bresnan said.

Another 80 firefighters who are awaiting test results are also self-quarantining, he said.

Bresnan urged Philly residents to continue following the guidelines of the city’s stay-at-home orders so his “medics and firefighters can continue our mission of serving those who they swore to protect.”

The city has 2,800 firefighters and medics.

Any firefighter who tests positive cannot return to work until a minimum of 14 days after taking the test, according to department guidelines. They must also be symptom free for three days.

All city firefighters and medics must wear full personal protective equipment — masks, gloves, goggles, and gowns — for any calls involving respiratory distress, according to department guidelines issued to stop the spread of the virus.

— Mike Newall

10:30 AM - March 31, 2020
10:30 AM - March 31, 2020

Urban Outfitters announces furloughs, other measures to get through the coronavirus shutdown

Urban Outfitters Headquarters at the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia.
TYGER WILLIAMS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Urban Outfitters Headquarters at the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia.

Urban Outfitters will be furloughing many of its employees, borrowing $220 million, and temporarily suspending rent payments at its stores in response to the coronavirus shutdown, the company announced Tuesday.

“This is the first time in our 50-year history we have furloughed employees,” CEO Richard A. Hayne said in a statement. “It’s a painful decision that we do reluctantly.”

As recently as Thursday, some employees were still working at the company’s Navy Yard campus and at warehouses in Bristol Township and Gap, Pa., despite complaints that their work was not “life sustaining” and therefore went against Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order. At least one employee at the headquarters has tested positive for the virus.

Tuesday’s announcement did not specifically address how many people would still be asked to do in-person work, and a spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

Along with the 60-day furloughs of “store, wholesale, and home office employees” beginning Wednesday, the company said it also plans to suspend hiring, eliminate bonuses, delay merit raises, and reduce compensation of senior leadership.

Urban Outfitters Inc. includes brands such as Anthropologie, Free People, BHLDN, and Terrain. It made nearly $4 billion in sales in the fiscal year that ended on Jan. 31.

— Erin McCarthy

9:40 AM - March 31, 2020
9:40 AM - March 31, 2020

Stocks open down slightly

Stocks opened down slightly on Tuesday as concerns over the spread of coronavirus amd its economic impact linger.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened down about 155 points, about 0.7%. Both the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 opened down slightly, less than 1%.

Despite recent gains, the Dow is down 12% in March, and remains on track to post its worst month since October 2008. It’s also off 21.8% this quarter, on track for its worst first quarter in the market’s 137-year history.

— Rob Tornoe

9:10 AM - March 31, 2020
9:10 AM - March 31, 2020

Photo Gallery: How the Philly region is coping with the spread of coronavirus

As the coronavirus continues to spread in and around Philadelphia, communities across the region continue to cope.

Philadelphia has partnered with nonprofits to bring free food to neighborhoods across the city. Organizations in Camden are also organizing free lunch and dinner pickups.

As hospitals prepare for a potential influx of patients in need of care, emergency response centers, or makeshift hospital sites, have been setup to help assess and treat patients, including Temple University’s Liacouras Center. Testing sites have also been erected, including on the grounds of the former Riverfront Prison site on Camden’s waterfront.

See images of how the coronavirus is impacting the region below, and follow our reporting for the latest information on the pandemic.

— Rachel Molenda

8:55 AM - March 31, 2020
8:55 AM - March 31, 2020

What the major-disaster declaration means for Pennsylvania

President Donald Trump is pictured on a television screen inside the Home2 Suites in Center City Philadelphia as he speaks during a coronavirus press briefing on Thursday, March 26, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
President Donald Trump is pictured on a television screen inside the Home2 Suites in Center City Philadelphia as he speaks during a coronavirus press briefing on Thursday, March 26, 2020.

The White House approved Pennsylvania’s request for a major-disaster declaration on Monday. But what does that mean?

  • The president can declare a major-disaster declaration for adverse events that can’t be handled by state and local governments, according to FEMA.
  • It allows the state, as well as some local governments and private nonprofits, to access federal assistance programs (read: money they might need to get through this and then recover)
  • The funding can be used for emergency protective measures before, during, and after a disaster, including the construction of temporary facilities such as field hospitals
  • The federal guidelines for the declaration are vague and primarily apply to natural disasters, such as tornadoes and hurricanes. It is unclear what exactly the funds can be used for related to a pandemic.

— Erin McCarthy

8:45 AM - March 31, 2020
8:45 AM - March 31, 2020

Video: Philly-area businesses help fight mask shortage amid coronavirus pandemic

— Lauren Schneiderman

8:40 AM - March 31, 2020
8:40 AM - March 31, 2020

N.J. Army National Guard officer becomes U.S. military’s first coronavirus death

A New Jersey Army National Guard officer has become the first member of the U.S. military to die after contracting COVID-19.

Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, a New Jersey native, died Monday in a hospital in Pennsylvania. where he lived, Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Hickock, a drilling guardsman and physician’s assistant, had been hospitalized since March 21, according to the Pentagon.

“This is a stinging loss for our military community, and our condolences go out to his family, friends, civilian co-workers and the entire National Guard community," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement. "The news of this loss strengthens our resolve to work ever more closely with our interagency partners to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

It’s unclear if Hickok had prior health issues, or contracted coronavirus during his official duties with the National Guard. As of Monday, there were 26 service members receiving in-patient treatment after contracting the coronavirus, according to Defense Department data obtained by the Air Force Times. There have been over 1,000 military-affiliated coronavirus cases, and at least 569 cases among troops.

Nearly 15,000 National Guard troops have been deployed across the country to help expand the fight against COVID-19.

— Rob Tornoe

8:10 AM - March 31, 2020
8:10 AM - March 31, 2020

DJ Jazzy Jeff reports possible coronavirus infection

DJ Jazzy Jeff in 2015. (Tim Blackwell / Philly.com )
DJ Jazzy Jeff in 2015. (Tim Blackwell / Philly.com )

DJ Jazzy Jeff, whose collaboration with Will Smith was known as DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, may be the latest artist to have the coronavirus.

The 55-year-old Philly-born record producer, whose birth name is Jeffrey Allen Townes, said Monday he was diagnosed with pneumonia and indicated he could also have the virus, though he did not say he’d been tested.

“I’m recovering from pneumonia in both my lungs,” he posted on his Instagram story. “I lost my sense of smell and taste which is a main sign of the virus. I would NOT be here if not for my guardian angel of a wife!”

“Please take this serious,” said Townes, who now lives in Delaware, “it does not care who you are … what you do or what your plans are. Stay safe.”

The message came as other musicians and celebrities have gone public with their coronavirus diagnoses. John Prine’s family announced Sunday he was hospitalized with the COVID-19.

— Erin McCarthy

7:55 AM - March 31, 2020
7:55 AM - March 31, 2020

Police in South Philly say thieves are breaking into cars to steal water and other household supplies

In another sign of how coronavirus is changing life in Philadelphia, police are warning they are seeing an increase of car break-ins by thieves seeking items that have disappeared from store shelves.

In a tweet, the Police Department’s Third District, which covers South Philly east of Broad Street, said the thieves have been targeting “common items such as bottled water, cleaning products, and other household items.”

The advised car owners to not leave valuables along with sought after household items in car and to keep their vehicles locked

Joseph A. Gambardello

6:45 AM - March 31, 2020
6:45 AM - March 31, 2020

Laid off workers battle outages, jammed phone lines as Pa. unemployment system buckles from coronavirus surge

As of Friday, the number of new unemployment claims filed in Pennsylvania since the coronavirus shutdown — 830,000 —surpassed the total for all of 2019. That’s placed an unprecedented burden on an already understaffed unemployment compensation system, which was ill-prepared to handle the surge.

On Monday, officials said parts of the system were malfunctioning, an issue that appeared to linger into the afternoon.

Will adding 100 more staffers to the unemployment system help?

— Rebecca Moss / Spotlight PA

5:00 AM - March 31, 2020
5:00 AM - March 31, 2020

Coronavirus has Philly businesses boarding up windows as if a hurricane is coming

Tradesmans, a popular Beer Bar & Hall in Center City, is boarded up.
Heather Khalifa / Staff Photographer
Tradesmans, a popular Beer Bar & Hall in Center City, is boarded up.

It started with bars worried about potential vandalism and random break-ins. Then restaurants and state liquor stores began to cover windows and doors. Now, even an upscale cosmetics store and a home furnishings retailer are sporting the new look.

Some blocks of Center City appear as if the businesses are preparing for a hurricane. In a town already suffering through the retail apocalypse, it may not be a good look, but business owners feel it’s a necessity.

Large swaths of Philadelphia’s business districts are battening down the hatches, throwing up thick plywood to protect their plate glass windows and the contents of the enterprises within them. Some owners are fretting about “desperate people” during the coronavirus shutdown of the city.

— Sam Wood

4:30 AM - March 31, 2020
4:30 AM - March 31, 2020

Morning Roundup: White House approves Pa. disaster declaration request; Wolf extends stay-at-home order

Any return to normality in Pennsylvania was postponed indefinitely Monday, as Gov. Tom Wolf extended his orders to close all schools and nonessential businesses until further notice, with the numbers of coronavirus cases and related fatalities continuing to swell in the region and the nation.

New Jersey’s death toll reached 198, including that of an Army National Guardsman; Pennsylvania’s was 52. At least 35 people have died in the Philadelphia region, including the first fatality in Chester County.

And the virus claimed another victim: the venerable Devon Horse Show and Country Fair.

— Anthony R. Wood, Justine McDaniel and Pranshu Verma

4:00 AM - March 31, 2020
4:00 AM - March 31, 2020

Today’s Inquirer Front Page

The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Tuesday, March 31, 2020.
Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Tuesday, March 31, 2020.